Ritual made dance: the Ball dels Cossiers

Algaida and Montuïri stand out among the Mallorcan towns where this ancestral dance is still preserved

There are three main characters in the Ball dels Cossiers: the Lady, the Devil and the Cossiers, who will have to protect the Lady from Evil, embodied in the figure of the Devil. Although the Algaida and Montuïri Cossiers are the best-known, the dance is also performed in towns like Manacor, Alaró, Inca and Pollença.

It seems that the dance was originally one of the many interludes (short performances recited or sung) that would take place during the Corpus Christi procession in the late Middle Ages, although it was first documented in Mallorca in 1554.

In spite of the similarities in structure, in terms of the number of characters, who can be portrayed either by men or women, and the music accompanying each of the dances, small variations can be found, depending on the municipality in which it is performed. 

The characters are always the Lady, according to the municipality, who symbolises Good, and the Cossiers. Dressed in skirts of all colours and straw hats, the latter dance with handkerchiefs in their hands and they are followed, in some villages, by the figure of the Demon, a horned character dressed in black and representing Evil. The dance is performed by forming a circle around the Lady, who is tempted by the Demon, while the Cossierstry to protect her. In the end, Good always triumphs over Evil.

Despite the overall similarities, both the number of characters and the music that accompanies each of the dances vary slightly depending on the municipality in which it is interpreted. The protagonists are always the Lady, commonly represented by a man or a woman, according to the municipality, who symbolises Good, and the Cossiers

Of all the Balls de Cossiers that are still held in Mallorca the absolute highlights are Algaida, where the performances take place on 24 and 25 July, and Montuïri. The Montuïri Cossiers dance in the Plaça Major during the festival of Sant Bartomeu (24 and 25 August); however, they do also perform on 15 August as a prelude to the festival.