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.

Of uncertain origin, it is a dance that is thought to be linked to pagan rituals that worshipped the spirits of nature. However, some scholars postulate that this dance may have originated in the thirteenth century with the arrival on the island of the first Catalan settlers after the conquest of King Jaime I.

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

The Cossiers are three pairs of men and one lady, all dressed in white, with a brightly-coloured skirt and a cummerbund from which ribbons and shards of mirror hang. In each hand they hold a handkerchief and a bunch of basil, which they use for their dances. They are accompanied by a demon (dimoni) which tries as he can to sabotage the ceremony and provides the celebration with comic relief. The lady is the counterpoint of the demon, as she represents good and leads the movements of the Cossiers. The ball de cossiers is accompanied by melodies performed on traditional instruments such as flabiols, xeremies and tambourines.

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.