Ball de diables

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Devils in a performance

The Ball de diables (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈbaʎ də ðiˈabːɫəs], Western Catalan: [ˈbaʎ de ðiˈaβles]; meaning in English "Devils dance") is one of the most deeply rooted traditions initially in Catalonia, and subsequently in the Valencian Community, where it's called Correfocs (Fire run), and the Balearic Islands. Nowadays, its participation in the form of passacaglia, procession and correfocs became an essential part of the main celebrations of many towns and cities.


The origin of the spoken dances is uncertain and risky to specify, but it seems that it comes from the medieval street theatre. Basically, the transmission path of the folk dance (dances, spoken dances or with dialogues, etc.) have been through speech. Therefore, is logic that during this transmission they were altered from the original version.

Regarding the Ball de diables, even though it's popularly known as "dance", it must be considered an entremés since this kind of performance was represented between plates during meals of the nobility in the middle ages.

The synthesis of the Ball de diables is a theatrical representation of the struggle between the good and the evil. In its scenic context it has been also used, mainly for the Corpus Christi festivities, in the ecclesiastic processions as accompaniment to provide a more ceremonious and spectacular aspect. Finally, the devils, little devils or demons used to parade leading the procession to announce its arrival making a racket. In a deafening and noisy way they used to separate the public present opening the path for the procession.

Demons in a "ball de diables".

Either way we find the fugire of the devil or little devil in the origin of all the spoken dances. Is a character that doesn't have any relationship with the play being represented, but that is put in the middle and makes the audience laugh with its stunts. At the end of the play some satiric verses are recited which are related to the political or public life of the locality where it's represented, and that everyone await with delight.

This could have been the origin of the Ball de diables. Starting from a character that each time was taking more prominence and exceeding the importance of the original play, and as a result the devil part became the most popular one.

The first written news about the Ball de diables, according to Joan Amades, dates from the year 1150. The act was represented in the banquet of the wedding of the Barcelona count, Ramon Berenguer IV with the princess Petronilla, daughter of the king of Aragon and Catalonia. The chronicle tells us that it represented the struggle of some demons, commanded by Lucifer, against the Archangel Saint Michael and a squad of angels.

The second written reference that we know, quoted in the book of solemnities of Barcelona, is about the festivities of 1423 remembering the arrival to Barcelona of the king Alfonso V of Aragon, coming from Naples.

Also in Cervera the devils participate for the festivities of Corpus Christi in the year 1426. Again in Barcelona, on the occasion of the arrival of the duke of Calabria in September 1467, some parties were organized where the devils were also present.

In the beginnings of the 15th century, the processions of Corpus Christi in Barcelona were closed with a short plays, formed by a squad of angels and other of devils.