Gabriel Frontera Mestre, who keeps the traditional Mallorcan folk dance "bal de bot" alive. Presented by TUI. Video by Nova Producciones (Video lasts 6 minutes 51 seconds) | Youtube: Majorca Daily Bulletin TV


The floor vibrates from the many jumps and movements that are performed with a lively step at the School of Music and Dance in Palma. The dancers are very different and yet they have one thing in common: they radiate pure vitality and joy. "That's exactly what the 'Ball de Bot', the traditional Mallorcan dance, embodies: joie de vivre," explains the school's director, Gabriel Frontera, who is originally from Ariany. "I always say to my people before the performance: we're not going to a funeral. If you don't feel joy inside you, you shouldn't dance. Because what makes us special is our performance of authentic, lively folklore."

The Mallorcan folk dance "Ball de Bot" is a sensual dance in which there is a lot of jumping and the woman leads. In the 18th century, men courted women with a dance request.

However, this was not always the case. "It was our school founder, Bertomeu Enseñat, whose research made it possible for Mallorcans to dance together today," says Enseñat's successor Frontera, now 71. Every place on the island of course had its own folk dance. But there were no standardised dance steps. "So someone from Ariany couldn't dance with someone from another place." But once the dance was popularised among Mallorcans, the next step could take place: "We brought the dance back to life from the stage," says Frontera proudly. Nowadays it is not only trained dancers who perform the dance in front of an audience; the audience itself is involved in the dance.

"Many people see folklore and traditions such as folk dances as fossils of bygone times that are performed here and there but have nothing to do with real life," says Frontera. "But folklore is alive and well on Mallorca. We are the folklore, that is our identity," he emphasises.

The Mallorcan dances at Gabriel Frontera's (right) school also feature traditional instruments typical of the island.

"Alongside my work as director of a Caixabank branch, I spent my time at the music school. This is where I met and fell in love with my wife. To this day, it is a social meeting place for friends, couples, people looking for a partner or lovers."

Related news

He earned his money with the job at the bank in order to live. By dancing at school, on the other hand, he had nourished his soul and his identity. "That's how many people feel. Continuing the dance school after the founder passed away was the best decision of my life." He took over the school as director when he retired in 2012.

The dance and music school has students from the age of four to 81.

"The great thing about the Ball de Bot is that anyone can learn to dance. Origin, age, religion or political views are irrelevant." He emphasises the word "origin". Maintaining the island's cultural identity is important to him. However, this is no easy endeavour in this day and age. "We islanders have almost given up on tourism. Our sources of income have become solely dependent on the holiday sector. And we realised what that leads to during the pandemic. We couldn't look after ourselves. Travellers don't usually care about the culture. They would often only visit the relevant party areas in Magalluf and Arenal." But that's exactly what he wants to change. "I want visitors to get to know and love our culture. But how can they do that if they never come into contact with it?"

The Ball de Bot expresses pure joie de vivre. In Frontera's eyes, anyone who does not feel this cannot represent the dance authentically.

The island is in the process of losing its identity and culture. "Only if the traditions are loved, lived and upheld will they have a chance of survival."

"Many people say that we Mallorcans are very distant towards foreigners or don't want to have anything to do with people from other islands." However, this is not entirely true. The reason for the reticence is quite different. "We have the feeling that the guests aren't interested in us. They only come for the sun and sea." However, if they showed more interest in the culture, that would change everything. "There are residents who have lived here for 30 years and don't speak a word of Spanish or Catalan. That is considered disrespectful. But if someone here learns my language and dances with me, I immediately share my bread with them," assures Frontera with a smile.

Cooperation with TUI

Support from the tourism industry: the project is sponsored by Europe's leading tourism group Tui and its Tui Care Foundation. The initiative was founded in 2016 with the aim of supporting sustainable projects in the destinations. The foundation focuses on the potential of the tourism sector as a driver of social development, education and prosperity. The Group promotes sustainable tourism in cooperation with local people.