We have heard that there is dancing in Agost, a small town in the hills above Alicante. The dance is to do with coming of age and harvesting oranges, from what we can glean, and has nothing to do with the industry that once made the town famous.
Potters made pots here from the stony earth from as early as the 6th century. Every household in spain used pot for storage, for cooking, for tiling, for plumbing. Every bride collected a trousseau of pots varnished inside and out for special occasions, or just inside for daily use. Now there is plastic and making pots the traditional way using hand sealed ovens, three tiers high, built into the hillside, is a dying art. The last of the ovens closed this year. The fire that had to be stoked to burn for five days and nights, husband and wife, father and son working one alongside another, is to be replaced by gas and a switch that can be remotely controlled.
The dance is so steeped in tradition that none of the old dears lined up in their plastic chairs outside the local police station to watch could tell us much except that it was always this way. Today was the day mothers danced with their eighteen year old sons and this in some way prepared the sons for the orange harvest.
The sons dressed as if for Jack Vettriano pictures in neat black suits and black fedoras, perhaps the traditional Sunday best of Spanish peasants. The mothers wore snoods made of many tiny flowers and knitted dresses with a bright zigzag weave, (pre Courtauld, or Mary Quant)
The dance, more of a procession, was very repetitive. We could not decide if the main male move was a scything action for picking up oranges or more of a cape swishing. The mothers resolutely kept their hands in front as if holding a net for oranges or even an invisible train.Think Emperors New Clothes. All the young men disappeared for an hour allowing for many changes of partner. The mothers had sweets tipped on their heads and the young men were hit a few times with the packets. The children were a law unto themselves. Some danced alongside, others made up their own game pulling each other round by the hoods of their coats. Everyone seemed to really enjoyed it.
It was, however, a privilege to see this ‘not for tourists’ fiesta. The only other outsiders were a German couple who, fortified with drink, thought it deadly dull and left early.