Ancient traditions in the Ascrian summer
The Pantasime Ball in Ascrea
A long-awaited celebration
On the evening of August 16, the community gathers in Mareri Square for the most heartfelt event of the Ascrian summer, when the community huddles ideally and physically in a circle around the traditional puppet dance. It is the Pantasime Ball, the dance to the rhythm of music of two puppets, traditionally a "male" and a "female," depicting particularly significant characters from the twelve months just past. Fireworks animate the mighty arms of the structures, expertly led by brave and skilled dancers.
The term Pantàsima would seem to derive from the Latin phantasma (that which shows itself). A pagan symbol of fertility, linked to agricultural rituals it refers to the "evil" image of the cold winter, dangerous for peasant activity. To make the Pantasima dance and burn means, therefore, to symbolically defeat the nefarious forces that people feel around themselves and their work in the fields. Gathering around it protects, thus, the entire community.
Trepidatious anticipation and wild dancing
The two topical moments open and close the event, ideally encircling a concentration of emotions. The first is based on the trepidatious anticipation generated by curiosity: the patronal festival orchestra announces the imminent arrival in Mareri Square of the Pantasime, whose theme is carefully concealed in the days of preparation and is the subject of passionate predictions. The second is imbued with a sense of community: when the fire is about to go out, a circle of people, young and old, surround the puppets and begin whirling with them, enlivening the concluding part of the dance.
How the Pantasimes are created
The two puppets, about three meters tall, have a structure of woven reeds and a papier-mâché covering. The tradition has undergone variations over the years: originally the puppets were covered with rags that were set on fire, a circumstance that triggered the total burning of the structure; in the past, moreover, the Pantasima was only one, and only recently has it acquired a "partner" with whom to move dance steps to the rhythm of the accordion.
The identity of the Pantasimes always refers to topical figures or themes, with no distinction between the world of the sacred and the profane. Two examples from recent years: in 2018, the soldier and the nurse-soldier commemorated the Centenary of the end of World War I; in 2019, the puppets of the "Professor" and the robber wearing a Dali mask paid homage to the famous TV series "The House of Paper."
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