"El tio tio" is a Carnival dance song. The dancers' have a paper doll pinned to their backs. "Tio" is the name of the paper figure (or twist of paper) that's pinned to the dancers' backs.

The dance is known as "ball del tio tio", "ball del tio fresco", or "ball del patllari".

El tio tio - Catalan Children's Songs - Catalan - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image


Different versions of this dance exist:

Children's Version: See the Game Instructions.

Adult Versions:

Version 1 - The person who is "Tió" (or "Patllari" - the dancer) goes in the center of the circle with a long tail hanging from his back down to the floor while the others dance in a circle around him. They try to set his tail on fire and he jumps and scampers around to avoid it.

Version 2 - The dancers move in a circle, each of them has a paper figure hanging from their backs and a torch in hand. Each of them tries to set the paper figure of the dancer ahead of them on fire while avoiding getting their own paper figure set on fire.

According to this document: "...in Encamp, this danced used to be performed around sticks crossed on the floor. The dancer who was dancing in the middle had to jump over the sticks without touching them; if he touched them he had to let another replace him. A straw tail was tied to every dancer, who jumped over the crossed sticks and he had to constantly shake his bottom to prevent his fellow dancers who danced around him from setting his tail on fire. The dancer who had his tail set on fire had to pay for a round of wine for the other dancers."

This dance is also danced in Roussillon, the Catalan-speaking part of France.

Game Instructions

The kids go in a circle, holding hands. One child goes in the middle with a headscarf stuck by a corner into their belt. During the first verse, the child in the middle goes clockwise while the others dance counter-clockwise. At the end of the first verse, they let stop holding hands and jump forwards and backwards with feet together while the one in the middle gets closer to the circle to allow someone to grab the headscarf. The one who gets the headscarf sticks it in his/her own belt and goes into the middle of the circle. The former dancer in the middle now joins the kids around the circle and the game starts over again.

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Sheet Music

Sheet Music - El tio tio

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Contribution: Monique, translation Monique and Lisa.

Image: Comes from "Costumari Català" (Catalan Costumes) by Joan Amades (1890 - 1959).

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