The Bacchu-ber Sword Dance. This episode is drawn from a beautiful war dance of very ancient origin, which has been religiously preserved in the lower Alps. This dance, which is called the Bacchu-Ber, is danced once a year in the village of Pont-de-Cervières, to celebrate the day of Saint Roch (1295-1327), patron of the parish. This noble dance, the greatest legacy of the pleasures of the old Celts, is not accompanied by the sound of instruments. Thus, it may be seen that chorography, so comprehended, is no longer solely a pleasure insignificant in itself, or at least only interesting to those who indulge in it.
(the clip on the left is a Traditional dance of swords held every August 16 in the area of bridge Cervières (05100 Briançon) during the feast of St. Roch. The dancers throughout the dance, punctuated by the chirping of women, do not break the circle formed
by their bodies and their swords.)
This dance has become a spectacle, which can be of great interest to the beholders as well as to the performers. If children were good at fencing, would have little difficulty in executing the Bacchu-Ber, and would display in it all the grace of beautiful gesture. This would be very pretty in a large house, hall or an open space devoted to tennis courts. Nine, eleven or thirteen young men, with sword in hand, old Gallic swords which are entrusted to the care of a resident, form in a circle. With the right hand they hold the large hilt of their sword, with the left hand the point of their neighbor's sword. Then with a simultaneous movement they place the points of their weapons on the ground, so as to form a radius. Now their swords are raised, and they salute each other.
Two dancers separate from the others, to make with their uplifted arms and their swords, whose ends reunite, an arch, under which the other young people may pass. Following this they have a rapid mock fight, in which they jump, turn about and salute with their weapons, in time. The swords flash as they play above the dancers' heads. This is very graceful but quite dangerous. Therefore, only those young men who have proven themselves skilful are admitted to the Bacchu-Ber. The one who is the most capable, the most experienced, conducts the dance unquestionably, making all obedient to him.
If it is absolutely masculine, it does not, however dispense with the co-operation of the other sex. A circle is formed by the ladies, who place the oldest one among them in the centre, and they begin a song of remarkable beauty, which incites the dancers, and which, without doubt, incited the warriors. Bravo, people of Cervières, who, through the ages, have encouraged this fragment of the old Celtic customs!
The advocates of the Greeks and Romans attribute to them the paternity of the Bacchu-Ber, but some others are of the opinion that this beautiful dance has rather a Celtic character, and that the music of the song which accompanies it also denotes this origin.
Since this is considered a War, Pyrric or Military Dance, it may be related to Bacchus, God of Wine?, The name certainly has the ring. See also "Sword Dance Page".