The masked ball is an ancient carnival tradition in Prato allo Stelvio. On the Sunday and Tuesday the Carnival masks are worn on stage, often representing traditional old-town characters. As soon as the masked dancers enter a tavern, the Bajaz (a sort of clown) inaugurates the performance. Dressed in a chequered suit, white collar and pointed hat adorned with colored ribbons and flowers, he waves a stick in time to the music, usually played on an accordion. There are eight masked couples standing in the wings, waiting for their turn to perform - but they are all men dressed up as men and women! The couples are dressed to represent couples from different social strata going from the 'gentleman and lady' who open the show, to what could be termed as 'the tough and his wench' (Zoch und Pfott), dressed in rags representing 'fertility'. The origin and true significance of this custom remains unknown. Since the first performing couple is dressed as a bride and groom, one theory has it that it is a type of wedding procession. Others believe it is a ritual representing an ancient death dance, since the couples remain silent and face to the left.
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