Pacha Ibiza 50th anniversary – I was a dancer at Pacha
Words: Deborah Ilife
Photography: Jordi Cervera
September 6, 2023
How does a club not only survive and thrive for 50 years but come to be a symbol of Ibiza for many around the world? It’s not about the club’s building, its bones. The answer lies in the people who work at the club making up its spirit and soul. The face of the club, the inspiration that lingers in memories, is its dancers. The dancers of Pacha are legendary. Ibiza Style spent time with 5 former Pacha dancers, their energy and stories woven into the history of both Pacha and Ibiza.
Sanna Kylmala grew up in a small town on the west coast of Finland. She was 15 when she first visited Ibiza in 1989 and fell in love with the island. The next summer she returned for 2 months doing pr for a club in San Antonio. One night she climbed the stairs to the ‘Hat and Rose’ party at Pacha, saw the dancers and knew she wanted to be one of them. She became friends with several dancers and by the end of that summer they let her on the podium. That winter she danced at Pacha Madrid and her dream came true: she danced summers at Pacha Ibiza from 1991-1996, from Easter through to late October, plus 1 winter in Barcelona. Sanna says she wouldn’t have danced anywhere else, that as a dancer at Pacha you were a star on the island. She describes how each dancer had their own unique style, that they never competed with but complemented each other. The dancers became her best friends, forming a community, a family whose ties remain strong today. Management treated the dancers well, Sanna remembers, despite one rebellious period in 1992 when the dancers left for another club, only to return to the Pacha fold 2 weeks later. For the dancers their party began after hours, when they all went to clubs like Space and on to Croissant Show. Sanna left Pacha after 5 years because she felt it was time, you burn out, and though they are the best days of your life, it isn’t always easy. She says she can’t imagine dancing there now as the club has completely changed. Still Pacha will always feel like home, a special place representing a big part of her youth. Sanna left Ibiza to live in Beirut, Dubai and Cairo, always returning each summer. In 2014 she settled in Ibiza full time. Today she manages her own real estate business Amar, organises parties and is raising her daughter on the island.
Gustavo Pastor Villulas reflects how back in 1993 he was just a boy of 18, born in Ibiza, raised in Alicante, doing his military service in Ibiza. Becoming a Pacha dancer was a dream he never imagined would become real. Always musical, playing the cornet in the military band, having studied dance at the Conservatory with hopes to become part of a company dancer troupe or a dance teacher, Gustavo would visit Ibiza every summer, watching the go-go dancers. Natalia, a head dancer at Pacha, noticed Gustavo and liked his style and vibe, his way of acting. In those days, he explains, it wasn’t about being a pretty boy or girl, it was all about being a character, because you had a light or transmitted something unique, that’s why they hired you at Pacha. The dancers dressed themselves, worked with their own clothes, did their own make up. Pacha chose dancers because they had their own style, a special or particular vibe and personality. Natalia introduced Gustavo to Pacha Director Francisco Ferrer, who didn’t seem to like him very much at first, so he gave him a trial and he began working weekends when on leave from the military barracks. Gustavo went on to dance every night at Pacha for 7 years. For Gustavo it was the most incredible life-changing experience from military service to being seen and known by everyone on the island. Spanish film director Alfonso Albacete saw Gustavo dancing and gave him roles in several of his films playing a go-go dancer and a DJ. Gustavo still calls Ibiza home and even today people stop him in the street to ask if he danced at Pacha and to tell him they love him.
Sacha Sussli was born in Switzerland and grew up in Ibiza. When she was 17 and a photography student in London she first saw the dancers at Pacha on a visit home and decided she wanted to join them. She ‘tested’ with Franciso Ferrer 3 years later and danced there 1993-1998. Sacha remembers how Pacha was more ‘home-made’ and authentic in those days, with no guest lists, the doormen knew everyone they let inside or through personal introductions. How much fun the beautiful group of dancers had, she explains, all self-styled in their own clothes, each with different looks, meeting every night at midnight, walking through the port all dressed up and in high heels, stopping at all the bars along the route to Pacha until the doors opened at 2am. Her dancing so impressed one Pacha regular she was invited to join his entourage in America. But first, she recalls, ‘singer Julio Iglesias asked Franciso can I take Sacha with me to Vegas for a week?’ In 2014 Sacha opened a clothing store with her mother in Ibiza town, called Sexy Sexy Ibiza. Using the name ‘Shecansee’, Sacha also works as a party and events photographer, her aesthetic strongly influenced she admits by all those nights at Pacha.
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Paulo Gabba first job was as a ski instructor in Argentina. In I994 aged 18 he began to visit Europe and one spring was advised to check out Ibiza. His very first night there Paulo went to Plaza del Parque and met Gustavo. Gustavo convinced Paulo to stay on the island until the opening of Space. He did and never left. Paulo began dancing at Dome in 1996 and in 1998 and 1999 also danced 3 nights a week at Pacha for special parties. Paulo remembers quite a few nights when he and Gustavo would arrive from Dome at 3:30/4:00am and ‘there were so many people queuing and waiting outside to get into Pacha that we couldn’t get inside to go to work’. Paulo moved off the podium into public relations and reservations for Lio, Pacha Ibiza, Destino, Pacha Formentera and he continues this work with the Pacha group today.
Native Ibizenco Adriana Romero first assisted her brother artist Rom Ero with Pacha merchandising, then worked in public relations for Pacha. She said it took a while to get a job as a dancer, but after some winter dancing stints and lots of dressing up fancy, in 1995 aged 22 she made it onto the summer dancing team. Adriana kept her dancing job until 2003 when she decided it was enough. She moved to Barcelona and later Madrid working in fashion and decorating. A special part of her Pacha experience was joining the Pacha world tour and visiting 20 countries. Another highlight for Adriana was being the girl at Pacha who jumped out of giant birthday cakes. Adriana’s face lights up as she explains ‘we had so much fun, I cannot tell you’. She says before cell phones, Pacha was a more intimate place. A place where you met and hung with princesses, rock stars, actors. Normal people and celebrities, in the past everyone mixed together. VIP areas weren’t as big or as big a deal in those days. ‘What happens in Ibiza stays in Ibiza’ was the motto. She remembers dancing with members of the band Simply Red plus other famous singers; DJ’s weren’t as separate either, they were more out there with everybody. Adriana agrees that during her years at Pacha she made her best friends who remain as close as ever. Though based in Madrid, she still enjoys returning to Ibiza, going to Pacha and seeing old friends. She proclaims that ‘Ibiza keeps the magic, it always will!’.