Tag: basque dance (page 1 of 3)

August 1, 1974: Birth of Basque danseur noble Igor Yebra

On August 1, 1974, Igor Yebra was born in Bilbao. He grew up to become the premier male Basque ballet dancer, as well as being a choreographer and instructor. He is considered to be a great example of the danseur noble, a male ballet dancer who projects great nobility of character.

Named after the main character in Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, Yebra’s first love was soccer and he dreamed of playing for hometown team Athletic Bilbao, but he soon became involved in the world of dance through the influence of his parents who ran a dance school. He started his formal training at the relatively late age of 13 and first danced professionally, while still a student, for the Ballet de la Comunidad de Madrid; a company with which he went on to become principal dancer. After six years with this company, however, he struck out on his own– despite receiving offers from recognized companies like the New York City Ballet, Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón, Scottish Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre–to become a freelance ballet dancer, working with several companies including the Australian Ballet, the Cuban National Ballet, the Bolshoi, and as guest principal for the Bordeaux National Ballet and the Rome Opera Theatre Ballet.

He has won numerous awards throughout his career, such as the Leonide Massine Prize in 2003 and the “Gialino d’Oro” in 2010, presented by the Italian Ministry of Culture. In 2006 he realized a personal dream by opening his own dance school in Bilbao, and he has been a member of the UNESCO International Dance Council since 2009.

Highlights from the 54th National Basque Festival

Just in case anyone out there hasn’t seen this, we’re posting this charming video showcasing the music and dance of the 54th National Basque Festival that took place recently, June 30-July 2, in Elko. As you’ll see, a good time was evidently had by all!

June 26, 1921: Birth of choreographer and writer Filipe Oihanburu

On June 26, 1921 the influential choreographer and writer Filipe Oihanburu (also spelled Philippe Oyhamburu) was born in Argelèrs de Gasòst (Argelèrs de Gasòst in Occitan) in Béarn/Biarn.

At age 3 his family moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, and in 1930 relocated to Paris, but he always took an interest in his Basque family roots (his father was from Biarrritz, and while his mother was from Béarn, she also had Basque roots) and started learning Euskara, the Basque language, at an early age while vacationing on the coast of Lapurdi. He also took a growing interest in dance, and on moving to Biarritz, in 1944, he took over the direction of the Olaeta ballet company. In 1945 it changed its name to Oldarra and for much of the next decade offered a plethora of performances. In 1953 he founded the professional music and dance group Etorki, which eventually traveled the world promoting Basque music and dance.

He combined his work as a choreographer with writing books, mostly on Basque politics and culture. More recently, he wrote his memoirs about living in Nazi-occupied Paris during the 1940s.

Check out an interview (in Basque) with Oihanburu here.

Craft’s love for Txakoli

It’s that time again!  If you are in the Reno area (or feel the need for an adventure to the “Biggest Little City”) this month, Ty and his gang at Craft Wine and Beer are putting together quite the Basque gastronomic experience.  I have learned over here in Euskal Herria that tasting is enhanced when able to simultaneously embrace multiple components of the Basque Culture, so check out the shindig Ty Martin has organized this month to eat, dance, and celebrate one of my favorite wines and the land from which it “stems,” the culture in which it is “rooted” ( bad wine jokes anyone?).

Check out Ty’s announcement as seen in his newsletter:

Next, Txakolina. It slipped out of our normal comfort zone last year but we’re back on track this season. As you can see from the photo that greeted you at the top of this missive we’re loaded for bear. We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve, including smoked chorizo from Villa Basque Deli, cidre’ on tap, and if we’re lucky, a few dancers from the Zazpiak Bat dance club. We’ll also be celebrating some May birthdays so if you want to toast some fantastic wine and shake a leg come on down on Sunday,

May 21st from 2p-6p. Flights, glasses, and food will be available.

 

It appears the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community are represented well here, and the warmer weather is the perfect time for indulging in this juice..so hit up Craft, drink txakoli, dance and be merry!

 

 

A video journey to the heart of the Basque Country

Check out these great introductory videos charting a recent journey to the heart of the Basque Country, Xiberoa, from our friends at About Basque Country:

According to the blog, this was in part a journey made by Basques from the South in order to connect with their cousins in the North, a trip through the Basque Country and the variety of cultures, dialects, and landscapes that make up these distinct parts of Euskal Herria.

 

Txakoli & Music: CBS friend offers innovative masterclass in Basque cultural symbols

This past Saturday, April 15, as part of the 2017 Basque Fest celebrations held to introduce Basque culture to Easter vacation visitors to Bilbao, CBS friend Sabin Bikandi of the Aiko group, together with Alvaro García and Amaiur Cajaraville, offered up a lively, informal, and instructive talk and performance at the Basque Museum in Bilbao around the theme of txistu (flute) music and txakolina, the emblematic Basque wine, sponsored by the Bizkaiko Txakolina designation of origin.

Ever the consummate showman, Sabin explained several features of Basque culture with his usual good humor and panache, from the txistu itself–the Basque three-holed pipe or flute–to txakolina of course, a generous glass of which was served to audience members, but also how to wear a txapela or Basque beret, and what music means to him; in short, that music and dance are one and the same organic whole, and that music, dance, and txakolina were all important elements of the erromeriak or public outdoor dances that were traditionally held in the Basque Country.

Check out Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music in the Basque Country, Sabin’s wonderfully evocative portrait of a master txistularia or txistu player, Alejandro Aldekoa; a work that also addresses broader issues of Basque music and dance.

And if you do like Basque music and dance be sure to check out the book/CD/DVD Urraska: A New Interpretation of the Basque Jauziak Dances as Interpreted by Sagasta, an all encompassing exploration of these representative Basque dances.

 

 

Easter vacation festivities come to the Basque Country

The Baiona Ham Festival

The Easter vacation is becoming an increasingly important time for the growing leisure sector in the Basque Country. This week, traditional religious celebrations coinciding with Easter itself will be held,  in which towns like Durango (with its famous pasinue) and Balmaseda in Bizkaia as well as others all over the Basque Country take center stage.  But there are also a number of other activities taking place to cater for the increasing number of tourists who visit at this time of year. One of the biggest events takes place in Bilbao. The Basque Fest is a specially designed festival combining Basque traditions and gastronomy that seeks to introduce visitors to the wonderful world of Basque culture in all its facets, from traditional Basque sports to music and dance as well as, of course, food and drink. Staying on a similar theme, Baiona also hosts a wonderful festival of its own this week: the Baiona Ham Festival, a must see event for all aficionados of this famous Basque delicacy. Such festivities are, though, just the tip of the iceberg. Towns and cities all over the Basque Country will be celebrating this important holiday season in many and varied ways.

The Maskarada: A Unique Basque Cultural Event

Zamalzain, the hobbyhorse/centaur, one of the striking characters in the masakarada performance. Photo by Oier Araolaza, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday, January 22, the annual maskarada begin its annual odyssey. Part drama, part dance, part poetic performance (both memorized and improvised),  and with more than a coincidental resemblance to the forthcoming carnival antics across the Basque Country, this is a cultural form unique to Xiberoa (or Zuberoa) in the far northeast of the Basque Country, in which a group of amateurs from the same area traditionally perform a form of transgressive, subversive, and parodic open-air popular theater with the declared aim of poking fun at those in authority. The traveling troupe always includes the same characters, a set group made up of ostensibly “good” and “bad” figures, although the lines do get blurred. At root, this is a tradition designed to cement community ties and one that celebrates both the Basque language and traditional music and dance. It has been practiced since at least the sixteenth century.

This year’s event is being performed by  a group of young people aged 15 to 24 from the villages of Ezpeize-Ündüreine, Ürrüstoi-Larrabile, Ainharbe, Sarrikotapea, Onizepea, and Mitikile in the Pettarra region of northern Xiberoa, and kicked off in Ezpeize itself. The maskarada is returning to this region 100 years after it was last performed here. In the video above you can see the introductory dance following the so-called fall of the first barricade.

One of the most spectacular moments in the maskarada is the godaleta(a) dantza (dance of the glass of wine), in which dancers attempt to momentarily hop on and off a glass of wine. Check out this video of dancers attempting the feat at a separate event in Donibane Lohizune, Lapurdi:

Check out, too, “The Folk Arts of the Maskarada Performance” by Kepa Fernández de Larrinoa in Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. In his article, Fernández de Larrinoa explains who the characters are in this performance as well as the set pattern of scenes they perform, and what all of this means within the wider context of the culture of Xiberoa.

This book is available free to download here.

 

The Ariñak Project: Learning about the many sides of Basque culture through music and dance

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The Ariñak Project, co-founded by Mercedes Mendive and Janet Iribarne in Elko, Nevada, is an ambitious attempt to learn about the multiple dimensions of Basque culture, centered on music and dance but also encompassing, for example, the Basque language and traditional Basque sports. According to Mercedes:

This endeavor was developed to teach important elements of music, including pandero (tambourine), accordion, txistu, alboka, txalaparta, singing as well as introducing our kids/members to the Basque language and Basque sports. It’s our goal to incrementally start our participants on a cultural journey that will stay with them for a lifetime.

As part of the project camp days are held on which participants learn the fundamentals of both music and dance from experienced instructors. The ultimate goal is to extend this learning to a more comprehensive understanding of how the instruments, the music, and the dance all form part of a greater whole that is Basque culture in general. For example, the project seeks to teach people the meanings behind popular Basque songs and dances, how and why they may be important in Basque culture more generally.

Check out Mercedes Mendive’s webpage (with contact information) here.

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And Euskal Kultura report on the project here.

This ambitious project mirrors similar efforts in the Basque Country itself that seek to interpret Basque dance as part of a wider cultural framework: first and foremost, and perhaps most obviously, as a cultural form intimately connected to music. As he notes, while doing research for his marvelous book, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music, Sabin Bikandi was himself an accomplished musician who (p.31),

suddenly realized that I had no idea of how to play for the dance, no idea of the repertoire, the repetitions, or the meaning of “following the dancers.” If I was going to write about Aldekoa, a pipe and tabor player and a dance master, I felt I had to learn the job, and the only way was to do just that—to learn to perform.

However (p.33),

the learning process was slow and complicated, and my knowledge is still a long way behind that of the great master, Aldekoa. However, the little that I learned helped me to reinterpret and understand the relationship between choreography and music, and in the end, how music and dance form a single entity. As I have observed, at present, dance and music are taught as separate subjects. Musicians do not learn anything but music, and dancers do basically the same as regards dance. Many dancers are not able to sing what they dance or the rhythm they mark while dancing. This has been a problem during my own learning process, for my musical-analytical approach found no response from the dance teachers. On the other hand, I found that many dancers are afraid of musicians’ knowledge about rhythm analysis and their knowledge of the science of music.

In short, as Bikandi observes in his work, stepping up to the next level, at least attempting to comprehend a true master like Aldekoa, required that kind of commitment to a greater understanding of how music and dance are one and the same thing, and how in this particular case, they are are also central to Basque cultural norms as a whole.

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Some Basque-American traditions during the Holiday Season

With the holiday season here, most of you out there will know that this is a time typically embraced by Basque-Americans to have a good old time, Basque-style, with plenty of eating, drinking, dancing, and general bonhomie. One only need check out Astero to get a flavor of all the events going on during the holiday season, but it’s worth recalling that all these Christmas parties, the lunches and dinners, as well as the New Year’s celebrations, are rooted in a long tradition stretching back many years. This custom–which in academic terms we could say was based on a drive to cement community and cultural ties, to keep those bonds strong, and maintain and pass on traditions, often in the face of adverse wider social conditions–has in recent years changed significantly, but I think it’s interesting to consider how and why these gatherings came about.

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For those that could, Christmas was one of the few opportunities for Basque-Americans to let their hair down a little. Picture from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

As Bill Douglass and Jon Bilbao point out in Amerikanuak (p. 386), such events were in former times typically less public than they are today. In their words, as regards the winter events (p. 388):

These Basque get-togethers all shared the characteristic of being closed ethnic affairs. With the exception of the Boise Sheepherders’ Ball, they were unheralded, inconspicuous events on the local social calendar. They were often held at some distance from the local population centers. None of this is surprising when we consider that the dates coincide with the periods of tension between the Basques and their neighbors … In such a climate, the Basques were not prone to display their ethnic identity publicly. If the Basque hotel and the private picnic or dance served as an ethnic refuge, where the immigrant could enjoy Basque cuisine, conversation, and company, he attempted in his dealings with the wider society to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Even the origins of the famed Sheepherders’ Ball, perhaps the most famous of all Basque winter social events, recall an altercation between different Basque insurance groups in the late 1920s. As John and Mark Bieter note in An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho (p. 100):

Both organizations scheduled Christmas dances for herders in town on the same night. The influential sheepman John Archabal mediated the controversy and convinced the two sides to organize one dance with a lamb auction for charity. Both parties agreed, and the annual Sheepherders’ Ball became a mainstay in Boise and, later, in other southern Idaho towns.

The Sheepherders’ Ball became known as an “apron and overalls” dance, because admission required sheepherder garb or traditional Basque costumes. Sometimes a stand was set up near the door, where any partygoers who arrived inappropriately dressed could buy jeans on the spot. Although it was reserved for Basques and their guests, the Sheepherders’ Ball attracted the attention of the general public. On December 19, 1936, the Boise Capitol News wrote: “Black-eyed sons and daughters of the Pyrenees danced their beloved ‘jota’ with snapping fingers and nimble feet Friday evening at the annual Sheepherders’ Ball held at Danceland, to the music of Benito Arrego’s accordion and pandareen.”

Nowadays, these holiday season get-togethers are more open affairs, with everyone welcome, as noted in our recent post on the Basque Ladies’ Lagunak Christmas Luncheon in Reno. But it’s good to see that this great tradition of holiday season lunches, dinners, and dances continues to bind the Basque-American community together.

Besides these events, there is also a tradition of Basque-American participation in Christmas parades, as Nancy Zubiri writes in her invaluable book, A Travel Guide to Basque America:

On Christmas Eve for several years local Basque Children traveled down the usually snow-lined main street of Gardnerville in  hay-wagons, displaying the Nativity scene, signing gabon kantak (Christmas carols) and playing instruments–an Old Country tradition. Their procession would end at the Overland, where they received gifts and [Elvira] Cenoz served them the traditional hot chocolate. But the custom ended when the number of children dwindled.

Nowadays, the Garnerville Basque Club, Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba, usually takes part in the town’s annual festive Parade of Lights.

Christmas was also an occasion for family gatherings of course, as the stories collected in Portraits of Basques in the New World, edited by Richard W. Etulain and Jeronima Echeverria, testify to. For example, Ysidra Juanita “Jay” Arriola Uberuaga Hormaechea, born in Boise in 1908, recalled the holiday season of her youth (pp. 194-95):

We never knew what Christmas was until I was grown up, went to work, and earned some money. I brought in a fresh Christmas tree to our home at 310 Grove, in Boise. It was the first tree that our family ever had. Christmas day for us people was shared big suppers, dancing, and enjoying ourselves, in that way … Maybe, a little package for the kids. That was it … That’s the way it was when I was a girl.

Similarly, and in the Old Country tradition, Marjorie Archabal remembered (p. 91) Christmas Eve meals at which some thirty people gathered, women on one side of the table, men on the other, with the Archabal family patriarch and matriarch at the head. These meals took days to prepare, with the menu consisting of tongue, tripe, and codfish, among many other dishes. Meanwhile, growing up in a Basque home in northeastern Montana in the 1940s and 1950s, Rene Tihista recalled a blend of Basque and American traditions, with turkey making appearance at the family table (p. 121):

When I was a kid all the holiday gatherings with my uncles and cousins were held at our place. Mom raised a huge turkey for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Dad played the accordion and violin and sang Basque songs. Of course wine flowed freely during our get-togethers. I would sit on dad’s knee and sing “Uso Zuria,” a song he taught me about a white dove that travels to Spain. It was the only Basque song I knew, but it must have been a hit because the grown-ups made me sing it over and over.

And no doubt many of you out there, if you are part of a Basque-American family, will be enjoying similar kinds of celebrations this holiday season.

If you do have any stories you’d like to share with us about your own Basque-style holiday celebrations, we’d be pleased to hear from you!

 

 

 

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