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Using the correct names to refer to your group's dances and the provinces they are from lends credibility to your performance.  The following is a list of several Basque dances with descriptions and pronunciation.


Click on each province to hear its name pronounced

Agintariena also called  Ikurrina Dantza
This dance is literally a "salute to the authorities." In it a flag (now often  the Basque national flag) is carried by one of the dancers.  In its native location in Bizkaia, the municipal flag was used.  After each dancer, including the one carrying the flag, has saluted the municipal authorities individually, all dancers fall onto their right knee and the flag is twirled above them.  According to Etxebarria Goiri, this represents the blessing of the dancers by the authorities.  This dance forms part of the Dantzari Dantza from the Durango area of Bizkaia.  In the United States, the flag itself is saluted by the dancers and the dance is referred to as Ikurrina Dantza.  More...

Agurra   also called   Aurresku 
Agurra is known as the Basque dance of honor.  Its name is derived from the Basque greeting, agur.  It is sometimes also referred to as Aurresku because it is performed by the dancer who holds the position of aurresku (first hand) in the soka dantza. Agurra is characteristic of the provinces of Hegoalde (the southern provinces).  It is danced in various situations before someone who is being honored such as political dignitaries, foreign guests, or the bride and groom at a wedding.

Banako
This is one of the dances that forms the Dantzari Dantza of Bizkaia. Its name indicates that in this particular part the men dance one by one in front of their fellow dancers. The movements are performed to a 5/8 rhythm called "zortziko."  More...

Eaurtako Neska Dantza
Literally the "girls' dance from Eaurta."   This dance originated in the Salazar Valley of Nafarroa.  It was created by girls who imitated a dance genre that only men were allowed to perform in public.  They danced and sang Axuri Beltza to entertain themselves as they tended to the cows outside of the village. The dance was reconstructed by Urbeltz in the 1960s. More...

Esku Dantza 
Literally, "hand dance" because the participants clap with themselves and their partners.  Esku dantzak belong to a genre known as "dantza jokuak" or game dances. These dances usually did not have ritual significance, but rather served a recreational and social purpose.  Esku dantzak provided a context in which girls and boys could physically interact with one another in public.  The steps are executed to a 2/4 rhythm like an Arin-arin or Porrusalda.  There are "hand dances" from Olague and Imotz in Nafarroa.

Fandango Arin-arin Jota Porrusalda
These popular recreational dances, one with a 3/8 time signature and the other 2/4,  are performed in a suite and are of uncertain origin.  It is probable that they are much more recent in the Basque repertoire than the ritual dances.  Fandango and Jota (also known as Orripeko), performed to a 3/8 rhythm, are essentially the same dance . Typically the Jota has one segment of music that is sung and is longer than the other segments. Each sung verse tells part of a story.  The same steps can be used to dance a Fandango, but each segment of the music is equal in length.  The Fandango or Jota is danced before the Arin-arin or Porrusalda and is generally slower and danced closer to the ground.  The faster-paced and lighter Arin-arin and Porrusalda are both danced to a 2/4 rhythm and are also virtually interchangeable.  Like the Jota, the Porrusalda has sung verses.  It is typical to do steps with turns or to dance with a partner in a manner similar to a waltz on the sung segments of the music of both the Jota and Porrusalda.

 Lantzeko Ihauteria 
This carnival dance also known as Lantzeko Zortzikoa is performed every spring in Lantz in the province of Nafarroa.  Dancers wear tall pointy hats decorated with colored paper and cover their faces with fabric.  They are accompanied by the stuffed giant Miel Otxin who is burned at the end of the festivities as well as other characters such as Ziripot. More...

Lapurdiko Makil Txikia
This stick dance forms part of the carnival dances of Lapurdi.  Dancers made their way around the perimeters of town and performed ritual dances including makil dantzak aimed at banishing evil in the form of plagues and disease. Dancing and beating the rushes with sticks in marshy areas where insects breed was intended to destroy the larvae and cause insects to emerge into the sunlight where they could not survive.  More...

Matelota
From the French word matelot: sailor or matelote:sailor's wife.  This dance was once a men's dance from Lapurdi.  At some point it in the 20th century it was re-choreographed for women.  Baskets of fish were added as props and it has come to represent life in a Basque fishing village.

Trenzado de Monteagudo
This "ribbon" dance is a Basque version of the Maypole dance.  It is from Monteagudo in the southern part of Nafarroa where it is performed by men.  Unlike some other Basque ribbon dances, this one braids the ribbons around the pole in two rounds. The Spanish name of the dance reflects the fact that use of the Basque language has declined in this part of the Basque Country over the centuries. See also Zinta Dantza.

Txankarreku or Txontxongilo
Also known in the U.S. as the dance of the fallen warrior, this dance follows the Makil Joko as part of the Dantzari Dantza in the towns of Iurreta and Berriz in Bizkaia.   It is performed by 8 dancers.  Six of them hold swords.  The remaining two lift one of the dancers in front position over their heads as the others continue to dance. This dance has represented Basque nationalism since the late nineteenth century.  However, according to Urbeltz it is not a dance about Basque warriors, but rather it represents a metaphoric battle against evil in the form of plague and pestilence and may date back to Neolithic times.  More...

Zinta Dantza
Literally ribbon dance. There are many versions of ribbon dances or maypole dances in the Basque Country.  Dancers each holding the end of a ribbon affixed to the top of the pole travel in opposite directions so that they braid the multicolored ribbons through their movement.  Often these dances form part of set of dances with different types of implements such as swords, sticks, shields and arches.  According to Urbeltz, the pole represents the tree of life and each dancer's ribbon an umbilical cord.  The dance is a metaphor for life in which each individual weaves his destiny by encountering others and avoiding obstacles. At the end of the Zinta Dantza dancers let go of the ribbon which signifies the passing from this earthly plane to the next state.

  Zagi Dantza also called (in Gipuzkoa) Jorrai Dantza   
The distinguishing feature of this dance is a large wineskin known as a zagia.  One dancer carries the wineskin on his back and is systematically beaten by the other dancers who carry sticks or hoes (in Gipuzkoa). According to Urbeltz, the dancer who carries the wineskin represents the plague in the form of a locust or grasshopperand its larvae.  At the end of the dance the dancer with the wineskin is taken to the city limits and thrown out of town by the other dancers.  For thousands of years Basque farmers hoped that by conjuring a symbolic plague and wiping it out, they would be able to avoid real ones that could threaten their crops and their very existence. There are versions of this dance from Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Nafarroa. It originated as an early spring ritual; its modern context is carnival.

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Dantzaldizkaria is an internet publication for Basque-American Dancers and dance enthusiasts. 

copyright L. Corcostegui 2001