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The History of the Dances
Music, song and dance remain central ways that we humans express ourselves. Music and song have been long-standing elements within our Western liturgical tradition; e.g., we can sing our prayers. Whereas song endures to enliven and supplement the Western liturgical experience, generations ago dance was essentially abandoned. It all began innocently enough: good intentioned clerics forbid liturgical dance because they feared it might disrupt or distract the congregation. That left most western Christians with only song to accompany music; elements of the church said that we could not dance our prayers.
The "catholic" of Roman Catholic Church means universal, and the church has always embraced a multi-faceted, diverse collection of peoples and cultures. The Basque people accepted Christianity around the 8th century, and this is a culture that prizes music, song and dance. The prohibition of liturgical dance never really took hold in the Basque country; instead their liturgical dances became special ways to supplement and celebrate church rituals.
Seal of Oņati
The town of Oņati in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa is the original setting for these unique dances. Other communities share similar elements, but here tucked away in this Basque valley is a unique blend of music, dance and spectacle. Click here to learn more about the town.
This annual event with these unique dances is to commemorate "Korpus Eguna" or the Christian feast of Corpus Christi. Click here to learn more about this ancient Christian holiday.
St. Michael the Arcangel, patron saint of Oņati
What sets this festival apart, within the context of the Roman Catholic liturgy, is the prominence of dance. Celebrations such as this, once prevalent in Europe, disappeared over time. The Basques, however, maintained theirs: dance as a form of worship and prayer. Click here to learn more about liturgical dance.
Like most all Basque towns, Oņati annually celebrates the feast of its patron saint in early September. Yet its most renowned festival is the procession of Corpus Christi. This celebration's history reaches back into the 16th century and it has been annually performed since then without interruption. In it are paraded numerous statues of Catholic saints, costumed religious personages, the town's civic and religious leaders, children, singers and musicians, while alongside them march the dancers of Oņati.
KORPUS EGUNA ONATIN :
The Day of Corpus Christi in Onati
Dancing for the festival begins the night before as the dancers practice their steps one more time at various points in the town. The dancers, however, make up only a part of the festival. What sustained the festival through the centuries is the work of the Cofradía del Santísimo Sacramento--the "Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament."15 This confraternity emerged in response to the papal directive of Pope Julius III to maintain the feast of Corpus Christi. Two groups of members comprise the confraternity: the brothers and the aspirants. The brothers number sixteen, and on the feast day they don costumes to represent the twelve apostles [Judas is replaced by St. Paul], Christ, and St. Michael the Archangel; the remaining two are not in costume and instead carry symbols--one for the Virgin Mary and the other as the "Alférez" or standard bearer.
The costumes of the apostles consists of a long white cassock and a red cape; they also wear the mask and carry the symbol of the apostle the are said to represent. Hence the confraternity is commonly known as the Apostolado. The figure of Christ wears a burgundy cape and carries a staff of the crucifix. St. Michael's outfit is the most ornate: dressed in soldiers garb with a pair of wings attached to the back of an armor chest plate. The second group of aspirants, so called because they aspire to one day have the honor of dressing up as one of the principal characters, follow the others dressed in black.
The city's band of txistulariak process through the streets the morning of Korpus eguna as their music awakens the citizens to the celebration.16 Meanwhile, the dancers have assembled to assist with the transit of statues. From various points throughout the town statues of saints, atop the shoulders of four bearers, are transported to the principal church of St. Michael After the dancers have escorted all of the statues to the portal of the church dancing the martxa, they make their way to the front of the udaletxea or city hall where they dance the kontrapas for the city officials. They then turn and lead the officials to the church with the martxa.17
The high mass follows at St. Michael's. The high point of the liturgy comes with the dancing of the Banakoa around the high altar to proclaim the Eucharistic Acclamation.18 Completing this prayer, the dancers exit and make their way to escort the final participants: the Apostolado. During the liturgy the Apostolado, having already shared in an earlier mass, complete their preparation. As they exit the former convent of St. Ann, they are greeted by dancers who once again perform the kontrapas, and then turn to lead the Apostolado. As the high mass comes to a conclusion, the participants are joined by the Apostolado and the procession begins to the sound of all the city's church bells chiming.
The celebrants empty out into the streets covered with straw as they process throughout the town. Joining the Apostolado and clergy are the town's orchestra, singers, as well as that year's First Communicants. During the procession, the dancers escort the celebrants dancing the martxa.
At the culmination of the procession, all gather in the main town plaza for a final adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It is quite a sight to behold: numerous statues held high circle the plaza with the clergy and the Apostolado in their fine regalia as the music of bells and txistus fill the air. The Blessed Sacrament is placed on a provisional altar erected at the front of the plaza, and the character of St. Michael executes his homage. As the patron saint of the town his adoration is on behalf of the townspeople. Then the dancers come forward to perform the banakoa once again.19 The morning's ceremony concludes and all retire to lunch--and perhaps a little siesta or nap--before reassembling for the afternoon's festivities.
Basque provincial emblems
DANTZAK: The Dances of Corpus Christi in Onati
The seven historical Basque provinces--four of which are today in the Hegoalde--Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Nafarroa--and three in the Iparralde--Lapurdi, Nafarroa Beherra, and Zuberoa--have all spawned a wide variety of dances. Oftentimes, each village or town produced its own unique choreography of dance, and townsfolk preserved and perpetuated them from generation to generation. Unfortunately, some of those dances are lost to us, but many others have survived. One source counts over 400 distinct Basque folk dances, each with its own story and significance.20 They all fit into two broad categories: the traditional or ritual dances, and the more recent social or recreational dances. Basques created most of these folk dances, and they adapted a few others from their neighbors to pay homage in a ritual performance, to celebrate, and to enjoy.
While the costumes and dance choreography have endured, the meaning and significance of many dances elude us. This is in part due to the late writing of Basque history, but also because of the nature of folk dance. Some recreational or social dances usually carried no special significance; often serving as forms of entertainment. The ritual or traditional dances, however, celebrate or revere a religious theme or specific person, place or thing. The dance seeks to tell us something--to represent something. The "meaning" of the dance is therefore paramount. Then why does their significance evade us? Part of the answer lies in looking back at the past from the present.
Our modern audiences, predominately urbanized and non-agrarian, observe folk dances that developed within an agrarian, pre-modern culture. The explanation in pre-modern times of natural occurrences; e.g., storms, the change of seasons, life and death, differ from our own. The work of Violent Alfred, who studied the Maskaradak or Basque Masquerades of Zuberoa, reveals how and why dances endured. She believes that to have forsaken them would have meant to alter the precarious balance of nature. The performers were obliged to re-create what they had done the year before. Monotonous it may seem, but so too are the transitions of the seasons. The maskaradak could not be changed because "if they changed, then the weather, their food, the sun, and the very universe might change, for it was they themselves who by their magic play ordained the coming-in of summer."21 Thus many ritual dances have endured because one did not question them; it was understood that the ritual must be done.
In some areas, some ritual dances predated or co-existed along with the pre-immience of Christian influence.22 Christianity gradually assimilated these remnants over time, in much the same way that Christmas came to supplant the celebration of the winter solstice and the summer solstice became the feast of St. John.23 The Korpus dantzak of Oņati are ritual dances performed to commemorate the Feast of Corpus Christi. Whether these dances are pagan remnants, or newly choreographed for the event by the organizers of the festival centuries ago is unknown. What is certain is that they now represent a genuine religious expression.
The first mention of these dances in the historical record surfaces in 1560. Since that date, they have been performed annually, and we know this because of civil and ecclesiastical records which tracked the city's expenditures on the dancers. Zumalde believes that the choreography remained intact because the Basque traditional spirit refrained from making too many changes to that handed down to them by their ancestors. If changes appeared, it is unlikely that they altered the sentiment of the dances which is "completely religious."24
The dances of Oņati are unique in Euskal Herria. Other Basque dances make use of the same assorted elements--skirts, castanets, the music--but none in the same way as they were integrated centuries ago in Oņati. While other groups have learned the dances, they cannot quite capture the special feeling that comes from hundreds of years of tradition. Zumalde argues that if seen performed at some festival that they will be enjoyed, but to really enjoy them you need to see them in Oņati, on the feast of Corpus. You have to see them "in their sauce," he writes, in that ambiance, on that special day.25
Today in Oņati the dances are presented in two parts. The first is for the morning's celebration of the liturgy, the procession, and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This presents only a portion of the Korpus dantzak. Later in the afternoon, the complete cycle is presented in the main plaza. This supplements the earlier dances with the banakoa variations, makil dantzak, kuadroak, arku dantza, and the aurreskua.
The group of dancers is made up of nine men: this number of dancers remains consistent since the 17th century. Eight are dressed in red and white, while their leader is dressed in blue and white.26 On the day of festival, the dancer wearing the blue in Oņati is Jesus Irizar. Jesus, or "Txutxin" as he is known, succeeded his late father Alejandro to continue the family tradition of instructing these unique dances. He has spent innumerable hours teaching these dances to new dancers; many have come and gone but he has remained the solid influence over the years that has insured that these dances have endured.27 The nine dancers are accompanied by the txistulariak. They are four musicians, one playing the melody on the txistu; a second plays the harmony on a txistu. A third musicians plays the silbote, a larger version of the txistu with a lower sound, and the atabalari or drummer completes the band.
Mikel Duenaren Zortzikoa / Martxa
This is used repeatedly by the dancers; e.g., as the dancers process through the streets. The symbolism of this dance is not known. One cannot deduce from its movements or gestures any religious meaning; it appears to have been created to embellish the procession, which is nonetheless consistent with the aim of celebrating the feast of Corpus.28
There are slight variations of this dance that differ in style but the same three-part sequence is followed.29 Following this cycle, the dancers either cease entirely, or else they continue playing their castanets as they walk to the music.
Kuadroak is a variation on the martxa. The steps are used to create various circular choreographies. In Onati it is performed during the afternoon program; in Boise just before the beginning of mass outside.
Mikel Duenaren Kontrapas
Onati's patron saint is St. Michael thus this is performed for him; in Boise the dance is done in honor of St. Ignatius, the patron saint of Idaho Basques.
This resonates religious significance with its distinct movements of adoration. It consists of three parts. The dancers begin standing in place and playing their castanets, and as the transition approaches, the execute three jumps and a turn to the left to begin with kicks. In the second part, they alternate high kicks from leg to leg while changing their positions from figure 1 to figure 2. Again as the transition approaches, they return to their initial positions and execute three jumps and a left turn. The final part consists of the dancers removing their berets as they bend forward at the waist in a gesture of homage.
The Korpus dance cycle also incorporates makil or stick dances. In Onati these are performed during the afternoon program of dances. In Boise they precede the mass.
There are three different variations: the banakoa with dances remaining in place as they hit sticks; the launakoa with the dancers moving counterclockwise a quarter position every fourth beat to make one complete circle; the zortzikoa, meanwhile, has the dancers moving to every beat as they complete two complete circles.
In Onati this is performed twice: during the mass and then to conclude the procession. In Boise it is during the mass for the Eucharistic Proclamation.
This central dance has three variations.30 It uses the 6/8 and 3/4 music characteristic of dances in Bizkaia; it is the only use of this melody in all of the Gipuzkoa province.31 It literally means "of one."
In Onati during the afternoon performance, the remaining two variations are added. They include the launakoa [of four], and zortzikoa [of eight]. It is the same tune and essentially the same dance except for a change of partners across lines. In the launakoa, the first and third pairs begin [the captain does not dance these variations], followed by the second and fourth before all eight dance again. The change, replacing the first genuflexion, involves the pair changing places as they pass on the right kicking their left leg high on the second count and finishing the turn to the right on the last two counts. Zortzikoa, meanwhile, replaces both genuflexion's with a change of position.
In Boise the zortzikoa is performed prior to the mass.
Arku [Uztai] Dantza
In Onati it is performed in the afternoon while in Boise immediately following the mass outside in front of the church.
It is an exciting number in the Korpus cycle. While some others dances are more deliberate and ceremonial, this dance is energetic and brisk. Removing their berets and discarding the castanets for decorated hoops of red and white, the dances reform in fig. 1. The first part of the dance consists of the martxa while the captain directs the dancers with the movement of his hoop. At the end of each phrase, the dancers lower their hoops to their waists in a gesture of homage.
The dancers conclude part one and as the music continues they form a large circle as they pass one end of their hoop to their partner on the right. They then move quickly to the right, and then again to the left before the circle suddenly collapses as all the dancers pass under the hoop of the last two dancers forming two circles that move alongside one another. During this portion, the captain signals and the dancers alter their circles with three variations32, until finally spectacularly emerging to reform their circle with a high kick. In earlier times the dance was entitled the "Triumph of Christ"33 because of the symbolic representation of emerging from the chaos to be "triumphantly united with Christ."
Fandangoa & arin-arin
As is customary in other locales, Onati has its variation on the soka dantza. It is a recent addition to the afternoon's assortment of dances paralleling a popular tradition celebrated in the Erreglak of Bizkaia and Gizon dantza of Gipuzkoa. In the first dance, the "aurreskua" leads the long line of dancers linked by holding hands back unto the plaza. Then he and the atzesku ["back hand"] introduce themselves to the audience with the aurrez-aurre. Then each performer takes a turn coming forward to dance Oņati's version of the Agurra before a lovely maiden.34 They then incorporate the women into the circle, and come forward together to again dance the complete aurrez-aurrez. As more women are added to the circle, the afternoon's performance with all the dancers performing the traditional fandangoa/jota and arin-arina/porrusalda.
JANTZIA: Dancers' Costumes
As with other ritual dances performed by Basques the principal colors of the Onati costumes are red and white. Eight dancers are clothed in red and white, while their captain or leader wears blue and white. These colors have remained consistent for centuries. The significance of white is in relation to its purity; red is the color that represents the earth or soil, while blue represents the heavens. In a ritual dance such as this, the divine order is represented. It can be said that the earth [the red] follows the commands of the heavens [the blue].
Today's Korpus dantzariak of Onati have retained the traditional sash and skirts. Now they are highlighted with white trim, but they have also appeared with a yellow trim. Along with these traditional items, the present group substitute modern additions. They employ regular white pants and shirts that are readily available. Atop their heads they wear red berets, and the newer variant of red laced espadrilles shoes making use of rubber soles. Around their wrists is worn a red lace, with white laces worn just above the elbow. A standard red neck tie completes the outfit.
The castanets remain a curiosity. They are not unique in Basque dance,35 but their "island" existence in Oņati remains enigmatic. It is uncertain when they were incorporated into the dances; records are of little help because each dancer owned his own pair. While the castanets are not native to Basque culture, that never stopped the people from adapting outside elements to enrich their celebrations.
Gure aldaketa: our change of costume
This is how the dancers are costumed today. But how did they look centuries ago? Zumalde points out that the long ties now worn are a recent addition that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century; formerly bow ties were prevalent. The white espartinak adorned with red laces are about two centuries old. The long white pants now utilized are less than two hundred years old. The customary form of pant were knickers down to the knees.36
The distinctive skirts emerge in the historical record in 1766. It was commonly worn by folk dancers throughout the peninsula during this time, and Zumalde suggests that they originated in southern Spain in Valencia. From there, they reached north to the Rioja region and Nafarroa and skirts were used in the Corpus celebrations of Tudela and Iruņa in Nafarroa. They are also linked with processions in Tolosa, the old provincial capital of the Gipuzkoa province and it is perhaps from this nearby town that the village of Onati adopted this costume item.37 They are not unique to the Oņati dances; today other Basque dances from the neighboring provinces of Araba and Nafarroa also make use of skirts.
The red beret is also a recent introduction to the costume. The Basque txapela came into prominence during the 19th century. Before that time, the Onati dancers wore white hats. Unfortunately, their style is unknown.38
Finally, in earlier times, "bell dances" was the term applied to this group of dances. The dantzariak use to make use of bell-pads worn below the knees; e.g., as worn by dancers in Bizkaia [Dantzari dantza] and Nafarroa [Lesaka and Otsagi]. Drawing from archive records, Zumalde found that they were used from 1560 up through the 18th century. Church records state that Oņati rented these leg-bells from nearby Araoz. This might explain their disappearance. Perhpas the renters and owners of the leg-bells had a falling out and the locals did not feel inclined to make their own. The material, colors and design are unknown, although they most likely used some mixture of red and white.39
The decision to adopt costumes that differ from those presently used in Oņati requires an explanation. On the one hand, our intent is to preserve the integrity of these dances and to follow the pattern established by Korpus dantzariak. As Zumalde explains, it is with clothing that we see the quickest changes of taste and fashion, and this is apparent with the costumes of Oņati over the centuries.40 Many of today's folkdance costumes are nothing more than a representation of yesterday's clothing. As dance groups emerged in the Basque country--and here in the United States--many copied the traditional clothing with the material at hand. In recent years, some groups have refashioned their outfits to more closely resemble the clothing worn centuries ago.41
The decision to diverge from the present norm in Oņati is arbitrary in that the late 18th and early 19th century is the era being emulated. At this point, the dancers still wore the knickers and bells below the knees, and the ties differed.42 The older rope soled version of the espadrille replace the modern rubber soled espadrille because while the later is more practical, they nonetheless sacrifice a degree of authenticity, aesthetics and function.
The defining elements of the costume remain the same: the sash and skirt. The one historical adjustment regards the headgear. The txapela was not commonly used until the late 19th century; as we know before that time the dancers wore white hats. The choice to remain with the txapela is due to the fact that it is now associated with the Basques and because we do not know what the white hats looked like. The "new" costume adopted by the Boise dancers preserves the essential character of the outfit associated with the Korpus dantzak and enriches them by making use of custom-made clothing to replace store-bought apparel.43
A Note on Basque Spelling and Terminology
The Basque people call themselves Euskaldunak which literally means those who speak Basque. Depending upon the region, there are variations on this name which include eskualdunak. The origin of the Euskaldunak or Basques is still debated by many scholars. Some accounts put them in their homeland for the last 40,000 years, making them the oldest modern people of Europe.
Today there is no Basque nation. Four centuries ago, Spain and France agreed upon their common border (in 1589) that divided the Basque region. They did not ask the Basques about the division. Presently there are only about three million people in the Basque region, a small area that is no wider than one-hundred miles. Though not a modern nation, the Basques still preserve their unique language and heritage.
The Basque people are neither French nor Spanish by ethnic origin. What distinguishes them most is their unique language which is unrelated to any other neighboring language in Western Europe. Basque is believed to be the only surviving remnant of languages spoken in Western Europe before the region was Romanized. Iparralde is the Basque word for north-side; Hegoalde is Basque for "south side". Rather than referring to "French side" and the "Spanish side" and of the Basque country respectively, these terms minimize distinction and stress the commonalty of Basques on both sides of the Spanish-French border.
Euskal Herria is the term used throughout the Basque country to refer to the homeland. Euskadi, meanwhile, is a newer term developed by Basque nationalists at the turn of century to designate the political entity or nation-state. Many towns in the Basque country have two names, or at least two different spellings of the same name in either Basque or Spanish. Iruņa is the Basque name for Pamplona; Donostia is Basque; San Sebastian is Spanish; Gernika is Basque, Guernica is Spanish, Bayonne is French, Baiona is Basque, Oņati is Basque, Oņate Spanish; etc.
There are six major dialects of the language, and thus even Basques have difficulty, sometimes, communicating with one another in their native language. In an effort to facilitate communication, and to enable the Basque language to reach into the next century as a functional language, Euskara Batua or Unified Basque has emerged. It offers a standardized alphabet and spelling, and these are the terms incorporated in this study.
ALFRED, Violet. "The Basque Masquerade," Folklore 39 (1928): 68-90.
ARIZMENDI-AMIEL, Maria Elena de. Vascos y Trajes. Vol. II. Donostia: Caja de Ahorros Municipal de San Sebastian, 1976.
DUESO, Jose. Nosotros Los Vascos: Mitos, Leyendas y Costumbres III. Bilbao: Lur Argitaletxea, 1987.
FERM, Vergilius. The Encyclopedia of Religion. Secaucus, N.J.: Poplar Books, 1975.
IRIZAR ETXEBERRIA, Iņazio. Oņati Korpus Eguna, 1986. Onatiko Udala: Graficas Santamaria S.A., 1987.
MANARICUA Y NUERE, Andres E. "Introductiķn del cristianism en el Pais Vasco," in Euskal Herria: Historia eta Gizartea. Oiartzun, Gip.: Danona: 1984.
McBRIEN, Richard. Catholicism: Study Edition. Minneapolis, Winston Press, 1981.
URBELTZ, Juan Antonio. Dantzak: Notas sobre las danzas tradicionales de los Vascos. Bilbao, Bizkaia: Grijelmo & Lankide Aurrezkia, 1978. [175--76]
ZUMALDE, Ignacio. "El Corpus de Onate" in Ensayos de Historia Local Vasca. Coleccion Aunamendi 7. Donostia: Aunamendi, 1962; Las Danzas del Corpus de Oņate. Donostia: Caja de Ahorros Provincial de Guipuzcoa, 1974; and the guide book Arantzazu / Oņati. Donostia: Graf. Valverde, 1983.
The black and white illustrations are by Juan Mari Alvarez Emparanza in Zumalde's Las Danzas del Corpus de Oņate and J.C. Iribarren in Vascos y Trajes; copies of photographs come the Elko Daily Free Press, various programs issued for the Corpus festival in Oņati, Iņazio Irizar's Oņati Korpus Eguna 1986.
1In the summer of 1960, a group of American born Basques departed Boise for a visit of the Euskal Herria. Their strongest bond had been that they had occasionally gathered at the local Basque Center to enjoy themselves with some dances. While there, they encountered a dance group from Donostia by the name of Oinkari. The name is a synthesis of two Basque words: oinak and ari. The first word means feet, and the second is the suffix for "doer;" e.g., a bertsolari is one who improvises verses; a txistulari plays the txistu, a kantari sings, and an Oinkari dances. The dance group invited their new Amerian friends to attend several rehearsals and to accompnay them to a dance exhibition in France. The Oinkari inspired their Idaho visitors to form a group upon their return, and they took the name of their mentors. They now continue a tradition now over three decades old of sharing their ancient heritage to appreciative crowds throughout the nation.
2Iņaki Zumalde, Arantzazu / Oņati (Donostia, 1983). Zumalde is the leading authority on the history of Oņati, and has written extensively on various aspects, including the Corpus Christi festival.
3Iņaki Zumalde, Las Danzas del Corpus de Oņate. (Donostia, 1974): 36; Arantzazu / Oņati. Zumalde believes that the town's history and idiosyncrasies, which distinguish the Oņatiarrak from their neighbors, have distinguished and given the dances their special importance.
4The town and surrounding valley is impressive to behold, and it all improves when you get to know some of the locals. The Onatiarrak maintain their unique dialect of Euskara, which is closer to the neighboring Bizkaian dialect than the Basque dialect of Gipuzkoa.
5Vergilius Ferm, The Encyclopedia of Religion Secaucus, N.J.: Poplar Books, 1975): 205, 795. Trinity Sunday is observed on the Sunday after Pentecost.
6Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism (Minneapolis, MN:, 1981): 637. McBrien explains the evolution of the Eucharistic, which during this era was to be "primarily worshiped rather than taken as spiritual nourishment." Consequently, forty hour devotions, eucharistic processions and the benediction of the Blessed Sacraments emerged. "The liturgy became as much a grand spectacle as an act of community worhip."
7Urbeltz, 175; Zumalde, Las Danzas: 18.
8Jose Dueso, Nosotros Los Vascos: Mitos, Leyendas y Costumbres III (Bilbao, 1987): 144.
9Many travelers to Euskal Herria have commented about the Basques' affinity for dance. The French philosoph Voltaire described the Basques as the little people who danced at the foot of the Pyrenees.
10Juan Antonio Urbeltz, Dantzak: Notas sobre las danzas tradicionales de los Vascos (Bilbao, 1978): 174.
11Zumalde, Las Danzas: 17.
12The Goizaldi dance group of Donostia deserves special mention. They offered several workshops to members of the Oinkaris in the early 1980s. The Oinkaris benefited from this influence as they expanded and refined their repertoire and costuming, further developing their understanding of Basque folkdance. In 1987, this group traveled to Boise to perform at Jaialdi '87, enthralling audiences with their exemplary dancing. The ezpata dantza and Jaungoikoaren aurrean are essentially the same dance, except that the latter substitutes genuflexiones at the transitional kicks.
13McBrien, Catholicism: 762, 773. The Eucharistic Acclamation comes at the point at which Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the body of Christ. The celebrant proclaims the solemn doxology: "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almightly Father, forever and ever." Vatican II reaffirmed Christ's presence in the consecrated elements of bread and wine, but also in the community, the word, and the minister.
14Quoted from an article he contributed to The Idaho Register, Idaho's weekly Catholic newspaper.
15Ferm: 195. Confraternities are Catholic societies founded for the increase and spread of some act of public worship.
16Many Basque dances make use of this unique instrument. The txistu or Basque flute is most likely the oldest musical instrument peculiar to the Basque country. Investigators believe the original txistus to have been constructed of animal bones, most likely the bones of oxen. Later versions were made of wood, and recently metal and plastic have been included. One fossil remain of a txistu has been dated to be over 27,000 years old, so music has been with the Basques for a long, long time.
17See below for an explanation of the dances.
18The year that I saw it and videotaped the dance in 1991, the banakoa began with the captain, and then the first and third pairs all together, followed by the second and fourth pairs together, and culminating with all nine dancing together.
19Zumalde, Las Danzas: 34. In the plaza, each dancer executes the steps individually before all nine dance together.
20Ikerfolk of Donostia, under the direction of Juan Antonio Urbeltz, is involved in the extensive research of Basque folk dance. They compiled the figure of 400 plus dances, and Urbeltz has gone on to write several seminal studies on Basque dance. He remains a leading authority on Basque folk dance. He and the group he directs, Argia of Donostia, are enjoining many to explore new--new in the sense that they have uncovered material thought lost--ideas in Basque folk dance, staging, costuming, equipment, and music. See his Dantzak: Notas sobre las danzas tradicionales de los Vascos. (Bilbao, 1978).
21Violet Alfred. "The Basque Masquerade," Folklore 39 (1928): 68-90.
22Andres E. de Maņaricua y Nuere, "Introductiķn del cristianism en el Pais Vasco," in Euskal Herria: Historia eta Gizartea (Oiartzun, Gip.: Danona: 1984): 332-336. Maņaricua concludes that the evangelization of the Basques commenced in the early part of the 4th century, with its expansion moving irregularly. In the Basque country, it is evident that pagan beliefs and practices endured well into modern times. In dance, this includes the ihauteria or carnival dances; e.g., the carnival in Lantz and Altsasua in Nafarroa, and the carnival of Zuberoa which folklorists believe to be a pagan fertility rite. See Alfred, "The Basque Masquerade," Folklore 39 (1928).
23In the northern hemispher, the summer solstice--the day of longest sunlight and first day of summer--is June 21; the day with the least amount of sunlight, the winter solstice, is on the 21st or 22nd of December. Pagan rituals marked the passage of both events. The carnival dances of Ituren and Zubieta [N] are almost certainly pagan in origin. They parade through the town clanging bells to ward off evil spirits and to awaken the dormant soil during the winter solstice. Nonetheless the term Zanpantzar, one word used to refer to the dancers, derives from the legend of the medieval carnival character of the French St. Pansard and illustrating the incorporation of a pagan rite by Christianity. Another are the dances of Otsagi [N], today performed to honor the Lady of Muskilde, the Virgin Mary. See Dueso, Nosotros Los Vascos and Beņat Zintzo-Garmendia and Thierry Truffaut, Carnavals Basque (Editions Loubatieres).
24Zumalde, Las Danzas: 20, 24. We know of subtle changes, but much derives from style over substance; i.e., the speed of the music, the height of kicks, etc.
25Zumalde, Las Danzas: 36. Only a handful of groups perform these dances. The directors Alejandro Irizar and his Jesus balked at teaching the dances to other gropus who sought them. Reasons are likely to be because of 1] their special character and 2] they made the Oņati dancers something special and sought out by others to perform at festivals. Argia, consequently, learned them clandestinely from a dancer who danced with Alejandro. The Boise group, meanwhile, has encountered no such hesitation, and Txutxin has graciously assisted them to learning and refine the dances.
26See below in the "Jantzia" section for an explanation of the significance of colors.
27Txutxin, in addition to directing the Korpus dantzariak, worked to create the town's dance group of Oņatz in 1975. Previously, a handful of male dancers were contracted by the city to perform the Korpus dantzak. See Irizar: 54. In addition to the integration of women, the group has augmented its repetoire with dances from throughout the Basque country. The Oinkari benefitted from this by learning several numbers from this group.
28Zumalde, Las Danzas: 46.
29The first is that presently performed in Oņati; the second comes from the Argia dance group of Donostia which learned the dances a generation ago--secretly it would seem--from a Korpus dantzaria. The second enhances the martxa step with more lively leg movements. Both are used in Boise, the first while marching rapidly and the second moreso when stationary.
30Here in Boise, at the moment of the consecration, we have developed a fourth variation: the binakoa [of two]. The captain commences followed by the first pair, then the third, the second, the fourth, and finally all nine together again.
31Zumalde, Las Danzas: 56.
32From the videos and while in Oņati learning with the Oņatz group, we learned two variations; the third is from the group Argia of Donostia that learned the dances from one of the earlier dancers.
33Zumalde, Las Danzas: 70; Ensayos: 118.
34In Basque, "agur" means greetings, and the Basques have created a dance, the "Agurra," with the same intent. Centuries ago, the "Agurra" was a religious dance performed before the high altar of the church. Today it also serves as a dance that salutes an honored guest or group.
35Note for example the dances from Otsagi (Ochagavia) as well as various ingurutuxuak or popular circle dances; e.g., Ttun-ttun and Iribas of Nafarroa. They are also utilized by dancers in LaBastida in Araba.
36Zumalde, Las Danzas: 38.
37Zumalde, Ensayos: 104-5. Financial records of the era list the skirts as valencianas. He points to the folklore of Pidio in Burgos, Barcelona, Valls in Tarragona, Tamara in Palencia, Anguiano in Rioja, Carlet in Valencia, and La Baneza in Leon.
38Zumalde, Las Danzas: 38; Zumalde, Ensayos: 102.
39Dueso: 552; Zumalde, Ensayos: 102. Zumalde cites from 1560 and 1565 documents that discuss the payments for the dancers' bells. In later documents of the early 18th century, he found stated that the bells were rented and brought from Araoz.
40Zumalde, Las Danzas: 37.
41Traditionally in Euskal Herria, the most common materials consisted of wool and linen that could be made in the homes. Therefore the Oinkari women initially wore red skirts made of silk because they looked good at one time, and they were affordable. Now they wear red skirts made of wool; and their blouses are especially made, replacing the standard store-bought blouses.
42The selection of a tie is based on research into common neck fashion during that era. The bells, in a red & white design, are patterned after the bells utilized by the Basque dancers in Lesaka, Nafarroa.
43It is understood that this is a relative choice and that some may disagree. The change, nonetheless, preserves the indispensable items of colors, the sash and skirt, and in no way alters the fundamental elements of the dance.
44The Oinkaris had just then begun to move in the direction of new costumes, and therein lay the hazard. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing--when one takes it to be everything. Initially, I thought it a possibility that we could use a green skirt instead of blue for the captain--it seemed to make sense because of the Ikurrina. Fortunately, John Bieter convinced me otherwise; later I learned the significance of the colors, and after I learned more about the background of the dances, the importance of maintaining them, as best we could, in their proper context.
45Those who remember still laugh about this "outting." We knew very little of the dance, and even less about the parade route which consisted of steep grades and downhills: it became very difficult attempting the martxa on the uphills, but we persevered.
46The group has not yet performed the aurreskua. One year the Cathedral was not available, and the mass returned to the city park the Sunday morning of the picnic. After discussion, the dancers concluded it best that we suspend dancing for one year because the outdoor park setting would not lend a proper atmosphere.
47Apart from the annual performance for the St. Ignatius mass, other performances include the NABO Convestion in Fresno, CA in the early 1980s in response to Aita Jean Cachenaut's request; for a visiting group of about 50 Oņatiarrak; for the performance of "Nundik Nora" in 1985 and again when the Oinkari returned to Euskadi to celebrate its 25th anniversary; a small group performed for the Benedictine nuns at their mother house in northern Idaho, and for the Basque mass at Jaialdi '87 and Jaialdi '90.
48Initially, admittance was open to all Oinkari males, but recent changes have both restricted and opened admission. Present dancers have voiced that the primary criteria should not be from where the applicant comes, but how the applicant feels about the dances. There is no mandatory retirement age for our dancers. Group guidelines include: 1.] Present group members will induct new members; 2.] Once a dancer learns the dances, he is included the annual rotation if he is able to attend; 3.] Because only nine can dance--and only 13 dress in costume--at one time, we will rotate when necessary; 4.] new dancers should expect to gradually work into the rotation; 5.] the annual mandatory rehearsal for those performing will be held the Thursday evening prior the Boise Basque festival unless otherwise stated; and 6.] it will cost something to belong to the group, because we always incur maintainence expenses; e.g., upkeep of costumes, replacing broken castenetes, etc.
49The dates, events and times vary. Check with the Boise Basque Center for more information.
50Over the years, various pastors of the Cathedral have voiced concern over the cracks appearing in the marble around the altar. One year the Banakoa was performed off the main altar and back on the old altar area. The architect of the renovation, Charles Hummel, explained that the cracks are a natural result of marble settling and not a result of our annual movements. The new altar structure is the firmest in all the building. Mr. Hummel has since provided a letter explaining this, so that hopefully future pastors of the Cathedral will not be concerned about the inevitable cracks that allow the dancing.