Mar phàirt den mhuinntireas-ealain ann an Dùthaich nam Bascach bidh mi fo stiùireadh den chompanaidh dannsa "Kukai" a tha stèidichte ann Errenteria, faisg air a' bhaile Donostia/San-Sebatian, far a bheil mi a' fuireach.
'S e companaidh dannsa proifeiseanta a tha a’ dèanamh measgadh de dhannsa tradaiseanta agus dannsa co-aimsireach. Thachair mi riutha an-dè airson a’ chiad turas agus dh' ionnsadh mi ceum no dha den Fandango – dannsa tradaiseanta bhon Dùthaich nam Bascach. Dh' ionnsachadh mi cuideachd dhaibhsan diofar dannsaichean bho Alba – Highland Schottische, Dannsa Gàidhealach, agus beagan dannsa ceum bho Cheap Bhreatainn cuideachd.
Yesterday I had my first workshop with the Kukai Dantza Konpainia - a dance company based in Errenteria. They use a mixture of contemporary dance and traditional Basque dance. They taught me some steps from the Fandango and I taught them a Highland Schottishe, Highland fling and also some Cape Breton jig and reel steps.
They are preparing for two different shows which they have coming up and after the workshops I stayed to watch their rehearsals. It was absolutely wonderful to see how see how the piece developed and progressed and how traditional dance could be incorporated so seamlessly with contemporary movement. Check out their website for videos of their work: http://www.kukai.eus/index.php/en/
Here’s a wee video of me teaching four steps of the Highland Fling. They did a pretty good job I’d say!
And here is Jon Maya and Kukai teaching the Fandago steps!!
#Tosta2016 #Scottish #Basque #Dance
An treasamh latha san Dùthaich nam Bascach...
On Sunday I went to a big festival called Herri Urrats which takes place every year in the North Basque Country. The festival takes place around Le Lac de Saint-Pee-sur Nivelle. There is a path which goes around the lake and along the way there are performances stages, food stalls and merchandise stands. Herri Urrats celebrates Basque culture and language and promotes ikastolak (Basque language schools).
For me this was my first introduction to Basque music and dance traditions in a live setting - and what a vibrant introduction! We set off on a coach early in the morning and when we arrived there were already lots of people gathered, musical groups playing traditional drums and pipes, and lots of kids running around with money collection boxes asking for donations in exchange for stickers. The funds collected provide financial support to the Basque schools across the three traditional provinces of Iparralde (French Basque Country): Lapurdi, Lower Navarre and Zuberoa. I got a badge which says “Euskaraz bizi nahi dut” meaning "I want to live in basque”.
There were a wide variety of performances on the different stages. The first stage we went to had people singing improvised oral poetry known as Bertsolaritza in Basque. Bertsolari competitions are very popular in the Basque Country. The participants are given the scenario and then they must compose words on the spot which fit a particular melody according to a certain metre and rhythm pattern. Although I didn’t understand the lyrics, I could appreciate the rhythm and metre and it was quite impressive to listen to as they improvised and the crowd responded with applause and cheers when they delivered a particularly clever, witty or humorous line.
Later on in the afternoon there were a couple of Basque hip-hop rappers on another stage, one whom I was told was also very skilled at Bertsolaritza. Although hip-hop might be more modern, there seems to be a strong link as both forms are spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics. This reminded of our very own Gaelic rapper Griogair Labhruidh who’s Ghetto Croft gig I went to last week in Scotland. Griogair is very passionate about the correlation between rap and the rhythm and metre in old Gaelic poetry (bàrdachd).
Other highlights of the festival were the incredible Oreka TX who are particularly well known for their use of the Txalaparta amongst other traditional Basque instruments (I’ll do a future post about them with another video). Also there was the group Esne Beltza which brought the trikitixa (a diatonic button accordion) into a new genre with reggae and hip-hop.
I thought I would keep this post dance related so here is snippet of a traditional Basque dance band which had a dance caller. Most of the dances were circle dances known as Mutxiokoak however there were also a few couples dances. At one point the caller announced that they were going to do a Scottischia which was basically a variation in the Highland Schottische to Basque music. Also for another dance the band played the melody of the Gaelic puirt-à-beul ‘Fear a bhios fada gun phòsadh ’ to which people danced in couples in a progressive dance which had similarities to the Boston Two Step - I must find the name that they call this dance! I was having a go at joining in a lot of the dances so didn’t get too much footage but here is a wee snippet of people dancing the Arin-Arin which comes after the Fandango. To my understanding there are certain step structures which people then improvise on top off. Also during the day there was a performance group who used Arin-Arin and Fandango steps as the basis of a more structured choreography - it was interesting to see how the dance could be adapted and adopted to both social and performance contexts.
#Tosta2016 #DSS2016 #BasqueDance
An dàrna latha san Dùthaich nam Bascach...
I travelled along the coast to Orio, a small fishing town south of Donostia, to go the concert of renowned Basque singer Benito Lertxundi. Now in his mid 70s, Benito has played a significant role in the promotion of the Basque language by composing and performing songs in Euskara as part of a cultural movement of the 1960s and 70s. He was influential as a member of Ez Dok Amairu - a group of artists who actively sought to revitalise the Basque culture and oppose the anti-Euskara laws.
During the Franco dictatorship Basque language and culture were banned and Castilian Spanish was imposed in all schools and public institutions. As a result of these laws there was a feeling of inferiority amongst Basque people due to the repression of their language and culture and the political ideologies which enforced Spanish as a superior language. To a certain extent parallels may be drawn with the Gaelic language in Scotland. My great-grandfather’s first language was Gàidhlig and this was the language spoken at home. However, when he went to school it was forbidden to speak Gaelic, the classes were through English and he would be belted across the hand for speaking Gaelic in the playground. This wasn’t for any reason as extreme as a political system which made the language illegal, but it was a result of The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 which introduced compulsory schooling for children across Scotland, whilst actively discouraging Gaelic. Gaelic was the language at home and on the croft, whereas English was the language of learning and officialdom. Another similarity between the Gaels and Euskaldunak is that the older generation switch to English/Spanish for counting and scientific or technical terminology as a result of having been through schooling in these languages rather than their first language. Over the last decades both languages have seen a revitalisation which has gone hand in hand with government support for Gaelic/Basque language schools, growing cultural confidence, political nationalism and a revival in the folk arts through grassroots initiatives.
Benito Lertxundi Ofiziala and other Basque singers who were also part of Ez Dok Amairu such Mikel Laboa and Ruper Ordorika played an important part in reaffirming the Basque sense of identity and community. The concert I went to in Benito’s home town of Orio had a packed out audience of 1000 people in a sports hall. The room was filled with a resounding sense of admiration for the singer, and the songs seemed to rouse up feelings of pride and perhaps patriotism. Particularly the last song of the evening which seemed to be a call to action to come together in peace: “Gure asmoak, esperantzak, herria, askatasuna, justizia, pakea, egia, maitasuna… mitoak, hitz utsak?”
This mural is on a wall just near my apartment in Errenteria. It is an image of singer Mikel Laboa who passed away a few years ago. I think this tribute shows just how important these cultural figures are to people living in the Basque Country today.
#DSS2016 #Donostia2016 Tosta 2016 #Gàidhlig #Euskara
So it has been my first full day here in the Basque Country and my introduction to the Basque language and people is going well... I have managed to successfully order a round of beer in Euskara (Basque)! I’m staying in Errenteria which is close to the town of Donostia (or San Sabestián as it is called in Spanish). Although I am here as artist in residence in my capacity as a dancer, the TOSTA project is about linking cultures of minority languages and therefor the language, how it is used and how it relates to people’s sense of community, identity and culture is relevant to the exchange. For most Basque people Euskara it is most natural to them but in some instances they are also making political and cultural assertion by choosing Basque over Spanish.
Comparable to how everyone in Scotland who speaks Gaelic also speaks English, it is the same here with Basque and Spanish. Everyone understands Spanish although not necessarily everyone understands Basque but from what I have been told it is a conscious decision for Basque people to speak their native language in shops and bars and then if someone does not follow they go into Spanish instead. There is also a lot of switching between the two languages and although the languages are quite different, the cadences and intonation is often the same which sometimes makes it difficult to spot if both are foreign to you.
Since I have arrived I have met with some of the team from Euskaltzaleen Topagunea and Tosta 2016 who have been absolutely wonderful at introducing me to people, showing me around town and teaching me bits of Euskara. The TOSTA project is part of a big operation for a year of culture Donostia / San Sebastián 2016 Europe. I visited their head quarters which is an old fire station converted into offices - there is a cool vibe about the place and the offices are ver busy with lots of vibrant and enthusiastic people working on various cultural projects as part of #Donostia2016.
One of the events happening today in the town was theatre performances by groups from Frisian in the Netherlands. Frysk (Frisian) is one of the minority languages which make up the project along with Cymraeg (Welsh), Euskara (Basque), Gàidhlig (Scottish), Gaeilge (Irish), Kernewek (Cornish) and O Galego (Galician).
My hosts have lots lined up for me over the next few days and on Sunday I’m heading to the north Basque Country for the festival Herri Urrats. It is a festival basque culture in Iparralde which is in France although Basque people don't make this distinguish and instead reference the areas as north or south Basque country.
My Basque vocabulary so far:
garagardoa = leann (beer)
mesedez = mas e do thoil e (please)
eskerrik asko = tapadh leat (thank you)
Bat, bi, hiru, lau = aon, dà, trì, ceithir (one, two, three, four)
Kaixo = hello
Agur = goodbye
(Tosta is a collaboration project between cultural agents in several minority language communities of Europe’s Atlantic coast, which will also serve as one of the travelling embassies of Donostia / San Sebastian 2016 European Capital of Culture. The project combines the promotion of artistic creation, the celebration of linguistic and cultural diversity and the balanced management of local languages in an international project.)
Gaelic Artist in Residence as part of the Tosta collaboration project between cultural agents in several minority language communities of Europe’s Atlantic coast. The project combines the promotion of artistic creation, the celebration of linguistic and cultural diversity and the balanced management of local languages in an international project.