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History of the Oinkari Basque Dancers
Over 40 years ago, a proud young group of Basque Americans dreamed of creating a troupe to preserve and perform the unique dances of their ancient heritage. They journeyed to the Basque Country in the summer of 1960 in pursuit of this dream. In the midst of the mountains and sea coast where the Basque culture began, the young people met a group of dancers from the town of Donostia (or San Sebastian). The American visitors accompanied the dancing group to rehearsals and festivals that summer and the two groups became fast friends. In the enthusiasm and dedication of this dance troupe, the American Basques saw a perfect model for their own group in the United States. The friendship between the groups, born of a common heritage and love of the Basque tradition of dance, lead to the naming of the Basque American "dream" group after their Basque Country friends. They named the new group "Oinkari" (meaning one who does with his feet, or dancer in Euskera, the Basque language).
The Boise Oinkari soon began rehearsals upon thier return to the states. Under the direction of Albert Erquiaga and Diana Urresti and with the expert musical accompaniment of Jim Jausoro and Domingo Ansotegui, the Oinkari's made their debut at the annual gathering of area Basques, the Sheepherder's Ball, at Christmas time in 1960. The dream at last came true. The hard work continues; the dream has blossomed and the Oinkari Dancers have become a source of pride to the Basque community as well as to the State of Idaho. In the best tradition of folk customs, the dances have been taught to hundreds of young Basques throughout the years. Dancers and instructors from the Basque country have visited Boise and enriched the group's traditional repertoire. Some members have also had opportunities to travel to the Basque Country and learn additional dances.
Oinkari Dancers are not professional performers, but their innate respect for their culture heritage makes the Oinkari performances a whirl of flying feet, snapping fingers, ancient music, and shouts of exhortation a thrilling combination of precision and enthusiasm.
This enthusiasm has spread to appreciative crowds in World's Fair exhibitions throughout North America including Spokane, Seattle, New York and Montreal. In 1973 the group visited six Western states on a tourand traveled to perform at a folk festival in Washington D.C. In 1985 to celebrate the its 25th anniversary, the group made a return voyage to the Basque Country where they performed throughout the seven Basque provinces. The Oinkari Dancers continue to travel to mational Basque gatherings in Elko and Winnemucca, Nevada and Sanfrancisco, Bakersfield, and Chino, California. The group also performs dozens of times each year for local charities, hospitals, and nursing homes.
The current version of the Oinkari Dantzari Taldea carries on and brightens the dream of the group of 1960. Hundreds of young men and women, over the years, have rehearsed each Sunday at the Boise's Basque Center. In addition to performing the same dances that the original group learned, the group has expanded their repertoire to include almost forty different numbers representing nearly each of the seven Basque provinces of the Old Country.
The group is accompanied by the accordion of Jim Jausoro, pandareta (tamborine) of Juan Zulaika, and the "txistu" (the ancient Basque flute pronounced "CHEE-stoo") of Edu Sarria. All the dancers are of Basque descent and at least some are able to speak some Euskera, the Basque language.