|One of the most distinctive
traditions in the Basque Country is Zuberoako Maskaradak. The Maskaradak
consist of song, dance, and acting in an event that lasts several hours. The main
dancers are the five characters seen here, the Zamalzain, Kantiniersa,
Gatuzain, Txerrero, and Ensenari. The maskaradak take place during ihauteriak
or carnival. These ritual dances represent the Basque pre-classic style and are made
up of combinations of precise steps which require strength and agility. Perhaps the
most famous dance of the Maskaradak is Godalet Dantza in which
each dancer successively dances around a glass of wine, sometimes dancing on top of it.
To see images from the Maskaradak in Gotaine (2000) click here.
Today this celebration takes place before Lent and has become linked to the
Christian calendar. This yearly event, however, stems from a pre-Christian tradition
of preventing disease and plague by purging the locale of evil and, according to Urbeltz
(2000), dangerous insects that had the potential to wreak havoc in an agricultural peasant
society. Other interpretations revolve around ritual to hasten the coming of spring
and provoke abundance. These two interpretations are not necessarily incompatible.
In addition to these ritual dances, there are
also several participatory dances from Zuberoa including kontra dantzak or
quadrilles, Branlea, and makil dantzak, or stick dances. For
these, dancers wear costumes which represent clothing worn for special occasions during
the late eighteenth century. Click on the image at the left to see a larger