Frontoia (The Handball Court)

A Space for Sports, Music, and Dance

In Basque communities around the world, frontoia is at the symbolic and often literal center of social and cultural life. Frontoia started as a single wall, sometimes on the side of the local church, where children and adults gathered to play pilota or handball during festivals, feast days, and leisure time.

Now the courts are found in a great variety of styles and sizes, and they continue to be community gathering spaces for not only pilota games but also carnival processions, music and dance performances, bertsolaritza poetry competitions, and rural sports contests. Outside of Basque Country, frontoiak are often the meeting grounds for Basque diaspora communities.

As the symbolic center and meeting place for the American people, the National Mall of the United States is a fitting location for a frontoia in Washington, D.C. The Folklife Festival Frontoia venue will allow visitors to watch and participate in pilota lessons and games, bolo (bowling) lessons and games, sokatira (tug-of-war), lokotz bilzea (cob gathering), demonstrations of other bertoko kirolak (local Basque sports), music and dance performances, and bertsolaritza.

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Frontoia (courts) are found all over the Basque Country, traditionally made of church walls to play handball. Photo by Cristina Diaz-Carrera, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

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