Ezpata-dantza' is a generic term that
may in principle by applied to any dance performed with swords. In fact,
the Basque tradition has several
different dances with the same name,
e.g. in Xemein, Zumarraga, Deba,
Legazpia and Lesaka, although
nowadays in the latter at least
sticks are used rather than swords.
Moreover, there exists a standardised
Gipuzkoan sword-dance and indeed
a new one has been created
in Pamplona. Nonetheless, the term,
especially in the first half of
the twentieth century,
with the 'Dantzari Dantza' of
the Duranguesado region.
reason for this curious fact
lies in the special interest taken in
this dance by the PNV
(Basque Nationalist Party)
and by their leader Sabino Arana
in particular. Arana's enthusiasm
dated from 1886, when he first
saw it danced in Durango.
Like almost all Basque nationalist
symbols, it had in its favour
its Biscayan origin, and in this
particular case Arana emphasised its majestically virile character,
which was otherwise lacking in dances
like the ribbon-dance (Arana Goiri 1987).
During his imprisonment Arana composed
words to go with the entry
march for this dance, which later
became the 'Euzko-Abendearen Ereserkia',
or Basque national anthem,
and which is the current anthem
of the Basque Autonomous Community
(Jemein & Lanbarri 1977:288).
Thanks to the Basque Nationalist
Party (Arana Goiri ibid.), a dance that
at the end of the nineteenth century
was performed in scarcely four localities
of the Duranguesado spread throughout
the entire Basque Country and was
used at most of the Party's functions.
In 1910, dancing-lessons commenced
in the Batzoki (PNV party centre)
in Bilbao (Camino y de Guezala 1991:65);
in 1932 the Bizkaiko Ezpatadantzari
Batza (Biscayan Association of
Sword-Dancers) was formed,
to be followed shortly by similar
organisations in other territories.
In 1933, on St Ignatius' Day,
275 Biscayan groups came together
to dance in San Mamés football
stadium in Bilbao.
During the same period the Gipuzkoan
branch of this association had
1,200 members and there were 600
in Alava and 500 in Navarre (Tápiz 2001:105). We may infer from
the term 'ezpatadantzari'
in the names of these associations
that the designation 'dantzari-dantza'
was probably unknown beyond the Duranguesado region.
As often occurs in these cases,
therefore, a specific term, in this case 'ezpatadantza', can lack a
or even a clear logic in many senses.
As far as the music is concerned,
it would not have been unusual
for one or two of the melodies to have
taken on this name. For these are
melodies that in one form or another
reappear in all the 'ezpata-dantzak',
though in very interesting variations,
as often happens in these cases.
in music the term 'ezpatadantza'
is more often used to denote a genre
defined by a particular rhythm; specifically,
the unusual rhythm of certain parts
of the 'Dantzari-Dantza'.
The first to note down this dance
was Wilhelm von Humboldt, after
a visit to the Basque Country in 1801.
Under the title of 'Children's dance
from this Duranguesado region' he
wrote four melodies in broken
6/8 & 2/4 rhythm.
the beginning of the twentieth
century Azkue collected the majority
of the parts of the Berriz dance of 'ezpatadantzaris', in the process
drawing attention to the pipe-and-tabor
player (tamborilero) Hipólito Amezua.
To sum up, this rhythm, like the 'zortziko',
is considered to be one of the most characteristic of Basque music.
Author: Carlos Sánchez Ekiza
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