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Dantzari dantza is a dance cycle that is typically associated with Durangaldea. It’s particularly popular in Abadiño, Berriz, Garai, Mañaria, Izurtza and Iurreta. Each place has its own variations while preserving the same tradition. Durango, Elorrio and Otxandio also have some Dantzari dantza events though it’s not such a regular fixture.

There are no historical references about the origin of this dance cycle. However, we know that Humboldt experienced it on his visits to the region and mentioned it in a book published in 1881, in which he describes the music and rhythm of the dances.

According to tradition, every year, on the eve of the patron saint festivities, the dantzaris (dancers) give a performance and raise the tree trunk called Donienatxa in the village plaza. The Donienatxa, which stays upright until the festivities come to a close, is a stripped and polished tree trunk crowned with laurel leaves, corn ears and flowers. After the religious celebration on the main day of the patron saint festival, the dantzaris perform the complete Dantzari dantza cycle, accompanied by the sound of the traditional Basque flute called the txistu and the tamboril drum. The dances are:

  • Agintariena (Ikurrin dantza) (greeting dance to the authorities)
  • Zortzinangoa
  • Ezpata joku txikia
  • Banangoa
  • Binangoa
  • Ezpata joku nagusia
  • Launangoa
  • Makil dantza (Makil jokua)
  • Txotxongiloa

While some dances in the cycle don’t use any equipment, others involve swords and sticks. There are two groups of dances: in the first group, the dantzaris dance one by one (Banangoa), two by two (Binangoa), four by four (Launangoa) or all eight together (Zortzinangoa), without any equipment; in the second group, the swords and sticks take centre stage.

The Agintariena and Txotxongiloa dances mark the start and end of the cycle. During Agintariena, the local flag (ikurriña) is waved before the authorities. The dantzaris stand in two lines in the middle of the plaza, with the flag bearer between them, and salute the authorities. They then return to their original position with the flag bearer in the middle. The dancers crouch down and the flag bearer (not wearing their beret or txapela) waves the flag above them. This dance marks the beginning of the cycle.

The Txotxongilo dance brings the cycle to a close. This sword dance is traditional in Durangaldea. Some municipalities don’t include it in the Dantzari Dantza cycle and instead dance it separately.

The dancers wear a red beret (txapela), a white cotton shirt, a buttoned waistcoat adorned with strawflowers, white trousers, a red sash, leather leg loops with bronze bells, white socks and white alpargatas with red piping. The dress and the dance style vary from one place to the next, but the tradition itself is deeply rooted in Durangaldea and while it has changed and adapted, has remained true to its essence throughout all this time. The cycle is traditionally only danced by men, but various municipalities now allow women to participate in Dantzari dantza.

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