Soka Dantza or Aurresku
There are many variations on the theme, but these dances affirm the importance of communal unity. The transitions or turns at the ends tie the end of the line to that individuals do not slip off of the chain.
The Soka Dantza or Aurresku holds special symbolic significance within Basque society. Until the second third of the 20th century this dance was enacted regularly in plazas of Basque towns and villages constituting a ritual of community unity. It was often led by a town's mayor. Basque folklorist Juan Antonio Urbeltz likens the participants to beads on a string: As they pass under the bridges made by the first and last individuals, the string is tied into a knot, thereby uniting all of the participants into a single entity. In the case that the authority figures that danced first and last in the string were unable to or did not know how to dance, it was customary for them to designate a dancer to walk beside them and dance on their behalf.
Soka Dantza in Oñati (1918) - from the municipal archives
Traditionally there are versions led by either married men, single men, married women, or single women (the most well-known example of the latter is the Eguzki Dantza from Lekeitio). The group that led, would choose counterparts of the opposite sex to complete the chain. Today, the division by sex and marital status has been relaxed in many places to be more inclusive.
Soka Dantza in Elorrio, Bizkaia
The first in the chain is called Aurresku (literally first hand), the last is Atzesku (or last hand). In the last half of the 20th century the Soka Dantza often became reduced to one of its many components, the dance known as Erreberentzia or Agurra. In addition, the significance of the dance underwent a transformation. Instead of the Aurresku being a prominent community figure leading others in a communal dance, he became a dancer performing the Erreberentzia to pay homage to a prominent figure. The dance therefore became known as the "dance of honor" or "Aurresku" for the individual that performs it.
Structure of Traditional Men's Aurresku
1) The Chain walks counter-clockwise around the plazato music led by the Aurresku. He then leaves the chain and dances a greeting in five parts of equal length: the first facing the town hall, the other four facing each corner of the plaza. He rejoins the head of the chain.
2) The first bridge or "zubia" is made as follows: the Aurresku raises his left hand along with the right hand of the person behind him; this person turns toward his right (to the outside of the chain) passing underneath the bridge of their arms. With the formation of this bridge both dancers begin walking toward the back of the chain while the rest of the people in the chain, walking forward, go underneath the bridge. When everyone has passed underneath, the Aurreskulari begins the march again in a counter-clockwise direction.
3) At the end of this figure, the chain forms a semi-circle in the plaza. The center of the plaza and the onlookers are in front and the facade of the town hall is in back. The two ends Aurresku and Atzesku go to the center to face off in the "desafio" or aurkez-aurke (face to face), they dance this to the entire length of the first melody of the dance.
4) When they finish they go back to their places. The second bridge is now made. The Atzesku raises his right hand along with the left hand of the person in front of him, and from the other end of the chain, the Aurresku begins to walk until he goes under the bridge; he then continues the march counter-clockwise. In other words, he passes behind the chain looking at the back of the penultimate dancer.
5) It is now time for the Azeri Dantza or fox dance. At this point the Azeri Dantza is performed by all the dancers in the chain one by one. In the past the Aurresku would have danced the Soinu Zaharrak or zortzikos of his choice at this point, having previously decided them with the txistulari.
6) At this point a drum roll begins and the "Dantza Serbitzalleak" leave their places in the line to perform their task to the melody "Andreen Deieko Soinua", a kontrapas to call the ladies. To this melody the serbitzalleak begin to introduce women into the chain. The first woman to receive the honor was the mayor's wife, and the aurreskulari danced for her while the azkendari danced for the wife of a councilman or another woman who had been designated through protocol to close the chain. (In the case of a soka dantza in which the mayor of one town invited the mayor of a neighboring town, the women were danced to in a crossed fashion - the Aurresku and the Atzesku danced to the other woman. The serbitzalleak then begin to place other women in the chain. There are as many women as men. The women are placed alternately between the men. The second person in the chain is a woman. It is necessary that the partner of the Azkendari is placed in front of him in the chain, so that the chain is always closed by the atzesku.
7) Another desafio is danced by the Aurresku and the Atzesku.
8) At the end, and assuming that all women have been placed in the chain, both bridges are executed again.
9) The Aurresku and the Atzesku dance to a melody of the genre "Saltokako Zortzikoak." After this and as a conclusion, tradition has appended 3 more dances - Fandango, Arin Arin, and a biribilketa.
Traditionally this was not the end. All participants then went to the town hall for refreshments, went to the plaza again later, and finished.