Eaurtako Neska Dantza: Axuri Beltza

Axuri Beltza 2009On the 40th anniversary (1969-2009) of the creation of Axuri Beltza, a dance creation of Juan Antonio Urbeltz and his wife Marian Arregi at the Victoria Eugenia Theater in Donostia.





audioAxuri Beltza

Sheet Music

The Lyrics of Axuri Beltza:

Axuri beltza ona dun baina
xuria berriz hobea
dantzan ikasi nahi duen horrek
nere oinetara begira

Zertan ari haiz bakar dantzatzen
agertzen gorputz erdia
su ilun horrek argitzen badin
ageriko haiz guzia

Eaurtako Neska Dantza, or Axuri Beltza, as it has become widely known, has become a very popular dance even among Basques in the United States. It might surprise some to learn that it has only existed since 1969. That is the year that Juan Antonio Urbeltz choreographed it based on an existing song, fieldwork interviews in the Salazar Valley, and careful observation of the mutil dantza genre of that area and of Baztan. Urbeltz's wife, Marian Arregi composed the music of the introduction and it has become an enduring part of the performance.

Axuri Beltza Demostrated by its Choreographer, Urbeltz


The following article is reproduced here in case it is re/moved.  It was originally posted by N. Azurmendi in May 2009 at at axuri-beltza-cumple-anos-20090505.html  The translation is via googletranslate.

Axuri Beltza Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Although most think it is an ancient dance, it was "reconstructed" by Juan Antonio Urbeltz in 1969.

You don't have to be a seasoned Basque folklorist to recognize it from the first chords and lyrics of Beltza Axuri ("black sheep").  Often danced with more enthusiasm than skill, this is a dance that is in the repertoire of many Basque dance groups, which is danced in the streets and in its musical version, and again performed by a number of Basque choirs.  And Axuri Beltza is now part of what they call the cultural . . .

If the antiquity of Axuri Beltza became the subject of betting, the "smart money" would probably defend its ancestral, traditional origins.  "It is one of the few dance songs that are preserved" or "some see this dance as a dance of witches", say some of the descriptions for Axuri Beltza that can be found on the Internet, highlighting the links of the dance in question to the past, the more remote the better.  But if the winning bet of when this dance was created goes to the one who wagered when the Beatles were about to dissolve and humans were only a few months from setting foot on the moon.  Axuri Beltza has not come directly from the mists of time, but is due to the work of folklorist Juan Antonio Urbeltz.  It was he who recreated and combined elements from different sources, and with the dance group Argia debuted this dance on May 4, 1969 at the Teatro Victoria Eugenia de San Sebastian.

Memory to the scene
Dance was no stranger to the resurgence of the various expressions of Basque culture.  But  1936 [the Spanish Civil War] and its aftermath impacted traditional Basque dance, disrupting the connection with the period of extraordinary vitality that had preceded the Second Republic.  This same logic [of expressing Basqueness through dance] re-emerged at the end of the 1950s and advanced in the 1960s.

In the middle of that decade came Argia Dantza Taldea ("Argia Basque Dance Group"), which since 1966 has been directed by the anthropologist and folklorist Juan Antonio Urbeltz.  In those early years there was much needed field work in order to "pick up dances that had been cut off from 1936 and only reminded people of a certain age."

Urbeltz's group's repertoire, had been focusing on "social dance, preferably Vizcaya and Soule, noted for its spectacular nature and degree of difficulty and in its implementation of excellence."  He was struck, however, by the lack of dances for women. Some were in groups and on stage, but their role is generally limited to appear dressed in poxpoliña [the red skirts with black stripes] and interpret a limited number of dances, sometimes nothing more than adaptations of male dancing.

In 1967, while researching and collecting the dances from Otxagabia [Nafarroa] Juan Antonio and his then girl-friend and soon to be wife and close collaborator, Marian Urbeltz Arregi, were intrigued by a reference they found on leaflets in the Narvarrese valleys of Roncal and Salazar published by the Editorial Auñamendi.   It was about a dance performed by the young girls of Jaurrieta [Nafarroa town].  The publishers, and Jose Bernardo Estornés Lasa, provided new clues indicating that the reference had been from Azkue's Basque songbook collection, which contained the title of Axuri beltza.

This provided the source of the melody and the lyrics, further they knew that both made a dance, but they did not know the steps.  They tried again and went to visit to an old woman from Jaurrieta.  She told them that she remembered dancing a dance accompanied by a harmonica.

And so, putting the pieces together based on his deep knowledge of traditional Basque dances, Urbeltz began to rebuild this Basque dance.  This recreation was based on information provided by Azkue and scraps of memory that he had managed to salvage, and the steps came from the mutil-dantzak of Baztán as hinted at in the second part of the chorus.

The dance was executed to the sound of the accordion played by Marian Arregi to reproduce the melody, and the xirula [Basque flute] which provided the original pastoral touch. "It was the first time for this combination," notes Urbeltz referring to the musical portion characterized by a high profile women's voices.

The simple and elegant black costumes paired with the entry melody of Lekarotz Zikiro Beltza made for a staging surprising on May 4, 1969, on the boards of the Victoria Eugenia when a classic was born.

"By combining different elements to get a beautiful dance, among other things, gave more prominence to the girls and helped us achieve our goals: to bring simplicity to the scene," recalls Juan Antonio Urbeltz.  But the work-up which took nearly two years was not as easy as it sounds, because of "how complicated the recovery of a dance is.  The creation has to have its own pattern which, in turn, makes it fit into the popular pattern, which has its own codes."  So reconstructing a dance is not only a matter of imagination, but "all the pieces have to fit perfectly for a new dance based on credible historical elements."
The premiere of Axuri Beltza was a "gala" attended by some of the leading creators and promoters of the Basque cultural moment of the time, including Jorge Oteiza, Remigio Mendiburu, many members of the group Ez dok amairu.  It "was one of the first times that a traditional Basque dance show received more than just mere mention in a newspaper." 
Soon after they spent time teaching Beltza Axuri "to dozens of groups." So great was the impact of a dance "that hit almost immediately with a kind of collective memory" that in a few years, managed to become ancient.





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