The traditional Basque dance – aurresku

The great thing about being in a relationship with a foreigner is not only polishing your language skills but also getting to know (and understand) their culture, traditions and habits.

Thanks to my Basque boyfriend I got to be on a Basque wedding. For those of you who are not aware, the Basque Country is an autonomous community of northern Spain and it borders with the Bay of Biscay. It’s a part of  the larger Basque Country (Euskal Herria) – the home of the people who speak the Basque language. Spanish Basque weddings are pretty normal. Don’t get me wrong. It was a beautiful ceremony in an old and stylish church located in Portugalete – suburbs of Bilbao. The bride looked lovely and everything was simply perfect. The food was amazing, wedding guests nice and handsome. Long story short, we had a great time. I won’t get into more details. Just let me tell you about the dance. Yes, there was a dance, pretty unusual dance!  Have I told you before that Basques are kind of particular people? Oh I didn’t? So I will definitely reveal more top Basque secrets with you shortly. Today it will be about the jumpy dance.

The lovely Basque couple got married in a catholic church. The whole ceremony was very elegiac and formal. I thought it would be like this all the time, I could imagine me sitting at the table bored as hell. But I changed my mind once we left the holy house of God and an unusual and funny (only for  non-Basques, I guess) dance started. There was a young couple of dancers waiting outside of the church. They wore traditional Basque clothes – white blouse, black knickerbockers and knee-length socks made of wool and a red beret (boina). The most important (funny) were the shoes, which looked like poor ballet shoes – made of wool and red ribbon. I was quickly briefed what they were about to dance was called aurresku. It’s a traditional Basque dance. In the past it was danced only be men and only on important public/political events. Nowadays it’s performed in almost all weddings in the Basque Country (and in other parts of Spain if the husband or wife are originally from the Basque Country). Arresku has a long tradition and still there are people (dancing groups) practicing the dance. They usually make performances in weddings and public acts.

I don’t know why but I thought it was going to be one of the great old dances, like waltz or other ballroom dance. It would be an appropriate dance for a wedding, right?. But here’s the thing about Basques, they love to do things the other way around. You can never be sure what they’re going to do. And don’t let me start on speaking only in Euskera at the wedding (in supermarkets, in bars, restaurants…). So I was prepared for the unexpected…and I wasn’t wrong!

So there were 3 people; a couple of dancers and a third man playing txistu (a kind of fipple flute) and tambourine. Once the music started, the dancer took off his red beret and hold it in his hand all the time during the performance. First, both of them, the girl and the man started touching the ground with one foot, and then with the other. It looked as if they were smashing a big spider on the ground. Then they started jumping like frogs and kicking the air with their legs (a mix of karate and ballet) and performing spirited acrobatic displays for each other.

She’s flyyyyyying  (source)

They did the bit with the spider a few more times.  At first I was really concerned they could accidentally kick one of the guests. Actually I could smell an accident: it was raining, the ground was wet, there were puddles all over the place and actually it was a miracle they didn’t fall. Other thing you should know about Basques, they are tough as old boots and don’t give a crap about the rain. So I suspect the dancers always rehearse in the rain. But then I was even more worried about the dancer’s male genitals. I think lifting a leg that high isn’t very comfortable (and healthy) for a man, right?


Thanks  God nothing bad happened and everybody, including the just married couple, were spellbound with the performance. And so did I. I wasn’t blessed with any particular talent but I can appreciate other people dancing, singing or performing in musicals. I really do.  And I find people keeping their heritage alive through a dance very admirable.


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