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Soka Dantza

It is a circular, social, mixed dance that is performed in an anti-clockwork direction, and where, even though it has a structure that is common in Bizkaia, some variations can be found.

The overvaluation that has been made of the first dancer or aurreskulari (literally, the front one) has meant that this dance as also become known as Aurresku and as Aurresku of the Parish, as opposed to the Honour Aurresku or exhibition Aurresku, which were more recently created.

B. Mª. GARRO (Cómo Bailar el Aurresku ("How the Aurresku is danced") an article published in the Revista Dantzari, number 4, 1966, pages 16 to 22) summaries the parts of the dance, together with a series of tips for the dancers. The dance can be divided into five parts according to the steps and music:
The Challenge or Oillar Auzka (J. L. ETXEBARRIA also calls it Aurrez Aurre), which in turn is made up of a call or Deya, four sub-parts, and the exit or final call. After the dancers have filed out and without holding hands, they form a half moon facing the authorities. The Aurreskulari and the Atzeskulari then move forward using burpiles (grabiletia or gurpil) and turning their right hands. They perform a series of steps and they return to their places and a chain is formed.

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The beret

As the Soka Dantza is a social dance and therefore not subject to any ritual, it has been performed by dancers wearing a wide range of clothing typical of each period in question.
We have no records about the origin of this type of dances, even though they seem to be very old as they are found throughout the north of the Peninsula, since Soka Dantza, Gizon Dantza, Giza Dantza, etc. have spread throughout the whole of the Basque-speaking area.

On the other hand, we should bear in mind that the Soka Dantza or Aurresku has been kept alive in Bizkaia in those town where another type of more ritual dances are to be found, as is the case of the Dantzari Dantza in Duranguesado, the Xemeingo Ezpata Dantza in the town bordering with Markina, or the Kaixarranka, which is currently performed in Lekeitio.
We therefore find different costumes in different towns and at different times, as can be seen from pictures and drawings.

The beret is now part of the uniform of most of the world's armies. The Basque version, called txapela has, in various sizes, shapes and colours, long been the typical headgear of Basque men, particularly in farming areas (though the blue beret seems to have been a characteristic of the men of Bilbao). In the Soka Dantza it has an important function: when the dancer introduces himself to the lady of his choice, he must remove his beret. At all other times in the performance his head is covered. Researchers disagree as to whether he should then place it on the lady's head or drop it at her feet. This represents a desire to join with her or pay homage to her.


The scarf

The scarf is used to prevent hand touching hand during the performance. It seems that in former times (and indeed in some areas still today) the "chain" was formed by directly linking hands. But more recently, possibly in the 17th or 18th century and most certainly throughout the 19th, it became common for scarves to be used to create the links.

It is not clear whether this was done for reasons of hygiene, as some ethnographers maintain, to prevent dancers from passing secret messages to each other, or even to enable anyone who felt aggrieved or injured during the performance to abandon the dance.


There are no references to the Soka Dantza being performed other tan to the sound of the txistu and the tamboril, sometimes accompanied by the silbote and the atabal.

History and Geography

The Soka Dantza ("chain dance") is known throughout Basque culture, but by different names: apart from the name used here, the most common include Gizon Dantza, Esku Dantza and Aurresku. These are social dances in which men and women dance together holding hands or linked by scarves or other elements, and as such belong to a more general type of dancing which is found not only in Bizkaia, the Basque Autonomous Community or even the wider, Basque-speaking area known as Euskal Herria, but all over Europe.

In Bizkaia this seems to be the most popular dance, as records of it can be found throughout history everywhere from the Las Encartaciones area on the border with Cantabria in the west to the eastern end of the territory.

Particular mention must be made of Lekeitio, where there is a dance by women known as Aurresku or Soka Dantza for women, which may be similar to those cited by J. I. IZTUETA (1767-1845) as being performed in Gipuzkoa in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is unusual in that elsewhere it its usually men who perform this dance.

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