Andra Mari History:
Andra Mari History. 50 years of song and dance.
In 1955, a group of young people from Galdakao, with the help and protection of the local Catholic Church, formed the Basque dance group Andra Mari Eusko Dantzari Taldea. After a few years of very hard work, the group found and defined its own rightful place in the world of Basque culture.
From 1965 to the present day, the group has represented traditional Basque culture in all the International Folk Festivals in which it has participated, both in Europe as in the rest of the world.
In the 1970´s, intent on further developing its studies, the group began to investigate, learn and recuperate many ancient rituals, music and dances from the whole of the Basque Country. To do this, the group went directly to the villages from where the rituals, music and dance originated to learn first hand from the inhabitants - Dancing Masters, Dancers and reliable sources. The group also began to compile as much information as possible about different dances and celebrations that had been lost or were on the point of disappearing in the Basque Country, in order to guarantee their continuity and the diversity of Basque culture.
The result of all this work today is an extensive repertoire, which includes, for example, the Carnival dances of Alsasua, the dances from Aezkoa, Salazar,Roncal and Valcarlos in Navarre and especially the Dantzari Dantza and Soka Dantza (chain dance) from Berriz, and the Jota Zaharrak (old jota dances) from Bizkaia; or the dances from Soule, the dances from Gipuzkoa, the Ingurutxoak from Leitza and Iribas, the Larrain dantza from Estella...etc.
The character or philosophy that best defines the group and its work can be resumed in a paragraph written by Lucille Armstrong as the prologue to the book Dantzak by J.A. Urbeltz (1978).
...Since the roots are the point of creation of a people, to know them means to know the way they, the people, are; the importance of conserving popular dance in its traditional form is therefore understandable, since it is the only way we can faithfully approach the past. The slightest modification would render it insignificant and the dance would simply become a physical exercise to keep the body in good shape.
We feel we can say without any doubt that when investigating dances/music/rituals the group takes great care to maintain the traditional forms, styles and choreographies, but above all it tries to understand the essence of the dance. This approach has turned the Andra Mari Dance Group into a point of reference in Basque Country culture.
During the last few years, the group has been working to recuperate and reactivate a cultural calendar in the town of Galdakao.To this end they have celebrated the most important Basque traditional festivities and rituals, such as, Saint Agueda (eve of 5th february), Erreginak (Whitsun ceremonials, 4th May), Saint John (Midsummer night´s eve 24th June), and Olentzaro (Basque Father Christmas, 24th December).
The group has also started to work on the recuperation of traditional festivals and "romerías"(processions usually to a local shrine) in the areas surrounding Galdakao, such as, the "Ascension" in Bekea, "Andra Mariak" in Elexalde or the "Soka-dantza" (chain dance) and street party in Santa Cruz of Galdakao.
In its constant effort to recuperate and reactivate the traditional dances, music and rituals of the Basque Country, the Andra Mari Dance Group has dedicated many years of hard work to maintain and preserve the identity of its people. Unfortunately, there are many people who would like to see the total annihilation of the Basque cultural identity (proof being the innumerable cases of aggression which our country suffers day after day). In the face of this difficult situation, the group has become more determined than ever of the need to work in favour of the continuity of Basque culture and identity and leave to the generations of Basques to come the legacy of the vast cultural heritage of what was, is and will be ours.
Galdakao, 2002. The Basque Country.