Rapper Ezpata-Dantza: Teaching Rapper Sword Dance in Basque Country

This was a day that I had been waiting for for a while: the rapper dance workshop! My rapper swords that I my mother had sent over were aparently stuck in Madrid because they thought they were destined to be sold commercially and they wanted us to pay large sums of money to free them. Amazingly enough, there exists not one, but two sets of rapper swords in Basque country! Apparently the Monkseaton side had visited a group in Basque country many years ago and somehow a team had gotten some swords via that. The workshop was held in San Sebastian and had nearly 20 people, so we had two teams dancing with real swords and a third team pulling the old bar room trick of dancing with rolled up cloth napkins.

We had to switch people in and out, and the hankies rotated teams, but everyone got in a lot of dancing. I started off with brief overview of what rapper dance is, where it came from and how I started dancing it. After that, we pretty much dived right on in!

I taught the stepping first, which on the whole they picked up incredibly fast! In the online description of the workshop I had asked people to bring hard-soled shoes, which many people did, so we had a nice little tappity-tappity-ing going on!

After various stepping exercises we learned how to make a nut, and then jumped into all sorts of figures. By the end of the workshop we had learned single guard, changing of the guard, princess, prince of wales, curly, jumps, and moving fixie. They sure learned fast!

We had originally planed on getting a txistu player, since many of the tunes that they play are jigs and would have worked really well, but weren’t able to get one so had to make do with recorded music. This was great except when it would end and I would scamper over to the sound system to set it off again. The dancers were incredibly enthusiastic and eager to learn, so we pushed through the whole three hours with only one short break. When the time was gone everyone was sweaty, but happy!

I recorded a few more songs in the unlikely location of the locker room and continued to totally be amazed by the music of the country. Every one packed up their stuff and we headed out to the cars, singing all the way!

We drove back to Eibar to find a festival going on in full swing! Remember how I mentioned a few posts back that my whole trip is festivals? It’s true! There were tons of people in the main plaza of the town, so after topping up credit on my phone Oier went and got his kids and we all bought tickets. Basque festivals seem to always have a particular bandana that is sold as part of a kind of entrance badge. In this case we got the bandana, a cup that got us all the cider we wanted, and a meal ticket for some pinchos. The cider is a big basque tradition, and they insist that you must pour it from as high above the glass as possible, preferably while looking disinterestedly away, with extra points if you are talking to someone over your shoulder while you do so. If you simply pour it into the glass you are missing the flavor and bubbliness, and are probably French. The courtyard was ringed with stands, each giving away their own particular cider, so we went around to each and had a taste. After the party started to wind down, several of the younger dancers invited me out to a restaurant where the main attraction was yet more cider! Here you got your drinks from giant barrels in the walls that shot a stream of cider out of a spigot. While one person turned the tap, everyone else would line up and get a bit of cider from the stream, preferably from as close to the floor as possible and then moving up the flow. 

The tradition is to only fill the glas up about an inch, and if you fill it all the way up that too is “drinking like a frenchman.” You get the drinks, stand around, go eat some food, and then someone calls “Txotx!” which as far as I can tell translates to “Another round!” since everyone goes up and repeats the process. We talked about the sword dancing workshop and I learned a few more basque songs before finally wandering home and getting some rest.


About Jeremy Carter-Gordon

My blog of a year studying point-and-hilt sword dancing on a Watson Fellowship. Enjoy reading, tell me your thoughts and leave me a comment, or visit my website at JeremyCarterGordon.com
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