Dantzaz ele. Dance costumes

In the Basque Country every traditional celebration is accompanied by music and dance which often outdo the original event that they are celebrating, regardless of whether this is religious, social or linked to the farming calendar. This forms part of an intangible heritage, and reects certain collective traditions and customs passed down from generation to generation.

  • 28st March - 23rd April, 20223
  • From Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00-20:00
  • Church and cloister
  • With the ticket to the museum
  Besta Berri Dantza  Maskaradak  kabalkadak  kaskarotak

For four weeks the San Telmo Museum provides, with this exhibition, the chance to learn more about four of the most characteristic festivities of the French Basque Country: Besta Berri, the carnival processions in Lapurdi, the cavalcades and charivaris, and the masquerades in Soule.

In the exhibition, a hundred mannequins give life to the main characters of each procession, showing the original costumes used in each one of them. These compositions give an idea of ​​the format, structure, organization and preparation that they require.

Corpus Christi

Besta Berri (new feast) is what Corpus Christi or the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament is called in Basque, which on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday and on its octave celebrates the real presence of Christ in the host and wine consecrated in the Eucharist. In the Basque Country, as in the rest of the Catholic world,Corpus Christi is characterised by the freedom of expression given to local cultures in interpreting the liturgy.



The area in which the Besta Berri dances take place has got continually smaller over the last two centuries, until it has been reduced to its current stomping ground, which stretches from the interior of Lapurdi to the outskirts of the Uhart-Mixe region, including Arberoa and Ortzaise.

Kaskarotas, carnival procession in Lapurdi

In the second half of the 20th century, some villages in the region of Lapurdi, such as Hasparren or Espelette, but especially Ustaritz, still kept up the tradition of the this procession, made up of various characters, goes from house to house to point out the passage of winter to spring and to celebrate the vitality, fecundity and fertility of the new year. The dancers’ and characters’ clothes are decorated with ribbons, bells, flowers and jewels, which are typical symbols of the ritual of carnival. They accompany the bear who comes out of hibernation, as a symbol of the awakening of nature in spring.

The route followed by the is an interaction between the dancers and the villagers. The dancers, accompanied by masked characters and musicians, will perform the dances that they have learned and maintained for the occasion in front of each house that they visit. In exchange for these dances and songs, that for Thierry Truaut represent , the house that receives the dancers contributes to the collection by donating a sum of money, by inviting the group of dancers and masked characters in or by giving them food for the retinue’s meal.

Cavalcades and charivaris

Charivaris were very closely linked to the moral and religious norms and rules that governed society until the late 19th century. When an episode occurred in local life that they considered to be scandalous, a series of events could be organised of various degrees of importance, with the genuine spirit of a people’s

It started o with a night-time hullabaloo in front of the house of the accused; youngsters from the village, with a lot of shouting, ringing cowbells and banging pots and pans, made a racket that could go on for several hours or even be repeated for several days on the run. These charivaris, called in Lapurdi and Lower Navarre, and in Zuberoa, didn’t stop until the household or the family who had been denounced paid the ransom that had been demanded: a sum of money or a meal in most cases.


The processions that we can currently see in the masquerades in Soule remain true, except for certain details, to a model that has been used since the early 20th century. Before going through a period of significant evolution between 1870 and 1890, the masquerades had already undergone some profound changes, aimed above all at highlighting a style of dancing with a brilliant technique that was rapidly changing at that time.

The masquerade retains all the characters of the original parade: the group of Pioneers (Txerreroa in front, followed by Gatuzaina, Kantiniersa, Zamaltzaina, a horse with a skirt, and Entseiñaria, who closes the group); after this first group, the Marexalak (who are in charge of shoeing the Zamaltzain) come, and then the Kükülleroak (the roosters, who are the young men of the village). Behind them Jauna eta Andrea, and then Laboraria and Laborarisa, farmers, who will be at the head and tail of the rope dance when Bralia is completed. In a third group comes the black masquerade, and finally, the Buhamesak and Kauterrak.


The exhibition, presented in Baiona in 2020, comes from the hand of Maritzuli Konpainia, who has been doing research and teaching work on dance and its costumes for more than twenty years. Known for the quality of its productions, it constantly develops and renews its broadcasting activity through numerous shows, exhibitions and conferences, aimed at an ever-widening audience.


The museum has programmed activities around the exhibition. Consult the full agenda (in Spanish)


San Sebastián, ciudad de la cultura

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  • Ayuntamiento de Donostia-San Sebastián
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