In June 2019, we welcomed 8 young dancers based in Scotland to take part in an exciting youth exchange project at Dance Base. Created in partnership between Dance Base, the Etxepare Basque Institute, and the Atlantikaldia Festival, this project explored the traditional dance styles of each country. The result was a completely original piece of choreography and music, which celebrated and seamlessly blended the traditions of these two northern cultures.
Working with Scottish choreographer Jen Wren, and composer Amy Geddes, the group began work in the studio, creating a brand new performance piece, called Atlantik 1050.
1050 nautical miles away, in Errenteria in the Basque Country, another group of 8 young people began working with Basque choreographer Alain Maya. Both the Scottish and Basque groups rehearsed and worked towards learning the same piece, despite the distance between them.
Both choreographers travelled between the two countries and groups of dancers, researching and developing the choreography, sharing their expertise, and helping the dancers to learn the skills and techniques required to perform these traditional dance styles with flair and confidence. The piece included elements of Scottish traditional dance, including; highland dance, step dance, ceilidh dances; and traditional Basque dances, including; Zuberoako makil dantza, Maskarada, Banako, and Arin- Arin.
Whilst the dancers perfected their jumps, beats, and rhythms, the musicians were hard at work in the studio, composing a bespoke piece of music, perfectly designed for the choreography. Amy Geddes (fiddle) worked alongside Scottish musicians Marc Duff (guitar, whistle), Iain MacLeod (mandolin), and traditional Basque musicians Sergio Lamuedra Calo, Txomin Dhers (txalaparta), and Andoitz Antzizar (trikitixa) to combine traditional Scottish and Basque music and instruments into one unified piece.
In August, the dancers, choreographers, and musicians came together for their final rehearsals before hitting the stage at Dance Base in the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Although originally intended to be pop-up outdoor performances, the Scottish weather forced us inside and the piece was performed in Dance Base. This high energy piece delighted Edinburgh audiences with its exciting twists and turns, foot stomping rhythms, and ended in a public ceilidh dance for the audience to take part in.
In September, the Scottish group dusted off their dancing shoes, and headed to Errenteria in the Basque Country, ready to rehearse and perform Atlantik1050 with the Basque team at the Atlantikaldia Festival. The dancers and musicians lead a workshop for families in traditional Scottish dancing, sharing some of their favourite cultural dances with new Basque audiences. This workshop was busy and full of energy, with lots of people stopping by to soak up the music, join in with some dances, or watch and clap along from the side-lines. The next day, the whole team had one final rehearsal before performing Atlantik1050 three times throughout the day. The Basque weather was just as unpredictable as the Scottish, and forced the performance indoors again. Nevertheless, approximately 1000 people attended the performances overall! With 16 dancers and a full band playing the original score, audiences were blown away by this beautiful blend of the best of Scottish and Basque traditions.
This project celebrated and shared traditions, dances, music, and languages across two different cultures and 1050 nautical miles. The young people who took part had the opportunity to develop their existing skills within familiar dance styles, whilst stretching themselves to learn something completely new from another culture and tradition. This project was all about exchanging ideas, skills, and traditions; whether between Scottish and Basque, dancers and musicians, or experienced professionals and young people. Everyone involved has had the chance to learn something about a new culture, a new art form, a new tradition, or even learn something new about themselves.
Dance Base are delighted to have been able to work with partners at Etxepare Basque Institute, the Atlantikaldia Festival, the Atlantik1050 artistic team, and all of the performers. We are incredibly grateful for the support given by Creative Scotland, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Youth Talent Development Fund, and TRACS.
Project Development Officer