A Basque in Boise

After the Oinkari Basque Country trip

Whether you live in the US – or any other place in the world for that matter – if you follow Basque events even superficially, you know about Boise’s Oinkari Basque dancers’ trip to the Basque Country in July. It was covered extensively by a myriad of news outlets in at least three different languages, so if you are the one person that didn’t know about it, you can learn about the group on their website, find out about their fundraising efforts at EuskalKultura.com, or follow their steps on Eitb.com once they arrived in Bilbao.

Annie Gavica and Tyler Smith

Annie Gavica and Tyler Smith

As you can see, there is not much more I could add to what’s already been said regarding the planning of the trip and Oinkari’s performing schedule. However, I was curious to get the group’s impressions once the trip was over and they had time to come down from the cloud, readjust to the time change, and most of all, solve the two-week long stretch of sleep depravation issue. So last month I wrote a couple of questions and sent them out to Tyler Smith, Oinkari’s president, and Annie Gavica, Oinkari dancer, Euzkaldunak board member and N.A.B.O. delegate for Boise (and she still has time to teach little kids how to dance, play trikitixa, work, and even hang out with her friends!). I meant to get right on the ball and publish the post a little earlier, but what can I say? My parents were still in Boise and then San Inazio got in the way, but here we are now.

This summer was not the first time Oinkari dancers traveled to the Basque County, and both Tyler and Annie have participated in previous trips. Tyler says that “this trip was different because of the age of the group members. It was a much younger group; most had never been there before. Those of us who had tried to get the younger ones to interact with our friends and the different dancers we know. I think it was a huge success.”

Annie feels fortunate that she was able to go with the group in 2006. “Andra Mari from Galdakao invited us”, she says, “so we were with them most of the time, touring and dancing and bonding with them. It was a connection that has only gotten stronger over the years with some of them coming here to teach and us going over there to learn more. This trip we weren’t necessarily invited by a specific group so we had the ability to make our own schedule and meet with many different groups while there. Both were great experiences, just in different ways.”

Both Tyler and Annie are very excited that the group made a lot of new contacts with local groups. “We met five different dance groups while we were there.” Tyler says. “We performed with the groups from Mungia, Galdakao, Gazteiz, Hendaia, and Anorga. We also met the group from Iruna. We knew the groups from Galdakao and Anorga before but it was nice to meet their new dancers as well as have them meet ours.” Annie agrees. “We reconnected with groups that we had known for a long time, and met new dancers and groups. We did make connections with others and it was great since our group is nearly all younger dancers that had never been to the Basque Country. It gave them all the opportunity to bond with groups and dancers so we can continue the great relationships we have there.”

My favorite part of the mini-interview is the “Special Moment” question. I knew it was a difficult one as the nature the trip would make it almost impossible to highlight a specific one. For Tyler, being able to dance on stage with some of the best dancers in the Basque Country will be his favorite memory. “We performed Arratiako Jota with Andra Mari,” he remembers, “who is famous for their arratia and taught us the dance. It was very special to work on it so hard and then be able to show them what we learned.” He thinks that “the younger kids will remember the friends they made as well as the stronger friendships that came from within the group. Being with a group of 36 friends in the Basque Country for 11 days is very special. There is not a lot of time you have when you are not with them. It was a very good trip and I think we made the younger dancers love Oinkaris more, which is the ultimate goal for any trip and it helps us older members know the future of Oinkaris will live on.”

“One special, funny moment…wow! I could never narrow it down” exclaims Annie. “There are so many for me and I know there are so many different moments for others. We all experienced it differently, but I know it is safe to say that we all enjoyed every moment from hot, crowded hostels to late night trips to the beach. Food and family were always present, and we will never forget the hike up the mountain that we were not at all prepared for but the wonderful picnic and great friends that met us up at the top!”

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