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July 6, 2004

Basque Dancers to Perform on July 14

The Oinkari Basque Dancers from Boise, Idaho, will perform a noontime concert on Wednesday, July 14, in Madison Hall off the foyer of the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The concert is a part of the American Folklife Center's annual concert series, "Homegrown 2004: The Music of America."

The Oinkari Basque Dancers trace their origin to a trip by a group of young American-born Basques from Boise to the Basque region of Spain and France in the summer of 1960. The Idaho visitors were befriended by a group of dancers from the town of Donostia, who invited them to rehearsals and performances and offered to teach them their regional dances.

The Basques suggested that the Americans form their own dance group to preserve the Basque culture in the United States and suggested they adopt the name "Oinkari," which literally means "one who does something with his feet." The group then returned to Boise and founded the Oinkari Basque Dancers.

Forty-four years and two generations later, the Oinkaris continue to thrive, growing from a half-dozen to more than 50 members. In fact, being an Oinkari dancer has become a rite of passage and an affirmation of cultural identity for young Basques growing up in Boise.

From the beginning, the group has performed with live musicians, usually elders in the community, who have passed on not only the music but also the Basque language, which is spoken during rehearsals to teach the dances. The Oinkari Basque Dancers have performed for Basque communities all over the West and at festivals from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

The Basque people, who call themselves "Euskaldunak," have long inhabited the frontier region of southwestern France and northeastern Spain, where the Pyrenees Mountains slope down to the Bay of Biscay. An ancient race with mysterious origins, the Basques are a distinct racial and cultural group and speak a language that is related to no other linguistic group. Basques first came to the United States in the late 19th century, settling in the mountainous regions of Idaho, Nevada and California. They took up sheep-herding and mining and became an integral part of the community, while at the same time maintaining a strong sense of their native roots.

Outside of the Basque areas of Europe, the single largest concentration of Basques in the world lies in the Boise Valley. The Oinkari Basque Dancers are the foremost embodiment of this unique culture.

The Homegrown concert series presents the very best of traditional music and dance from a variety of folk cultures thriving in the United States. The series is co-sponsored by the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington.

Homegrown concerts are held once a month from April through December. The concerts are free of charge and are presented from noon to 1 p.m. The closest Metro stops to the Library of Congress are at Capitol South (blue and orange lines) and Union Station (red line).

Homegrown 2004: The Music of America Concert Series

  • Aug. 18
    Phong Nguyen Ensemble
    Vietnamese music from Ohio
    Madison Hall
  • Sept. 28
    Anjani Ambegaokar, 2004 NEA National Heritage Fellow
    North Indian Kathak dance from California
    Neptune Plaza
  • Oct. 20
    Nadeem Dlaikan
    Arabic music from Michigan
    Coolidge Auditorium
  • Nov. 17
    American Indian Music and Dance Troupe from Oklahoma
    Co-sponsored with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian
    Coolidge Auditorium
  • Dec. 8
    Jerry Grcevich with Tamburitza Orchestra
    Tambura music from Pennsylvania
    Coolidge Auditorium

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in the Library in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. Visit the center's Web site at www.loc.gov/folklife.

Part of the Kennedy Center's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, the Millennium Stage helps fulfill the center's mission to make performing arts widely accessible. The Millennium Stage introduces the performing arts to the local community and to millions of people who visit the center each year. These free, 6 p.m. performances are offered 365 days a year; tickets are never required. Daily broadcasts of Millennium Stage concerts are available on the Internet. For a schedule and information on how to access the broadcasts, visit the Kennedy Center Web site at http://kennedy-center.org.

The Folklore Society of Greater Washington was founded in 1964 to further the understanding, investigation, appreciation and performance of the traditional folk music and folklore of the American people. The FSGW presents more than 200 folk events in the Washington area each year.

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PR 04-128
07/06/04
ISSN 0731-3527

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