Calling All Basque Dancers for Reno Festival

The Basque community of Reno is calling for all Basque dancers, past and present, to join in its festivities the weekend of July 24-25 as it hosts the annual convention of the North American Basque Organizations.

A Kabalkada, or procession, of all dancers will meet at at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 25 to march over a small bridge into Wingfield Park downtown. While organizers would like as many dancers as possible to wear costumes, participation by many people is the goal, so participants can wear regular clothing. Musicians from the Basque Country will accompany the dancers.

Zenbat Gara dances at Reno festival
Zenbat Gara dances at Reno festival
“We’ve never tried this before, but we’re hoping people will be excited to participate,” said Lisa Corcostegui, Zenbat Gara dance director.

Several important events are being combined as part of the weekend celebration. The new location for the Center of Basque Studies at the University of Nevada Reno is being inaugurated. Zenbat Gara, the center’s folk dance ensemble, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. And it’s also the 50th anniversary of the First Western Basque Festival in 1959, a turning point in Basque-American history that brought together Basques from all over the West for the first time.

On Friday morning, delegates from Basque clubs will gather for the NABO meeting at the Matheson IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada Reno. NABO holds a convention every summer at a different Basque festival. The local Basque organization, in this case Reno Basque Club in coordination with the Center for Basque Studies, uses the occasion to organize a bigger celebration with special events.

The new Center for Basque Studies has been open for a year, but this was a good occasion to inaugurate it, explained CBS office manager Kate Camino. A reception will be held at 4 p.m. on the university campus at the brand new Matheson Knowledge Center. An exhibit by comic book artist Guillermo Zubiaga will be on display starting at 3 p.m.

Zenbat Gara will present a multimedia show including a performance at 7 p.m. at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center. After the show, Basque Country dance instructor Juan Antonio Urbeltz, with musicians Marian Arregi and Mikel Urbeltz, will lead the dancing, known as a Dantza Ganbara. It’s a participatory dance party, in which everyone is taught the dances with a quick lesson, explained Corcostegui.

On Saturday, after a no-host breakfast at Louis’ Basque Corner, the Kabalkada will start an day of festivities at Wingfield Park including dancing, singing, wood-chopping, kids games and clowns. NABO’s junior mus tournament will also be held that day, as well as a bone marrow drive, in memory of Sebastian Moustirats, a little Basque boy who died because no match could be found, explained Camino.

In the evening, a dinner will be served at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks to celebrate female members of the local Basque community, Zazpiak Bat’s first board of directors, and John Ascuaga and John Laxalt, surviving organizers of the 1959 festival. After the dinner, the Basque Country group Zpeiz Mukaki will play.

Sunday will include a 10:30 mass celebrated by Father Jean-Michel Lastiri at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral. The afternoon will be a more casual affair, with a barbecue, card-playing and dancing at West End Park, next to Wingfield Park.

For the schedule of events, see the Center of Basque Studies page.

For more information about the Saturday dinner and to order tickets, see the Center of Basque Studies page.

To see a video of the Basque dances and hear the music to be performed as part of the Kabalkada, see this CBS page.

Read Lisa Corcostegui’s article on the history of the Cavalcade, its characters and the dances.

See Euskal Kazeta video of 2008 NABO Convention in Chino.

NABO's poster for the Reno event
NABO's poster for the Reno event