Elko, NV, USA. The Elko Basque Club has supported the “Ariñak Project,” for several months. The cultural project seeks to teach aspects of Basque culture to the club’s dantzaris. Or as Mercedes Mendive explained it to EuskalKultura.com “other cultural aspects of being Basque.”
The project began in 2015 with Mendive’s return from Florida to Elko, her hometown. There, along with Janet Iribarne, she decided to design a cultural project that stems from Basque dance, a very important aspect in the majority of the Basque clubs in America, and open it up to other areas like language, traditional songs and instruments like the accordion and pandero (tambourine). Classes take place at the Basque clubhouse in Elko, and Mendive appreciates its support of the project.
“For example, every Sunday at 11am, we teach pandero. Afterwards, Euskera with Anita Anacabe Franzoia and Fernando Lejardi. During the class we also teach traditional Basque music and songs in Basque,” Mendive says. “After class, we have one hour of dance. It is a very important class for our txikis, since they are introduced to dances that they wouldn’t learn otherwise until they are part of an older group.”
The project also involves the children’s parents who also get involved with the classes. “It is a great way to share our knowledge and to give back to the community”, Mercedes said.
The project will expand with new materials as it goes: “We will soon start teaching Mus, and currently I have four students who are taking accordion with me. I would like to teach more people, but as each person learns at a different pace, a smaller group is more manageable.”
Looking to the spring, when the weather improves, Fernando Lejardi (Mercedes’ husband) will teach Jai Alai and Pala at the local Fronton. Janet Iribarne, dance instructor, is also planning on teaching txistu and alboka, an instrument that she has taught herself. “Step by step we are finding our way, and looking for a way to develop this wonderful cultural experience for all participants,” Mendive says.
More information on the Ariñak Project, here.