The Duguna dance group launches the chupinazo for its 75 years of history | Spain

The Duguna dance group launches the chupinazo for its 75 years of history | Spain
The Duguna dance group launches the chupinazo for its 75 years of history | Spain

Pili Casales de Miguel (Pamplona, ​​84 years old) met the man who would later become her husband, Miguel, in the Basque-Navarrese dance group Dantzaris de Pamplona/Duguna Iruñeko Dantzariak, better known as Duguna – “What we have” in Basque. She joined in 1957 and until she left in 1968, they travelled around half of Europe and the United States. They even performed in New York in 1965. “At that time we travelled a lot. We went to Italy almost every summer, to Paris too, and then, here, in Iparralde, we travelled every summer weekend,” she recalls. For these young people, born and raised during Franco’s regime, it was a real wake-up call to leave “Pamplona in 1957, which was a bit sad.” Such was their involvement that Pili and Miguel brought forward the date of their wedding so as not to miss a trip to Venice, where they were going to perform. What’s more, during their honeymoon, when WhatsApp was still a utopia, they were keeping up with the rehearsals: “We went away for a few days and we were so involved in the group that every afternoon we called to see how everything was, how the rehearsals were going… We were travelling there, but always thinking about Pamplona,” he recalls, laughing. Pili was “the second or third generation” that brought joy to the streets of Pamplona dancing on the most important dates. Today, July 6, 2024, the city honours the 75 years of the group’s career. Today Duguna has been chosen by the citizens to light the fuse of the kick-off that kicks off the San Fermín festivities.

Duguna is 75 years old, but they were not always called that, says Gerardo Lecea (Pamplona, ​​91 years old). Lecea was part of the group of dantzaris that preceded Duguna until 1958, when he had to leave for Madrid for work reasons. “When it was founded in 1949, it was the group of dantzaris of the Pamplona City Council. I did not participate in the first performance, but I was in the first group. I was the first of the three of us who remained to start rehearsing and this was at the beginning of the 50s.” The name was changed a few years later following a musical folklore show that they premiered at the Gayarre Theatre in 1954 and which was called Duguna. A great show, says Lecea, which was a major success because the Santa Cecilia orchestra, today the Navarra Symphony Orchestra, performed in it. They performed in Bilbao, Vitoria, Estella, Tudela and even, he recalls, “before the diplomatic corps in San Sebastian because Franco spent his summers there at the time.” “We were a huge group and it was impossible to maintain it because it cost a fortune.” In 1988, for legal reasons, it became an independent association and adopted the name Duguna. Today, the local council hires it to perform on the most important dates.

Pili Casales, a former member of the Duguna dance group, poses for a portrait with a photo of herself and her husband, also a former member of the group. PABLO LASAOSA

Despite not continuing to dance, both Casales and Lecea have continued to be linked to Duguna. In the case of the former, her daughter, two brothers and her husband have also danced in the group. “Here at home we carry Basque dance deep inside us.” Duguna has marked her life to such an extent that even at 84 years of age she still has a group of friends: “My group is still made up of people from Duguna. Each one lives his own life and, although we don’t see each other much, we do still have a relationship.” Both started very young, as did Aritz Ibañez Lusarreta (Pamplona, ​​45 years old), the current director of the group. He has been a Duguna dancer for more than three decades. “I was in the txiki group for three or four years and then when I was 15 I moved on to the older group.” He has been in the adult group for thirty years, of which he has been its director for 21. Since then, just as in previous years, the group has maintained its essence, although it has evolved: “The group was created to dance at the Pamplona fiestas and represent the city and it continues to do just that. What happens is that fashions have changed, society has changed. The way of dancing and functioning is changing.”

In fact, Ibañez explains, in recent years they have taken advantage of “the experience that the group has and that which we have acquired in recent years to create a new repertoire for Pamplona, ​​without leaving aside the dances that we danced before.” Pamplona has been a city with a long tradition of dance from the 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century, he adds, but then, the succession of wars and other circumstances caused the dance to disappear from the ceremonies. It was revived in 1949, with the creation of this group and, since then, important research work has been done to recover traditional dances. This has helped them to go further: “Many times we think that tradition is that this is not touched because it has always been like this, but if tradition or dance or anything does not adapt to the times and does not change in accordance with the values ​​of society, then surely it will become disconnected, it will lose its value, its function.”

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A photograph by Pili Casales of Miguel and her husband when they both danced in the dance group Dantzaris de Pamplona/Duguna Iruñeko Dantzariak.PABLO LASAOSA

An update of the repertoire that convinces the most veteran. For Lecea, “Duguna has adopted a very reasonable position by creating regional dances and not only interpreting the classic dances that we danced and that were known throughout the Basque Country and Navarre. They have made a lot of effort.” Along the same lines, Casales highlights the evolution of recent years: “All the dances have changed. They will always have been changing, of course, but it seemed to us that the authentic ones were ours. Now they have managed to make dances for here.” The costumes have also been updated, she points out. “The clothing has changed, everything has changed. We were also more austere. We only had one and now they have many costumes and I think it is great, very beautiful.” They are costumes designed by professional craftsmen. Among them, one of the dantzaris –Itziar Zaldua-, who makes some of the garments. “We try to make the clothes dress us in the same measure or at the same level as we try to dance. Let everything go together,” says Ibañez.

The evolution of the group cannot be understood without the coexistence of veterans and youth, of tradition and innovation. A dantzari, if he doesn’t want to and his body lets him, doesn’t retire, says Ibañez. “Last year on San Saturnino -Pamplona’s patron saint-, we started celebrating the 75th anniversary with a soka-dantza (rope dance) in which 150 dantzaris participated. Among them there was one over 80 years old dancing with a ease that I would like to have at that age,” the director smiles. There are some who have to stop because the rehearsals are demanding. On average, they train six hours a week. “If we put on shows, then those three days may be increased. There have been weeks, which are not many during the year, when we have had to dance every day, from Monday to Sunday.” The effort is rewarded when it is time to put on the suit and go out to dance. It is difficult to choose a favourite day, but Ibañez chooses one moment: the procession of July 7, the procession of San Fermín. “The group was founded to dance in Sanfermines and, as Juan Antonio Urbeltz -anthropologist and folklorist- says, the procession is a refoundation of the city. We have arrived another year to this day, we are here and those of us who are here, have arrived well. Some may have fallen by the wayside, but we are going to celebrate that we are still here.”

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