Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

Galicia except from Dancer 1998 North Coast Pipe Band performance:

With the advent of Riverdance, numerous Celtic performance include the dances of Spain, the Flamenco comes to mind. The North Coast Pipe band included among its number at a recent performance the dances from Galicia. Why? We had the usual Irish dancers and Highland Dancers maybe knowing a little more about Galicia would explain the interest. The following is from the dancer performing that day with the North Coast:

"Galicia is in the northwest province of Spain. Both Spanish and Gallego are spoken there. In the traditional language, Galego, the autonomous province is called Galiza.

In present day Galicia, regional variation exists in the traditional style of dance. The variation reflects and earlier socio-economic division. The eastern part of the province was part of Asturia - a province to the east and the southern portion was included as part of Portugal. Much of the way the country was divided changed with the unification of the Spanish Kingdoms of Castille and Leon. Dance from the area in the southern part of the province is quite aerobic; there is a lot of jumping and the arms are raised. This contrasts with the style from the north, which is earthy, and the arms are held lower. The placement of the arms in the north of Galicia are similar to that of Irish dance, except there is a bit more movement in the Galician style.

Much of the music consists of bagpipes from this region called gaitas. The music from Spain sounds similar to the music from Ireland and Scotland. There were Celts all over Spain who brought the tradition of the bagpipes with them. The Celts flourished in Spain - in Galicia in particular- until they were conquered and killed off by the Romans. The Galician people are proud of their Celtic Heritage and the existing Celtic ruins are well preserved and kept as a reminder of their ancestors.

The costume that I wear when I perform was made for me during one of my trips to Galicia. It is a traditional costume of the southern part of Galicia that would be worn for special occasions. It is specific because of the red wool skirt and the pattern of the velvet stripes. What makes the costume particularly stunning is the beadwork. The beads are all hand-cut azabache, a stone that was traditionally mined under the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela - a city slightly further north of Vigo. The undergarments, the shirt (camisa) , pantaloons ( pololos) and petticoat ( enagua) are made of linen and camarinas lace. The camarinas lace is hand made and the tradition well preserved.. They are made of linen because cotton was not originally grown there. Linen is just what was traditionally available.

So how did I get involved with the North Coast Pipe Band performance? I was originally asked to perform Flamenco, however I thought it made more sense because of the Celtic connection to perform a Galician Dance. The Pipe Major (Barry Conway) was particular interested in a piece of music called a Cabaleira which means in Galego (Horse Lady) It is a piece of music intended for the pastoral pipes, which are similar to the Irish tin whistle. The rhythm of the music is called muineira , which is the equivalent to an Irish Jig, whether it be a 6/8 jig or 9/8 jig. What is fascinating to me is that most of the rhythms in these two separate cultures have equivalents in each other."

The performance was sold out and the melding of the all the Celts and their traditional dances made for an enjoyable and exciting two hours.

As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at

Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.