Ucelay painted Danzas Suletinas in 1955 - 56, in other words five years after the opening of the Academy and also six after his return from exile in England while he illustrated the Baroja Basque Country Guide, when he realised the possibilities of a group of dantzaris (dancers) from Zuberoa. In Ucelay’s representation the mascarada suletina (Carnival party) is restricted to the five most important and lavish characters. In the foreground one of the dance group appears resting with a whole series of objects, a basket, bread, albota, Basque psalter, the glass of wine of the godalet-dantza, in the presence of a woman and a dog who look after them. Behind them, the other group dances while various characters look on. 


With the representation of the scene, Urcelay has set this dance in history. The following characters appear from left to right:

--The drapeau, individual who carries the flag and makes it flutter during the dance and introduces the group.

-- The gathusain, with an instrument like a wooden scissor or pantograph.

-- the txerrero, who carries a stick with a horse’s tail.

-- the barmaid, a man dressed as a woman, with a 19th century French buhaumesa.

-- the zamalzain, the dance’s most spectacular character, who has a type of horse at the waist.

In the foreground, the musical instruments: the accordion, the alboka, the txun-txun and the txirula, these last two typical of this dance and, in general, of the French Basque area. Also a glass of wine for the godaletdantza or dance of the glass.

The painting is closed with a scene of domed mountains with which the clouds play rhythmically, like closing the representation in curve, against the straight and parallel lines of the scene’s foreground, like for example the bench where the characters sit. In the background, the Gotein church, with a Calvary-type bell tower.


This oil painting of very high pictorial quality has a perfect tonal relationship on the chromatic level, the arabesque rhythm of the line, and shows Ucelay’s constant preoccupation for the light, as well as a living example of the slow and careful finish of his paintings. Ucelay has always passed through an uncommon pictorial experience (chromatic and narrative): the endless portrait of this group which is lost in the distance and the metaphysics of the objects and the air.


Ucelay’s painting, like the Olaeta ballets, avoid however the folkloric expression of Basque painting. Flores Kaperotxipi is perhaps the best exponent of that criticism made of Ucelay of not being a Basque painter because he did not paint calendar villagers or vulgar types: “his Basques resemble English aristocrats dressed like Basque villagers; he portraits them like duchesses of Alba”. Who did correctly interpret Ucelay’s “Basquism”, the representation of the world surrounding the painter, was the poet and diplomat Ramon de Basterra, who indicated that Ucelay was the “liberation from the ethnography”. In the same way, Victor Olaeta also represented the liberation from the ethnography with his original choreographies.