NOTES ON THE DANCES
ON THE DANCES
CSÁRDÁS! you will see some of the most beautiful folkdances of Eastern and
Central Europe. The dances of the
Hungarians, Slovaks, Transylvanians, Romanians, Gypsies and the Polish
highlanders are more remarkable for their similarities than for their
differences. Together, they comprise a large regional style in which - arguably
- Hungarian influences dominate.
are the characteristics of this dance dialect? The first and most important is
improvisation. The dancers of Eastern/Central Europe do not dance a set sequence
or pattern (in the manner of American square dancers, West European contra
dancers or Balkan line and circle dancers, for example), but instead make up
their moves to the music and within the constraints of local tradition.
Researchers have identified this improvised style as a fashion born in the early
Renaissance and at one time popular all over Europe.
Putting these improvised dances onto a stage is not an easy task because
the stage usually demands regulation and uniformity and this can kill the soul
of improvised dance. Zoltán Zsuráfszki and the Budapest Ensemble dancers are
careful to avoid this trap. In CSÁRDÁS! there are no artificial geometric forms
in the choreography and there is no precision drill teamwork. Similar to
American Jazz where the basic melody is carried forward with many variations,
the dancers are often left to improvise and show off their individual character
and ability. The total effect is a more natural, more authentic presentation
than typically seen by American audiences.
second characteristic of the Central European dance style is that it is
predominately male-centric. Competitive male dance has long historical roots in
the region, reaching back to military recruiting dances (verbunk), stick and sword dances and
even victory celebration dances. There are excellent examples of male dances in
CSÁRDÁS!, some of the most exciting being the men’s dances (legenyes) of Western Transylvania.
in couples' dances, the men have a disproportionately more energetic role. The
woman's role is to follow her partner's lead, though in the older style dances
there is quite a lot of room for improvisation. Women's dances tend to be more
lyrical and are generally done in a circle or group formation with relatively
little opportunity for solo dancing.
Central European dancers make full use of all the rhythmic opportunities. From finger snapping through clapping,
stomping, and heel clicking, a wide variety of accompaniments accent the dance.
Transylvanian Romanians and Hungarians also ornament their dancing with shouts
and dance rhymes. But perhaps the most characteristic rhythmic element in this
area is boot slapping. In fact, only the "gumboot" dances of black
African miners rival some Hungarian dances for the intensity of boot-slapping
of the dances in the CSÁRDÁS! program come from Transylvania. In this legendary
part of northern Romania, fabulous dances have survived in remote and isolated
villages. The cross-cultural influences of Romanians, Hungarians and Gypsies
living and dancing together have resulted in complex, vibrant, rich dance styles
that have become the inspiration for an amazing urban revival movement in
Hungary. The Tanchaz (dance house) movement, which began in Budapest in the
mid-seventies, brings thousands of Hungarian youth to their feet, as they learn
to dance authentic dances, accompanied by excellent revival musicians, such as
the members of the band appearing in CSÁRDÁS!. Today, the movement has outgrown
Hungary, and there are regular
Tanchaz sessions not only in Western Europe but also in the USA and even in
Japan. In fact, the Tanchaz has given the inspiration for the beginning and end
Dreisziger is a Hungarian folkdance expert, researcher,
has been the director of several Hungarian performing ensembles. He is also an
advertising executive living in Montreal.