Csárdás: The Tango of the East' at the Chicago Theatre
BY HEDY WEISS SUN-TIMES DANCE CRITIC
The audience, grown giddy from all the sleek mustaches,
boot-slapping and gypsy rhythms, followed the dancers and musicians
of "Csardas" up the aisles and out into the lobby of the Chicago
Theatre as the company brough its rollicking performance to an end
Friday night. Had the irresistible fiddlers continued playing, the
whole thing might easily have turned into a giant party.
Although for obvious commercial reasons "Csardas" is being promoted
as "the tango of the East" and "the `Riverdance' of Hungary," there
is no need to speak of this company in any terms other than its own.
The ensemble is a vivid, living treasury of the grand folk idiom of
Central and Eastern Europe--primarily Hungarian, with a gypsy
undercurrent, plus accents from such neighboring countries as
Romania, Austria, Poland, and even a bit of Slovak and Balkan
The ensemble of 20 dancers and the seven superb musicians who form
the Budapest Ensemble (including Kalman Balogh, master player of the
cimbalom, the distinctive vibeslike instrument that complements a
string contingent) works in the tradition of Russia's Moiseyev
company. It maintains the spirit of a fading culture with
ethnographically accurate renderings of folk dances transformed into
a theatrical feast appealing to a modern audience.
The women of the company are lovely and accomplished, but this is
very much a male showcase. The competition among the men, as well as
their camaraderie, was sensual, never more so than when they simply
locked arms around each other's shoulders after an exhausting round
The "Csardas" program unfolded as a classic saga of rural courtship
and marriage, complete with a mystical virginal rite (a beautifully
staged, gently mysterious scene), an abduction plot, a tense
enactment of male rivalry and finally, an elaborate wedding
celebration. The simple, deeply romantic duet between the
prospective bride and groom was danced winningly by Dezso Fitos and
Eva Gomori. The bride's reluctant dance with her captors was full of
smoldering resistance. The groom and his rival (Gabor Katona)
brought fire and a sense of prideful danger to their danced match.
And the company's charismatic director-choreographer, Zoltan
Zsurafszki, arrived for the finale to spice things up even further
with his brilliant, seductive, wild-eyed dancing.
More improvisational and freewheeling in feel than the rigidly
patterned routines of many similar folk companies, the "Csardas"
program is unquestionably choreographed, but in a relaxed way that
makes you feel part of the action. Even the lavish, authentic
costumes--embroidered, bejeweled, richly hued--seem lifted from a
At a time when the new nationalism often has negative connotations,
this company is an example of its most positive face, something the
audience at the Chicago Theatre--abuzz with Middle European
Hedy Weiss, dance critic
Copyright 2000, Digital Chicago Inc.