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Csárdás! The Tango of East -- Budapest Ensemble - Budapest Táncegyüttes Tour - Full Reviews

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  Csárdás: The Tango of the East' at the Chicago Theatre
Posted on: 16th January, 2004, By: Webmaster

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 influence.

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 of one-upsmanship.

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 hope chest.

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 accents--only confirmed.

Hedy Weiss, dance critic

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