Traditional dance at home and at camp

I would like to situate the action of today’s column in Hungary fifty years ago. It is May 6, 1972. Ferenc Novák and the dancers of the Bihari Song and Dance Ensemble invite members of three other ensembles from Budapest to the Warsaw Cultural Center to inaugurate the traditional dance club. They are exemplified by the peasant youth entertainment houses, operating in the Transylvanian tradition, well recognized by Budapest musicians and researchers of music and dance traditions.

Photo Jan Piszczatowski

Among them, György Martin, admired to this day by all researchers of traditional dance in the world, is the reformer of the pedagogy and choreography of Hungarian amateur song and dance groups Sándor Timár, as well as other members of Bartok and Sebo. In the first part of the meeting, its participants got acquainted with some dances practiced by Hungarians living in northern Serbia, then everyone was invited to an unrestricted dance fun at an open buffet. This is how the first of the famous Hungarian dance houses was born.

After the first meeting, others were organized and the club was opened to all. After a year, meetings were held regularly, on a weekly basis. In 1974 a second dance house was opened with a new group, the legendary Muzsikás. Several new groups and clubs were added in the following years. In the years 1976-1978, the Institute of Popular Education organized a course for musicians and dance teachers, especially for the needs of dance houses. As a result, they also began to expand into other cities and provinces. The repertoire has also been expanded to include dances from other Hungarian regions and minority groups. At the beginning of the 90s there were already about 60-70 groups and corresponding dance houses. Annually there were also dance house camps and meetings. Also, in Miskolc and Nyiregyháza, dance house musicians began to be trained at a higher level.

It was then that the Polish musicians of the group Bractwo Ubogich met Hungarian dance houses and decided to transfer the solutions observed to Poland. The Riviera Remont Club has become the first place of traditional dance culture in Warsaw. It was 1994, and my memories of the first encounter are included in my first column in this series.[1]. Then there were not only the next meetings on the Riviera, but also other places in Warsaw and new urban environments – in Poznań, Kraków, Olsztyn, Wrocław, etc. The idea of ​​organizing summer camps, called camps, was successfully transplanted to Poland. The first such rolling stock took place in Małomierzyce near Iłża in 1998. Then they met in: Chlewiska, Ostałówek, Gałki Rusinowskie, Kocuda, Strych near Maciejowice, Szczebrzeszyn, Becejły, Sędek, Stara Krobi, Narol or Zawadka Rymanowska.= “#_ftn1″>

What is a modern dance house? Hungarians claim that it is “a form of entertainment in which folk music and folk dance appear as a musical and motor mother tongue in its original form and function”[2]. The dance house movement works by creating small communities whose participants are distinguished by their activity and spontaneity. It is a clear reference to the essence of rural communities, as is also the case with the issue of applied dance. However, there are also many differences. Traditional dances are not passed down from generation to generation entirely organically, but through the teaching of selected materials. Dance house environments are often not limited to repertoire from one selected location, they often feature a repertoire of dances from many cities, regions and even national communities. The participants themselves are not young peasants from homogeneous villages, but most often inhabitants of large heterogeneous urban agglomerations. Nevertheless, many regulars of this type of clubs acquire considerable technical skills and stylistic skills typical of the rural repositories of these traditions. Thus, it was often tempting to acknowledge that we had successfully returned to the tradition of a hundred or more years ago. Today, however, environmental awareness is greater and many people fully understand that it is difficult to forget what we have consciously or unconsciously included in our own movement experiences also from other traditions. That’s why Piotr Zgorzelski from Warsaw half-jokes that he dances the “mazurka freestyle”. And interestingly, dances adopted by city dwellers a decade ago have begun to return to the countryside as part of the rural dance club initiative.= “#_ftn2″>

Photo Jan Piszczatowski

The distinctive feature of Polish dance houses is the oberek, which, although it is present in many regions, not all. We can therefore wonder if this is the right choice. Yet it is a legacy of the “fathers” and “mothers” of the founders of this movement, fascinated by the mazurka dances of the plains of central Poland. For nearly three decades, these fascinations have consolidated and become not only accepted traditions, but also traditions of the individual dance house community. There are also some differences with the Hungarian dance houses. The community in Budapest was created on the basis of members of song and dance groups – the community in Warsaw was created in an opposite way to what was the product of song and dance groups. Even so, changes are taking place here as well. Moreover, the Hungarians pushed from the beginning to give permanent organizational forms to their initiatives. In Poland, activities started in a completely different social situation, so they worked longer in an action-oriented and atomized way. In recent years, however, there have been more centripetal and integrative initiatives, as well as systemic solutions.

The environment of Polish dance houses can hardly be considered a mass phenomenon – there are only a few thousand people. However, he introduced a lot of creative ferments and innovative solutions that undoubtedly changed the treatment of traditional dance and its participation in Poland. The emphasis shifted from “admiration” to “active experience”, and traditional music and dance became much more accessible. Today it is not a problem to find a place where you can learn to dance and dance in the traditional way, as well as sing, buy an instrument and start playing. Today there is only one question: do you want to enjoy it? I strongly encourage you to do so – the experiences will be unique.

[1] “#_ftnref1″>

[2] Bela Halmos, Dancing house movement“Bulletin of the Polish Ethnochoreological Society” 1995 No. 6, p. 47.= “#_ftnref2″>

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