I Dance Hungary: Dancing into Hungarian Culture, No Matter Where You Live
Júlia Tar 2019.03.16.
You can learn nearly anything on the internet, and singing and dancing are no exception. There are endless materials to choose from, but not everything is reliable. I Dance Hungary is taking steps to solve this problem by providing tutorials led by dance experts and original footage for those wanting to learn Hungarian folk dance. The website is supported by Friends of Hungary Foundation, also the publisher of Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute.
It’s easy to feel like a Hungarian when you are living in the country, speaking the language and are surrounded by other Hungarians. For those residing in other countries, however, it can be hard to preserve their national identity. Folk dance and singing have always been vital parts of Hungarian tradition. As E. Sylvester Vizi, President of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, puts it: “Dancing and singing represent the soul of the Hungarian people.”
But I Dance Hungary has more to offer than merely reaching out to the Hungarian diaspora. While it doesn’t require knowledge of the Hungarian language, it can definitely help Hungarians too. After all, not everyone in Hungary has the chance to master these dances, despite them being part of the custom. People with no Hungarian roots can also benefit from the platform by using it to foster an interest in the culture. It’s more common for foreigners to take an interest in Hungarian culture than you may think. Take this interview with Kenneth Tse, for example. Or, if that alone doesn’t convince you, check out Yuki Hara’s story:
As the video shows, people from all over the world are practicing Hungarian folk dance. For example, Edi Bonapartian’s parents immigrated to Argentina around the second world war. Thanks to his grandmother, a group in Buenos Aires has been performing the Hungarian “Regős” since 1958. He highlighted the importance of a middleman in helping with language difficulties and other matters. I Dance Hungary serves as such a middleman.
Alejandra Brum from Uruguay called attention to a common problem everyone faces when using the internet: some sources are good, some are not so good. It’s not always easy to determine which is of quality. Originality and reliability are especially important in terms of tradition, and I Dance Hungary has paid special attention to this.
Rocio Rodriguez Blum from Buenos Aires spoke about her first encounter with Hungarian folk dance and stressed that it can be started at any age:
You really only need a Hungarian heart.”
Folk dance serves as an “important bridge and linking medium,” says Orsolya Karlócai, Managing Director of the Friends of Hungary Foundation. The discipline brings people from a plethora of different backgrounds together and that is a bond not easily broken.
One of the reasons Hungarian folk dance is popular among foreigners and people of Hungarian origin is its use of creativity. Yuki Hara shared that the “kalotaszegi legényes” is his favorite type of dance to perform because everyone is free to “construct their own unique dance with different moves.” As a result, no matter your nationality, you can insert your own special flavor into the dance and create something new and inspired.
Unlike the teachers, the students in the videos are not experts. Not only are the dances explained, but so are the “customs, history, peasant culture, and residents of the region.” According to Szilárd Szabó, the teacher of the “Szék” and “Somogy” courses, this enables learners to find out why and by whom a certain dance was performed.
Mihály Rosonczy-Kovács, the innovator behind I Dance Hungary, explained the logic behind the choice of the regions represented on the site:
Szék is the mecca of the dance house movement, so it had to be included. The other dance is from Somogy, which is easy to learn for beginners, unlike other styles.”
Of course, learning on the internet has its limits too, as Norbert Kovács, I Dance Hungary’s leading folk expert, admitted. Nevertheless, the basics can surely be acquired through this website. After all, it offers a stable foundation for future studies and the start of a new hobby that has the power to bring communities together, as seen in the video above.