Táncház: a special folklore-experience

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There is a typical Hungarian hidden treasure, which you can find in many places not just in Budapest, but almost anywhere on the world where Hungarian communities live. It is ‘táncház’, which means dance-house, but usually isn’t translated.

It is actually a method to teach (not only Hungarian) folkdances with live music. After learning some basic steps, the participants can easily improvise. The method has become part of the UNESCO’s list of cultural World Heritage. The Hungarian Táncház-Movement celebrated its 40th birthday last year; since then has held ‘Táncház Napja’ (Day of Táncház) in May on Liszt Ferenc tér in Budapest. On this occasion, we interviewed Melinda Serfőző by the organiser institution ‘Hagyományok Háza.’

Only members of a quite narrow subculture visit táncház regularly in Hungary. Is the expansion of this cultural group needed or even possible?

Nowadays, more than ten-thousand people buy tickets for táncház in Hungary every year and this number doesn’t include the audience of folk-pubs, visitors of folk-festivals and participants of folkdance and folkmusic-camps, so I wouldn’t say that the scope of enquirers is narrow. However, we and other institutions in this field, work eagerly to acquaint even more people with the world of folk-art. Events like Táncház Napja offer a great opportunity to that and we hope that in a few years it will be organised in several Hungarian and foreign towns and cities in the first week of May.

Another opportunity is the expansion of training. It’s possible to study folk-art not just at art schools and vocabulary schools but also at universities and many courses exist for pedagogues for example on the field of handcraft.

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Táncház is a typical Hungarian method, but not only Hungarian dances are taught this way. In Budapest you can find even Irish, Greek or Slavic táncház also. Is this unbelievable vice versa? That in foreign countries Hungarian (or even their own) dances are taught in táncház?

That’s not unbelievable at all. In Japan, locals hold regularly Hungarian táncház and it is true for several other countries, the USA for example. The Táncház-Movement also exists in Poland and Slovakia: they teach and dance their own dances, but it’s also natural that Slovakians take into their repertoire other dances from the Carpathian Basin, also Hungarian dances.

Two years ago, UNESCO took táncház into the list of the best preservative methods, which shows, that its’ worthy to take it over in any point of the world.

Has this appreciation brought any change?

It didn’t mean any financial support, but brought large publicity, so many people got to know about this method and the Táncház-Movement, who never heard about it earlier. It can bring changes to a longer distance.

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What is the secret of the táncház’s success?

Through dance and music, táncház is a perfect entertainment. On the other hand, it gives several positives. For example, the feeling of success: after learning some basic steps anyone can really dance, meanwhile, he or she unperceived becomes a member of a community. Participants usually get interested in other fields of folk-art: they start to learn music or try a handcraft job, so they explore a totally new world.

More info: táncház-programs

by Beáta Bakó

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