Post Facto

A Blog by Holly French

Dance in Hungary

This is sort of a digression from my usual computer-themed postings, but I feel like the amount of time I’ve spent going to dance shows in Hungary merits a blog post. As some of you may know, at one point in my life what I really wanted was to become a professional dancer. Probably fortunately for me (since I don’t think I would have made a great dancer), it didn’t work out, and I ended up going to college, where I discovered the joys of computer science! Nevertheless, dance has always remained really important to me, and I’ve followed dance pretty carefully, even despite quitting. Thus, one of the things I love most about living in a big city is having access to such a wonderful and diverse performing arts scene, so I’ve really been able to experience a lot of art, music, and especially dance in Budapest.

The Hungarian Opera House is one of the nicest things in Budapest (in my opinion), so when my sister visited, we went to see a ballet, Anna Karenina, there. I’ve never read the book, so I don’t know a whole lot about the plotline other than that it involves a woman, a train, and love triangles, so the ballet was a bit hard to follow, but it was totally worth it to see a gigantic smoking train on the stage as well as the opera house itself:

When I was in Hungary last time, I went to the ballet quite a lot, since it turns out that one of the coordinators of our school, Barbara, has a sister who is in the ballet compnay (and her parents too are very involved with the ballet scene in Budapest). So, I was really thrilled when she called me this time to invite me to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the Opera House! It was a lovely ballet, and the music was great too - it was composed specifically for this production. However, one thing I especially liked was trying to learn the Dwarves' names in Hungarian (in case any of you were wondering – and you all should because this is awesome – Dopey’s Hungarian name is Kuka which literally translates to “Trash” in English). The most exciting part of this trip to the ballet, however, was that I got to go backstage and meet some of the dancers and see their props, their costumes, the lighting, the trapdoors, and where they rehearse. It was beautiful (and I kept waiting for the Phantom of the Opera to pop out of the rafters)!

Afterwards, we went out to a bar right incident to the opera house, and I got to chat with some of the dancers. It was so interesting speaking with them, and golly I have so much respect now for the dancers of the company. Speaking with Barabara’s sister, I learned that her class started with 40 students when she entered the dance school, and at the end there were only about 8 graduates, two of whom where taken into the company, and the others weren’t. It was also a bit sad to hear because, similar to that in America, the Hungarian dance scene is suffering because of a lack of funding and general support for the arts. So, support your arts!!

Fun fact: it turns out that the bar we went to next to the opera house apparently is a popular hangout for lots of Hungarian celebrities, and I was told that we were sitting a mere two tables away from the most famous singer in all of Hungary. So if you want to see famous Hungarian people, go to the bar next to the opera house. I don’t even remember the name. But it was great.

One cool thing about Prezi is that they have a special fund for their employees to do fun things outside of work. One of these fun things was going to see a contemporary dance show in the southern part of Pest. This dance show was interesting - it was created and choreographed to feature the lives of Roma people in Hungary and how dance has affected them. It was a pretty powerful topic, especially for native Hungarians. There’s a lot of history as well as current issues and racism with Roma people in Hungary, so going into this dance, I figured it would be pretty heavy. It turned out to be less of a traditional dance show and more of a multimedia, dance, storytelling show, but by the end, I was completely convinced that it was one of the best dance shows I’ve ever seen. Traditionally, I’ve always been drawn to more classical-type dance like ballet because I like how it tells stories combined with challenging technique, which (to me) makes the stories so much more raw and real. However, this show really changed how I percieve dance’s ability to tell stories in ways which classical ballet can’t. It was so original and rich and deep that I left the theater totally moved and full of thoughts:

The cast was really diverse, and each dancer narrated their own story and then danced it too. Each of them looked different, spoke differently, and danced differently. There was a young woman who told us about how she had a baby at a young age and left a bad relationship, but she became a dancer to share her story. There was a man who wanted to be a dancer even though his parents didn’t want him to, but he danced anyway and he choreographed a joyful piece to an Adele song that the cast performed for us. There was a trans-woman who danced all the way through her transition, and dance helped her overcome difficulties in her life. The show was just generally really powerful and made me realize why dance is so important to me - it can express things when sometimes words aren’t enough.

The last dance show I want to talk about is Romeo and Juliet at the Opera House. This is basically my favorite ballet of all time, so I had to see it. I got really great seats, overlooking the orchestra, and I could literally hear the conductor breathing throughout the performance. I love this ballet for so many reasons. For one, I’m a huge sucker for Shakespeare ever since taking that Shakespeare class at Carleton, and the choreography stays surprisingly true to the original play. To me, though, the best part of the ballet is the glorious wonderful stunning gorgeous music. It is seriously one of my top three favorite musical pieces in the whole wide world (if you ever want to take me to a concert, my favorite pieces are probably Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and This. I’ll love you forever :) ). It was composed by Prokofiev, so it’s got a contemporary, atonal twist along with the traditional Russian composer flair for the dramatic. The reason I love it so? I just think it does a really good job at captuing both the passionate love and the intense hate that are such central themes of the story all at once. It makes the otherwise unbelievable and slightly cheesy plotline seem somehow believable and really powerful. It gets me every time. Anyway, this performance was especially poignant. The ballet was really beautiful, and I’m so thrilled I was able to see it here in Hungary.

Alright, that’s that. Up next? I’ll be talking about trying to learn Hungarian, a boat trip on the Danube, and a mandatory departure from the Schengan area so I’m not an illegal immigrant.

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