Revamped Hungarian dancers come to Poway
My Local News, Poway, January 18, 2007.
If you saw the Hungarian Folk State Ensemble perform in the United States 13 years ago, you might want to give it a second look.
For one night only, the ensemble's 34 dancers and nine musicians will perform at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts, 15498 Espola Road.
While the 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20 performance will continue to showcase authentic Hungarian folk dances, music and instruments dating back to the early 19th century, the group's fifth U.S. tour will be unlike those in the past.
"It's a contemporary approach," said Maria Ferencz, the ensemble's managing director. "Young choreographers feel different than a few years ago."
Instead of showcasing each region's dance in separate numbers, the almost two-hour performance will feature a seamless movement from one style to the next.
"It's a new style of presenting," she explained.
Rather than bringing a specific story line to life, Ferencz said the performers will "express sentiments."
The first half of the performance will have a modern focus through simpler costumes which lead to a "stress on the dance," Ferencz said.
While continuing the contemporary feel, the second half will be more traditional in choreographic style and performers will wear authentic, hand-made traditional costumes.
For the first time, members of the ensemble's Folk Orchestra and Gipsy Orchestra will also play together.
Even though the approach is different, the combined groups will still play folk music that inspired Hungarian and international classical composers such as Liszt, Brahms, Kodály and Bartók.
"There will be two differently trained musical styles on stage," Ferencz said, who said some of the music will be played on cymbals, bagpipes, flutes and other wind instruments.
The group's new direction is due to first-time artistic director Gábor Mihályi, who was a dancer on the first four U.S. tours.
"Most of the choreography belongs to him," Ferencz said.
Despite the change in presentation style, the ensemble continues to perform the authentic styles developed by the dancers' and musicians' ancestors through careful attention to detail in dance steps and replicating the music heard throughout the country's villages in the past.
To make audience members feel as if they are transported to the old-time communities, photographs of various village scenes will be projected on the backdrop.
The Hungarian State Folk Ensemble began the 68-performance U.S. and Canadian tour earlier this month, which will conclude in mid-April.
The ensemble was founded in 1951 with the purpose of collecting and preserving folk dances, music and traditional costumes of Hungarian-inhabited areas through public performance.
Over the past 55 years, the ensemble has performed in 44 countries before almost 8 million people.
"It's the number one ensemble in Hungary today and we are the best-known ensemble all over the world," Ferencz said.
"We are the only ensemble in Europe who presents folklore in a modern way."
Elizabeth Marie Himchak
- About the Hungarian Heritage House
- Hungarian State Folk Ensemble
- Applied Folk Arts Departement
- Folklore Documentation Center (Archives)