Two performances are a treat for lovers of Hungarian
Special to The Plain Dealer
Northeast Ohio's Hungarian community had plenty to celebrate last
weekend. Performances in Cleveland and Medina showcased the country's rich
music and colorful dance.
The Gazsa Folk En semble took the stage on Saturday night at Cleveland's
Winchester Tavern. The sold-out performance was the second in this year's
World Music at Inside series. The Budapest- based group plays a hearty mix
of music from the Carpathian basin, an area that is home to not only
Hungarians, but also Romanians, Slovaks, Croats, Gypsies and other groups.
The group leader, Istvan Papp (whose nickname is Gazsa, hence the
group's name), hails from Transylvania but moved to Budapest in 1991. He
started the band the following year. The eight-member ensemble consists of
two violinists, a bracsa (viola) player, a cimbalom (hammered dulcimer)
player, a bassist, a wind player and two dancers.
Group members showed their ability to shift complex rhythms on a dime
with their opening selection, a verbunk, a man's dance, followed by a
Csárdás, a popular couples dance. Peter Mako played intricate lines on
tarogato, an instrument that is similar to a soprano sax but has a warmer,
more muted tone.
In a medley of Transylvanian songs of lament, the strings set up a
slow, throbbing rhythm while cimbalom player Daniel Szabo stepped to the
mike to sing. His light baritone voice had just the right amount of simple
Dancers Tamas Babus and Barbara Baranyai entered in brightly
embroidered costumes as the pace picked up. In a locked embrace, they
performed a lively, spinning Csárdás.
Babus performed several high-kicking, stomping solo dances. Later in
the evening, Mako demonstrated two versions of the overtone flute, which
is capable of playing a high, tweety sound and a low, buzzy sound at the
It was a colorful, varied performance, with multiple costume changes,
dynamic boot-slapping, spur-jingling, stick-twirling dances and
infectious, piquant music. Mako's ancient-sounding bagpipe solo, which one
of the violinists echoed, was a highlight. For the most part, however, the
musicians emphasized their fine sense of ensemble rather than showcasing
Another group with a fine sense of ensemble is Northeast Ohio's Csárdás
Dance Company, which blends the old and the new in its performances of
traditional Hungarian dance. The troupe's energetic performance at
Medina's Grace Drake Center for the Arts on Sunday afternoon was a
The ensemble of 12 adults and seven children presented a spirited set
of dances from all over Hungary. Each dance segued smoothly into the next,
with adult dancers taking the children's places and vice versa.
The dances were tightly choreographed to the recorded music, but not so
tightly as to sacrifice a sense of fun.
A highlight was the bottle dance performed by the children's ensemble.
The girls entered in pastoral costumes, each holding a bottle of liquid.
They placed the bottles on the stage and performed intricate dance steps
over them. They then placed the bottles on their heads and continued to
dance, never spilling a drop.
Later in the performance, a lone male dancer performed an athletic
shepherd's stick dance, twirling the stick like a baton, jumping over it
while holding it in midair and passing it quickly under and around his
legs. The penultimate dance was choreographed to a recording of the Nox
Ensemble, a Hungarian group that puts traditional music against a techno
The children started with a vigorous circle dance, and then the adults
took over. Though the steps were traditional, the group added some nonfolk
elements, such as a balletic lift and group lunges. The less-ornate
costumes, consisting of solid-color skirts for the women and simple
black-and-white shirts and pants for the men, further emphasized the
The group was back in lavishly embroidered traditional costumes for the
finale, a lively medley of dances enhanced by the jingling of the men's
Latkovich is a free-lance writer in South Euclid.
To reach Peggy Latkovich:
? 2004 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.