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Wed, 04 Sep 2013 02:52:59 EDT by admin, 59148 views
American Hungarian Folklore Centrum, NJ
Music/Folklore paper by Olson, Judith E. (all papers)
Táncház as affirmation of self and nation in a Communist context: Social implications of a change in dance approach
Forty-two years ago on May 6, 1972, members of two Hungarian traditional dance performing groups got together for a dance evening. Turning away from a practice of performance structured by the vision of a choreographer, they improvised their dances in the manner of Hungarian villagers, choosing songs, partners, and figures to represent themselves as individuals within a close community.
The implications of this action, which grew into the international táncház movement, would seem to be limited. However, it marked not only a change of dance elements but also a change in relationship toward the past that had larger ramifications within Hungarian society and resonated with changes in thinking in many other countries.
While the founders of the táncház movement maintained that their actions grew out of an impulse to explore new sounds, the movement quickly became a means of indirect protest against Soviet control and efforts to obliterate Hungarian nationalism, combined with a questioning of authority in general. Using the very spaces set up by Communist authorities to organize people (Mary Taylor, 2008) dancers explored solidarity with each other and Hungarians in other countries and social positions as well as their own personal autonomy. And, as one participant put it, ”When they came, all they found was a roomful of people dancing.”
This paper explores the varied ramifications of the new approach in both artistic and social terms through interviews with participants, published materials of the time, and the work of other scholars.
Brief Professional Bio:
Judith E. Olson (M.Phil, NYU, M.M. University of Colorado) is an historical musicologist working in the area of traditional Hungarian music and dance in Romania, Hungary, and among Hungarians in the United States and Canada. She combines research in traditional settings, in Hungarian dance camps, and within revival groups with analysis and discussion of dance structure, process, and improvisation. She presents frequently at venues such as the International Council for Traditional Music, the International Musicological Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and AHEA. She performs this research and organizes táncház (dance parties) in New York City under the auspices of the American Hungarian Folklore Centrum. A secondary research area is 19th century German music and musical culture.