Táncház Review – 2010-05-10
I have to tell you I was more than a little discombobulated by finding Dumneazu’s rant about Táncháztalálkozó on this official website. I mean, it’s a lot like a restaurant posting a food critic’s bad review in its window. I couldn’t decide whether it was a really dumb move or, following the classic Hollywood logic of there being no such thing as bad publicity, kind of clever. It could also be a sign of assurance on part of the organisers. As in: “We have so much to offer that we don’t mind a bit of friendly criticism from time to time.”
Well, if that’s the rationale, as far as I’m concerned they’re right. To back that up, I’ve quickly put together ten reasons why I think Táncháztalálkozó is great.
10 Reasons Why Táncháztalálkozó is Great:
1. Because, at its heart, it is a hugely enjoyable participatory festival. Where else could you find close to 24 hours of dance teaching for thousands of adults and kids?
2. Because it opens the doors to fascinating microworlds, featuring - as it does - the dance and music heritage of over 50 regions - most of them in Hungary and Transylvania but also including traditions from Gypsy, Romanian, Slovak, Bulgarian, Croatian, Serb and Greek communities.
3. Because it brings more than 50 musical groups together under one roof – from the awesome Palatka village band to young musicians from a Budapest Waldorf school, aspiring to emulate their village masters.
4. Because this festival is the finest showcase for the Táncház phenomenon, one of the world’s most amazing heritage preservation movements. Here it’s possible to see kids- and even teenagers!- enthusiastically learning the music, dances and customs of their forefathers.
5. Because Táncháztalálkozó is a wonderful mix of formal and spontaneous events. You can enjoy hours of stage programs or you can go down to the folk tavern, eat, drink and take part in an almost constant stream of spontaneous music and dance eruptions.
6. Because the main evening stage performances showcase the best of Hungary’s and the Carpathian Basin’s talent. You’ll see over 500 performers: venerable old village, musicians and dancers, top revival bands, as well as Hungary’s best amateur and professional performing groups - and they are awesome!
7. Because the festival is truly a multimedia experience - huge craft fair, village antiques, costumes and textiles market, festival of ethnographic films, photo exhibits, etc. And all this in addition to the music and dance events.
8. Because Táncháztalálkozó is such a delightful microenvironment – a wonderful contrast to the sometimes grim, grey, economically stressed and politically divisive larger world of Hungary. Here you’ll see what you won’t see on the streets of Budapest: thousands of loving families with smiling kids and people generally enjoying life.
9. Because Táncháztalálkozó lives up to its name (találkozó = meeting). Here’s where friends get together, where people involved in this almost 40-year old revival movement come to celebrate with their old colleagues, where young and old dance together, where backwoods villagers mix with sophisticated urbanites.
10. Because - despite the aspersions cast by Dumneazu - this is not a commercial event. It’s the annual celebration of a wonderful revival movement centred on traditional music and dance.
The last ’reason why’ got me back to thinking abut Dumneazu’s critique. I find that journalism – whether its TV, press or blogging – has a tradition of its own. And it’s a nasty one. It’s a tradition of finding fault, of digging up dirt, of being negative. A great example: last year a reporter from one of the mainstream Budapest dailies wrote about Táncháztalálkozó. After expressing (almost grudging) admiration for the festival he looked really hard to unearth something negative, so he concluded by bemoaning the difficulty of finding an ATM!
To take a stand against this tradition of negativity, I’d like to take Dumneazu (an old acquaintance) to task. As this is almost personal you, dear reader, may decide not to read on...
Hey 'Dumneazu', you’re a man with exquisitely refined taste and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of East European society and traditional music! But what’s with all the kvetching? Instead of complaining, why not help! After all, despite the fact that it’s understandably tempting to pose as an itinerant musician, splendidly alone and isolated from society, you are very much part of this movement. As you say, some of its organisers are your old friends. Don’t they deserve your engaged assistance and advice? They certainly don’t deserve to have cheap shots taken at them from the sidelines. What do I call cheap shots? Complaining about the distance to some of the event venues for example. (I mean, you actually have to walk up some stairs and along a corridor?...well, Jesus wept!) Complaining about the venue at all, come to think of it. (You know, I actually agree with you. It’s less than ideal – in fact, in some respects it downright sucks. But so what! What option do the organisers have? Don’t you think they’re making the best of it?)
And your bitching about the highschool kids? What part of “revival movement” do you not get? Isn’t that what the festival is all about? Isn’t that what most of the old generation of its musicians and dancers have spent a lifetime doing – teaching youngsters? How else is the tradition supposed to survive?
Seriously 'Dumneazu', you need to do penance. You need to put your awesome intellect and expertise to positive use. Tell us how you would improve Táncháztalálkozó. Not just as a consumer feast for wandering musicians and American folkies but as a revival event – the embodiment of the Táncház movement. Give us five practical, workable suggestions. Improvements that you yourself could/should/would be involved in.
Looking forward to your ideas!