World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Eszterlánc Hungarian Folk Ensemble

TITLE: Sárközi Ugrós
DIRECTOR: Viktória Szabó

Before World War I, the political map of Hungary included what is now Translyvania, currently part of Romania, which has remained home to many ethnic Hungarian communities.

The Eszterlánc Hungarian Folk Ensemble has been showcasing Hungarian folk culture in the Bay Area since 1977. Ensemble dancers—twelve to twenty young adults ranging from age sixteen—receive training in the ensemble and from guest teachers. Most are of Hungarian heritage (the Hungarian community numbers in the tens of thousands in California) but membership is not limited. Eszterlánc performs at international festivals, social events, patriotic holidays, and world dance events. Recently, the group toured to Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Vancouver, B.C.


DANCE ORIGIN: Sárköz, Hungary
DIRECTOR: Viktória Szabó
Katalin Persik Lazar, assisted by Viktória Szabó on the bottle dance
DANCERS: David Adam, Adriana Andres, Daniel Cassell, Guillaume Chartier, Levente Garda, Zoltan Kelemen, Borbala Kozek, Bill Lanphier, Sebestian Ligeti, Darren Lipski, Monty Low, Miamon Miller, Diana Nemethy, Anna Ordasi, Ever Palko, Vilmos Palko, Agnes Sonkoly, Gyongyi Sonkoly, Victoria Szabo-Lengyel, Viktória Szabó
MUSICIANS: Levente Garcia, Bill Lanphier, Miramon Miller

The beautiful Sarkoz region in Southwest Hungary is known for its mild climate, its thermal baths, and its stunning vistas of the river Danube as it meanders through fertile plains. It’s also home to the richest variety of dance styles of any of the Danube regions, with many unique variations on traditional styles.

For this year’s Festival, Eszterlanc Hungarian Folk Ensemble will perform a Sárközi Ugrós, a jumping dance from Sarkoz. Flirtatious young men and women try to impress each other with difficult maneuvers. The young women dance in circles while balancing bottles on their heads and singing love songs. The young men respond with vigorous jumping while twirling five-foot long shepherd’s sticks. In the final section, the groups dance for each other, and the young dancers partner off.

The women’s costume is specific to the village of Decs, known for its longstanding excellence in folkloric arts. The men’s costume is also traditional to the Sarkoz region.This piece is dedicated by the company to Katalin Persik Lazar, its choreographer. Katalin chose this as her first piece to appear at the Festival because of its importance to the Hungarian traditional dance revival movement: in the 1970s and 80s, it was commonly taught in Hungary because it is simple to learn and joyful to perform.


Title: Traditional Dance Cycle from the Village of Magyarszovát
: Laszlo Dioszegi
: Adriana Andres, Dan Cassell, Guillaume Chartier, Atilla Lazar, Chris McHugh, Dia Nemethy, Anna Ordasi, Viktória Szabó, Levente Varadi, Agi Sonkoly
Szilvia Gilbert (vocals), Lajos Miklos (viola), Laszlo Orban (violin), Magdolna Ordasi (vocals), Mike Pratt (bass) 

In Magyarszováti, three generations of Eszterlánc dancers present a traditional Hungarian folk dance cycle, from the village of Magyarszovát. Akaszto'st is a couples dance with lyrical music. The dancers warm up to each other, enjoying a rare chance to dance close. Lassu Csardas is a slow couples dance and is sometimes danced—by the highly skilled, in a dance named szászka for the szasz people of Transylvania—with two girls and one man. Ritka Magyar is a men’s dance, and at times two men and two women will join the men in the background while doing the Negyes dance and singing old, sad village songs about lost love: ". . . even the sun leaves the blue sky, but my darling, how am I to leave you…." S’ru showcases the men's solo form in a lively competition for the best male dancer.  

Hungarians are said to "party hard in their sorrow" and drinking often fuels the fun. Individual dancers call out spontaneously, and together, the women's voices shout traditional encouragements, upbeat and suggestive. They promise special favors to musicians who keep playing; they call to the single men to show their stuff; they shout how "as the star shines on the mountaintop" they forgive their cheating lovers because they are not so innocent themselves.

Eszterlánc learned the dances in the Bay Area from Hungarian Master Dancer Laszlo Dioszegi. These are traditional Hungarian social dances that originated in village celebrations—harvests, weddings, birthdays, and coming of age. Hungarian dance—as well as Hungarian language and other traditions—was preserved in remote regions of Transylvania. The small village of Magyarszovát has preserved its unique turning dance—shown in this cycle—since the sixteenth century. The dancer’s costumes and jewelry are also based on Magyarszovát tradition as well as the music. The soloist and visiting guest artist from Hungary, Levente Varadi, worked with Ezsterlánc as educator and mentor.



TITLE: Az Utolsó Tánc Hajnalban (The Last Dance at Dawn)
: Gábor Simon
: Adriana Andres, Dan Cassell, Anastasia Herold, Andrea Horváth, Tibor Horváth, Atilla Lázár, László Lengyel, Monty Low, Dia Némethy, Anna Ordasi, Viktória Szabó, and Csilla Tóth
: Daniel and Márton Demeter
MUSICIANS: Kövirág Ensemble (vocals) - Szilvia Gilbert, Magdolna Ordasi and the Forrás Hungarian Folk Band - László Orbán (lead violin), Lajos Miklós (brácsa), and Mike Pratt (double bass)
INTERNATIONAL GUEST ARTISTS: Gergő Csiszár and László Diószegi

The Last Dance at Dawn is set at a village celebration in Méra, in the mountain region of Kalotaszeg, where Hungarian folk traditions continue to thrive. The party—a wedding or christening or coming-of-age—has been a long and memorable one, and the final night of revelry is coming to a close. The dancers enter to the hajnali, or song at dawn, a lament sung by those who are still awake:

It’s about time to go home
What are they all going to say about us?
The edge of the sky is dark, my dear, escort me home . . .
. . . Even the tree branches bend down to the ground in sorrow.

Then the dancers present the verbunk, or recruiting dance; the csárdás, a traditional Hungarian partner dance; and the szapora, or swift couple's dance. Finally, the young men improvise the legenyes, or lad’s dances, vying to impress the girls. The young women spin and shout encouragement to the dancers. As dawn approaches, the celebration ends, as relatives and close friends wander off to their beds.

Some of Eszterlánc's costumes (generously lent by Katalin Persik Lázár) are antiques from the village of Méra, where girls continue to bead and embroider elaborate clothing for their dowries. Hungarian folk music is similarly embellished, and is usually performed by a three-piece band, with violin, three-string viola (brácsa), and bass. The musicians are the Forrás Band from Vancouver and Seattle, featuring lead violinist László Orbán, formerly of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble; Lajos Miklós, who has researched Hungarian folk arts extensively in Transylvania; and Mike Pratt, an accomplished bassist and saxophonist. The singers are the Bay Area musical duet, Kövirág.

Eszterlánc was also honored to present two guest dancers. Internationally acclaimed dancer and scholar from Hungary, László Diószegi serves as Historian & Senior Research Fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and choreographer of the Hungarian Dance Academy. He has choreographed dances for the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, the Honvéd, and the Béla Bartók Dance Ensembles. The second guest dancer is Gergő Csiszár from Vancouver, BC. Gergő studied Hungarian dance in the Forrás Folk Ensemble of Vancouver, in Hungary, and in Transylvania. He is an accomplished author, dancer, and advocate of Hungarian folk arts.


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