Even today, traditional dance houses are still spinning in Budapest – places where a party is sure to break out when the folk rhythms start to swing. For those who have not done any folk dancing, it may be surprising to hear that there are plenty of dance halls in Budapest today. In fact, there’s an event almost every day, when professional and amateur dancers form a circle and get to it. Let’s see where these communities can be found – starting with Mondays.
The Hungarian dance-house movement started up in Budapest in the 1970s, allowing for a less choreographed folk-dance style. Live music was a prerequisite and soon it became one of the main entertainment options for urban youth. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it began to become more mainstream and, at an international level, added to the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List in 2011.
Nothing better illustrates the growing popularity of folk dance in Budapest than the huge success of the two special nights held at major outdoor music venue Budapest Park this summer – with more expected for 2020.
Mondays: Szimpla Kert
The most famous ruin pub in Budapest hosts a dance house at the beginning of the week, from 10pm to 3am with free admission – just look out for the old hands in the concert hall. As the majority of the crowd at Szimpla is foreign, it’s a fair bet that they will be interested in Hungarian folk music and rhythms.
District VII. Kazinczy utca 22
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Every other Tuesday: Pótkulcs
This sheltered, shaded garden on Csengery utca is not easy to find, nor does it reveal what lies behind its walls. There’s a musical event at Pótkulcs almost every night, usually in the world music genre. Every Tuesday from 8pm until 11.30pm, the place turns into a Hungarian Folk Pub – in fact, ever since it started staging dance-house events back in 2001. Music is provided by Vígzenészek and admission is free.
District VI. Csengery utca 65B
Occasional Tuesdays: Benczúr House
The latest dance house in town is located in the Benczúr House Cultural Centre by the City Park, created in co-operation with the NKA Halmos Béla Programme. (Béla Halmos was a famous folk musician and folk-music researcher, one of the initiators of the dance-house movement and the project named after him supports folk musicians and folk-music events with competitions.) The Halmos Béla Club is a continuation of this summer’s successful Benczúr Garden Evenings, now hosted indoors instead of outdoors.
It returns to the roots of the dance-house movement and augments its live shows, lectures and round-table discussions.
Following on from the success of summer folk nights here, this autumn, there will be a total of four such events on Tuesdays, with appearances from the likes of Ferenc Sebő and Ferenc ‘Tata’ Novák. Talks are followed by a concert and a party with the Bajko and Korinda bands, for example, but you can also hear music from Upper Hungary from Julia Kubinyi and the Parapács band.
The first event will be on 24 September, when there will be a presentation by Péter Árendás, followed by a live show of Bonchida to Bonchida, admission 1,200 forints. The dance house with Rita Ocskay and friends is free.
Look out, too, for further events on 15 October, 29 October and 12 November.
District VI. Benczúr utca 27
At Fonó, you can find a folk-music event every day of the week, and their Wednesday dance halls are among the most prominent in Budapest. Each time, they have two bands that get people’s feet moving, including Gobé and PásztorHóra every two weeks. You can come as a pair, without a partner, with or without dance skills, as there is professional tuition at the gathering. Entry is 1,000 forints.
District XI. Sztregova utca 3
The Rácskert is home to the city’s second largest dance-house party, on Fridays. There’s a tradition that certain dance houses are built around a specific band, and this Buda nightclub is no exception: the Erdőfű band, formed from the Friday night dance musicians here, are regulars. Evenings at the Rácskert are free.
District VII. Dob utca
Every other Friday: Eötvös 10
The Eötvös utca Cultural Centre hosts dance classes every other Friday. On 27 September, for example, there will be a Moldovan dance class followed by a dance party lasting until 1am, learning songs during breaks. Tickets are 800 forints, reduced to 500 forints for students, seniors and those living in District VI.
District VI. Eötvös utca 10
Saturdays: Budai Vigadó
Hagyományok Háza, the House of Traditions, in the recently beautifully renovated Buda Vigadó, is the primary guardian of Hungarian folk values, as its name suggests. Saturday’s dance halls are housed in its glassed-in Átrium between 7pm and 2am, with a strong emphasis on dance teaching, so those with little experience in folk dance can enjoy it, too. Admission from 7pm (dance class + dance house) is 1,000 forints, from 9pm (dance class only) 500 forints.
District I. Corvin tér 8
The dates also refer to the opening hours of the ticket office
The opening image of the article was taken in Budapest Park, where two successful Hungarian dance-houses have been held twice this year and can be expected next season.
This article has been sponsored by the Halmos Béla Programme.