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“They have a face, a life and tousled hair…”

June 16, 2017, 3:55 pm

The writer and poet János Lackfi, an ambassador of the Dancing on the Square project, provided a crystal clear description of what it felt like to be a spectator in Heroes’ Square and to share the joy of 10 June.

I appreciate the opportunity to have been one of the ambassadors of the BFO’s Dancing on the Square project. It was terrific to sit in the sunshine on Heroes’ Square – on recycled chairs, in fact! – for this true celebration of joy.

I was thinking that it is these types of things which advance the world: these critical moments filled with quality music, a historic atmosphere, precise sound amplification and children of very different social backgrounds immersed in the music.

And yet the concert is by no means sterile. There is always a little bit of pushing, cell phone use, of ‘hey, man, where’s Melinda, I can’t see her’, ‘scoot over, let me film this’, ‘look, he’s waving’ and ‘old man, relax already’. And then there are the music aficionados, who try to shush others as though they were in Müpa – which is of course true, but we also entered the lives of so many for whom this was an amazing event – one that they rarely have the opportunity for. They wave as they perform the choreography; they have a face and a life, their hair is tousled; and while they each stand out from the crowd, wearing their identical t-shirts, they blend into and become a part of the whole. This is how we really come together!

Heroes’ Square full of dancing children

June 16, 2017, 1:43 pm

Thousands turned out once again in Heroes’ Square last Saturday (10 June) for the Dancing on the Square performance led by Iván Fischer, where five hundred fabulous young people danced together to the music of the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

The heroes of the day on 10 June were clearly the children who danced in Heroes’ Square before an audience of seven thousand people, performing choreography created for them by Harangozó Award-winner Bertalan Vári, to the live music of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The young people, both Roma and non-Roma, some from disadvantaged regions and some more fortunate, spent months preparing for this day in 25 different schools around the country. The culmination of the project was their performance as a group, demonstrating what they are capable of – as in previous years, it was a cathartic moment. In addition to the performance itself, the Festival Orchestra organised cultural and community programmes for the children, who will also be able to attend the Dancing on the Square summer camp, hosted by the BFO and the Foundation for Democratic Youth.

Marshmallow Dreams

June 15, 2017, 2:29 pm

“The best part was sleeping in bunk beds, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, talking even after lights-out and wandering around the forest without Mum…and I also liked that our uncle, who lives in Budapest, was also able to see us dance!” – the children from Karcag summarised their experiences in Csillebérc preceding the Dancing on the Square performance on 9 June.

The teams already arrived in Budapest the day before the event in Heroes’ Square in order to meet, become acquainted with one another and to make friends. The Foundation for Democratic Youth, as before, provided invaluable assistance with this. Following their separate sessions, they rehearsed their dance as a group under the leadership of Berci Vári. The photos, taken by István Z. Tuba (an enthusiastic volunteer from Morgan Stanley), speak for themselves.

 

 

    

   

“Not because Fischer is such a big shot”

April 27, 2017, 2:58 pm

“We never had any pop bands come to play here in Cserdi. And so long as I have any say in the matter, I’d rather have the Festival Orchestra. And not because Fischer is such a big shot”, Cserdi’s mayor László Bogdán, and one of the Dancing on the Square project’s ambassadors, tells Fidelio (a Hungarian arts periodical). He doesn’t care about the celebrity and renown of the Festival Orchestra – “what matters is that these artists are so talented, open and spontaneous”.

László Bogdán and the inhabitants of Cserdi gave the dancing children and musicians their usual warm welcome.

New friendships:

Working fast together:

Dance!

Instrumental acrobatics 🙂

And a drum roll please!

Of course we couldn’t miss out on a spontaneous edition of “choose your instrument”.

The brasswinds sound better with an oilseed field in the background.

The musicians played in the dazzling sunlight after the April snowfall.

Getting in the mood:

It’s worth recording every minute.

Photos: Fanni M. Benkő

“The Dancing on the Square project is my life”

April 27, 2017, 2:44 pm

“The Dancing on the Square project is my life.” Thirteen-year-old Ramóna Rácz from the Hungarian town of Salgótarján plans to be a hairdresser, but as long as she can remember, she has wanted to dance. This is just another reason why the Dancing on the Square project – which she is representing this year as a junior ambassador – is an exceptional opportunity for her. “I’m a bit scared and a bit nervous, but I want to show the world what I can do. If you want to dance, you have to put work into it.” Besides dancing, Ramóna would love to learn to play the harp – she had the chance to try out the instrument at the Festival Orchestra’s Choose your Instrument event, and immediately fell in love with it.

We met with Ramóna at the fourth regional assembly, held in Salgótarján, where the local team of volunteers organised great community-building activities, but it wasn’t easy to deal with the 130 kids participating.

“A big haaand!”, as our lead choreographer Berci Vári often asks the children.

Higher, higher!

The garden hose was a big success in Salgótarján as well.

The most beautiful moments.

We went from the Renaissance to Harlem.

Even a gym can sound good.

Photos: Ákos Stiller

“It’s just so much fun!”

April 27, 2017, 2:28 pm

We met in Apátfalva on April 13, and finally had the chance to meet two of our junior ambassadors in person: Sándor Sinoros-Szabó and Domonkos Mátó Here too, there was plenty of song, dance and games.

“The first time it was exciting and interesting to perform at the Dancing on the Square concert; my legs were shaking a little bit, because there were so many people watching us dance. The second time it wasn’t so scary, and then I was a bit more relaxed and got into it more. Now I can’t wait for June, but for now, the main thing is to do my best at the rehearsals”, said Domonkos. Sanyi chimed in: “Anyone who isn’t at the Dancing on the Square concert is missing out on an amazing experience. Not everyone gets the chance to have a world-famous orchestra play for them. They’re really good, it’s great to be able to hear them live. It also doesn’t happen every day that several thousand people are watching you on Heroes’ Square, and they show it on TV too.”

And of course, what matters the most: “it’s just so much fun!”

One of the Festival Orchestra’s generous supporters, Ágnes Németvölgyi sent the Dancing on the Square children some of her legendary “piano keys” cake. As usual, it was delicious!

Time for some ball games! Rita Galambos had all the children moving in minutes.

Let the dancing begin!

Position!

The joys of music.

The Igazgyöngy Foundation’s small delegation was a great team 🙂

It’s important to get closer to each other.

Focus, focus, focus! 🙂

Jump!

Photos: Fanni M. Benkő

“It’s good to be together!” – Good times in Téglás

April 19, 2017, 6:27 pm

The second regional assembly was held in Téglás on April 11. It was wonderful to hear feedback from the children: “I love dancing!”, “it’s good to be together!” and “it’s so amazing that we’re here together and having fun”. Our musicians even had their own “attendants” – check it out (and see how their eyes are shining):

Who wants to help carry the drum set?

BFFs 🙂

The bravest souls ventured even closer:

Even a garden hose can be a musical instrument:

Dancing went great too:

Our lead choreographer, Bertalan Vári working his magic:

A dynamic team:

There was some running:

And some posing with friends relaxing at the end of the day 🙂

Photos: Ákos Stiller

Ease the separation

April 3, 2017, 11:38 am

Erzsébet Virágos is a teacher of Hungarian in Salgótarján and the main co-ordinator and mentor of the local youths who have become the driving force behind the towns community programmes. She helps the secondary school students organise and run the preparatory activities for children in Salgótarján participating in the Dancing on the Square project. We asked the soul of the programme to tell us about her experiences so far.

Today, children arrived here from three places: one group from the dormitory for out-of-town students, the other from the Dornyay Béla Primary School and some kids came from Uzoni Péter Primary School. They are all preparing for the concert this summer on Heroes’ Square, where they will all dance together to live music played by the Festival Orchestra. They have a dance class each Friday and they are lucky enough to also have some additional special activities and games to help in their preparation.

This year on Heroes Square, the Budapest Festival Orchestra will play the Symphonic Dances from Leonard Bernsteins West Side Story. How do you help the kids connect with the story of the play and the music itself?

Erzsébet Virágos: First of all, we wanted every participant to understand and empathise with what is important in the play, which also makes the music more accessible to them. Our other aim is to help children coming from different places get to know each other better, and to bridge the gaps between them. This activity was preceded by a longer preparatory process, because we what we wanted – and what we have achieved – was to have a good, cohesive team that is willing to work together before we started working on the actual theme. So we organised two meetings in the autumn and at Christmas, where the aim was just getting to know each other.

How did the team of secondary school student helpers, who work together with the children, get involved?

E V: Last year we already managed to include them in a very successful activity, which mobilised a lot of people here in our town. It introduced children to volunteer work, and to how wonderful and exciting it can be. We organised the “Speak Smart” programme together with the Foundation for Democratic Youth. The programme focussed first on mapping problems that had come up in the town, and which only needed enthusiasm and volunteer work to solve them, not any significant human or financial resources. They then worked on developing the solutions to those problems and solving them while also involving a number of people. There were several success stories, which also means that now the students are willing to participate in new tasks. That’s how they joined those preparing for the Dancing on the Square programme.

Is this the first time that they have worked on this type of project?

E V: I’m sure they have already done some activities involving dancing, but this is the first time that they have come into contact with such a multidisciplinary and high-quality programme.

How were the kids participating in the Dancing on the Square programme chosen?

E V: The principals and teachers of the schools advertised the opportunity and those interested applied. A large number of children wanted to participate, since the project is really attractive. Of course, many of them realised that it is not that easy, so only half of the applicants came to the first occasion and some more have left since then. Now the final number of participants is around twenty and at least ten high school students work with them.

How did you start the preparation?

E V: First we went to see West Side Story, the musical film, together. Of course only the older kids, from the eighth and seventh grades of elementary school along with the secondary school students were invited to come. I was very pleased to see that nobody left the cinema and they all watched the film patiently and intently until the end, although it was made in a way which is different from the modern films that they are used to, and although adults play the roles of adolescents. The film is also rather long, so I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to follow it all. Fortunately, that was not the case; in fact they watched the film in absolute silence.

Am I right to say that most of the kids preparing for the Dancing on the Square project come from Gypsy families?

E V: Yes, although I couldn’t give an exact number, as we don’t ask them about their background. But there are definitely a lot more Roma than non-Roma children among them. And it is also true that in this town, like in many others, the Gypsy and non-Gypsy populations lead separate lives. One of the benefits of this programme is that we can try to somewhat ease this separation and bring them closer to each other without actually emphasising that goal. Instead, we handle the whole thing in a way that reflects what we in fact think about it, that it is a high-quality programme for children. It seems strange though that the applicants were almost exclusively from institutions where disadvantaged children study or live, whereas it would be wonderful and important if those from a more privileged background could meet and spend time with underprivileged children. Therefore, we make specific efforts to include students who originally did not apply, but whom we managed to convince that it was worth participating in this joint project.

This is the first time they will meet after watching the film. What will this afternoon be about?

E V: Of course, we’ll try to thoroughly process and understand what we saw. I’m curious about what impression the film made on them, what they have been thinking about since then and where it has lead them. We are going to use different methods to try to reflect on it. There will be fun quizzes and role plays, and we are planning some storytelling and analysis and also use other methods to help them understand the messages of this wonderful work. And of course, it is also our aim to help those kids who could not see the film, because they are too young, understand what exactly the whole thing is about. I hope we can do it.

The activity went very well, the high school students arrived thoroughly prepared. First, everybody was asked what made them happy at that moment and what they were looking forward to in the afternoon. Then the plot of West Side Story, divided into short, concise sentences, was distributed among the children who took turns to read out their text. This helped everybody to understand the story. After that the most important roles were written on separate pieces of adhesive paper and randomly distributed to the children as name tags. From then, on they all started preparing for the play, acting in their roles. Of course, the high school students and Erzsi Virágos offered them plenty of advice and help. Eventually, at the end of the second hour, West Side Story improvised by the Salgótarján Dancing of the Square group was ready. It was obvious that the kids extremely enjoyed the acting, taking at times a rather serious tone. In the end, they were ready to tell their strongly-held views about the basic question. What are the consequences when people from different backgrounds are unable to accept one another?

West Side Story on Heroes’ Square

March 30, 2017, 6:02 pm

The Dancing on the Square concert was one of the key topics at our press conference in Müpa Budapest, 29 March.

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We announced that one of the highlights of the season will be the Dancing on the Square project, to be held on Heroes’ Square on June 10th. This year, over five hundred children, some from disadvantaged backgrounds, others from more fortunate circumstances, will be joining forces to put on a dance performance. The youngsters have been rehearsing since January for the big day: this year, they will be moving to the strains of the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story.

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West Side Story is a modern rendition of Romeo and Juliet, relating the feud between two rival gangs in New York City. As American teenagers face off against immigrant youth, one member of each of the sides fall in love with each other. Caught in the crossfire, their love comes to a tragic end. “This is a story which is again relevant for our times – about whether different ethnic groups can coexist. Maybe this was not just a problem in the 1940s, but one which is still here today”, said Iván Fischer, adding, “and meanwhile, this music is incredibly beautiful and exciting. Bernstein succeeded in bringing together his exceptional knowledge of the classical, jazz and Broadway genres. West Side Story is an unmatched masterpiece.”

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The choice of the work also points to the fact that the Dancing on the Square project is much more than just music and dance – it is about accepting one another, creating together as a community, and about openness and tolerance.

János Lackfi, József Attila and Prima Primissima Prize-winning author and poet, as well as one of the ambassadors of the Dancing on the Square project summarised the project as follows: “We have a tendency to view society as a mosaic, and to only pick out the sparkly, more exciting pieces for ourselves, thinking that this is what will make the whole picture more beautiful. In fact, our world is more like a puzzle. If you throw out the pieces that you don’t like, the whole picture doesn’t come together, and you end up with a broken, leprous version instead. Basically, if we push away people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, we are injuring ourselves. The reason I find the concept and approach of the Dancing on the Square project so appealing is that it creates a great experience and helps improve the self-image of kids who would otherwise never have an opportunity like this one. Ultimately, it draws them into a complex musical experience, demonstrating there’s a gentle ecstasy to classical music, and that it’s great to be surrounded by it, to move to it. I hope this beneficial virus is able to reach and infect as many people as possible!”

“CHOOSE YOUR INSTRUMENT” FOR THE “DANCING ON THE SQUARE” CHILDREN

March 28, 2017, 7:50 am

On 24 March, the “Choose your Instrument”, sponsored by the Norway Grants, was presented at the BFO’s rehearsal hall to half of the youngsters who participated in the Dancing on the Square project in June – nearly 250 kids. It was opened by Nóra L. Ritók, one of the ambassadors from the Dancing on the Square project, after a delicious lunch and a stamp-collecting game. “The language of music, dancing and the arts is understood by everyone no matter where he or she lives,” she said. The children were hanging on to her every word.

Later on, the young participants in the Dancing on the Square project had the opportunity to meet the orchestra, learn about classical music, sing with us and try the instruments. Though their bus was about to leave, one of the kids almost stayed behind to have another go at the drums. We agreed with Krisztofer to meet again soon – at the regional meeting in April at the latest.

After Choose Your Instrument, one group visited Heroes’ Square, while others took a trip along the Tisza on the way home.

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