Hungary Overview: Botoló and Czárdas
Romani people in Hungary, also known as magyarországi romák, make up 3.8 per cent of the total population, according to the 2011 national census.1 Exactly when they entered the country is not clear but there are charters of references to people called Cigan, Cygan or Chygan or to villages named Zygan estimated to date from around the thirteenth or fourteenth century (Kemény, 2005).
Katalin Kovalcsik (2003) deconstructs Roma music saying, ‘Traditionally there are two kinds of music performed by the Roma: one is musical service rendered for non-Romani audiences, the other is music made within the Romani community. The music played for outsiders is labelled ‘Gypsy music’ by Hungarian scholarly literature, having adopted its colloquial name, while the music the Roma use among themselves is called ‘folk music’. She goes on to state that the term ‘Gypsy music’ was coined by the Hungarian composer Ferenc (Franz) Liszt. In his book published in French in Paris in 1859 and two years later in Hungarian in Pest – On Gypsies and Gypsy Music in Hungary (Liszt, 1959, 1861) – he referred to music played by professional Romani performers as ‘Gypsy music’.2
Weapon dances and war dances probably exist all over the world. Dances which use some type of weapon-like implement (sword, axe, hatchet, stick etc.) have been classified as weapon dances which reflect the times. The remains of antique dance culture of this kind is also found in Hungary, and references to dances like the Botoló (Stick Dance) are well known (Martin, 1979).
The Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Photographic Archive has offered a collection which documents various versions of the Botoló both in a performance context and in rural environments. The collection comprises one hundred images dating from 1955 to 1989, and a number of shots capture the nuances of the dance. A second collection offered by the Special Collections Leeds University Library highlights ten colour etchings that were created by artist Ernö Barta. These showcase a Hungarian folk dance performed by men and women in traditional costumes. While we are not sure whether the dance is the well-known folk dance known as Czárdas, this section contextualises the dance.
Ernö Barta: Hungarian Etchings
Dance imagery and the manner in which the Roma art of dance is portrayed in the visual arts is important for the history of the Roma community. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many artists created highly sophisticated works which can be seen around the world today. Among them is the Hungarian Ernö Barta (1878–1956), a graphic artist and painter who became active around the turn of the century. In the 1900s, he joined the Munich Art Nouveau Movement and in the 1920s created a series of prints that are held in the special collections at the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds (UK). These ten, wonderfully vivid etchings of Romani dances from festivals all over Hungary are called ‘Hungarian Dances’. The colours are intensely vibrant: vivid pinks, blues, oranges and greens successfully convey the atmosphere of the Roma festivities depicted. The etchings are all drawn mid-dance and as such they show a culture and its people at their most festive and joyous. These dances are not limited to the older generation either: there are also etchings of younger people partaking in these activities, showing a community united by the thrill of dance (Banatvala, 2017).