In Hungary you can find open dance evenings everyone can take part in, where classic Hungarian dances are the center of the evening.
Open dance evenings - Táncház
One of the classic Hungarian cultural events is the Táncház - which would mean "Dance House", translated literally. It's an open event, usually on weekends, where you meet up for conversation, wine, singing and, of course, dancing.
My organisation, too, organises these dance evenings every now and then and after preparing food, drinks and the location over the day, we volunteers can also take part in the dances after the official begin of the Táncház, explained by a professional dance instructor.
When hearing the expression "Hungarian Dances", you usually think first Brahms and then Csárdás. But Hungarian folk dances can actually be separated in five categories, which I would like to introduce to you now.
All these dances have a few really nice examples on YouTube, too, if you simply search for the name of the dance. I already added one linked example per dance to make the introductions a little clearer.
The Csárdás, as mentioned above, is probably the best known of the Hungarian folk dances. Csárda is the Hungarian word for tavern or public house, which means that the Csárdás-dance can basically be viewed as a tavern-dance.
Csárdás is the name for both the music played for the dancing, the dance itself and the basic step for the dance. It's usually danced in pairs, but there are solo and circle-dances on Csárdás-music and with the Csárdás-step, too. The two basic steps for the Csárdás is a two-step sideways and a shoulder-to-shoulder turn. Depending on the area there are a few more steps the couples can add individually to their dance.
As a professional dancer you can make out the area these dancers come from, if you watch those individual steps.
The Kárikázó is a women-only circle dance, usually with acapella singing of the dancers. That might not sound very impressive in the beginning, but the dance is usually pretty fast-paced and decorated with other body movements - first of all jumping and stomping.
So, next to singing the dancers have to watch for the rhythm, keep the speed and, most of all, stay in synch when it comes to these decorations.
The Legényes is a male solo dance originating in Transsylvania, closely related to the Bavarian Schuhplattler. The Legényes was used as a competitive dance to court young women, because the men were able to show off their skills and sense of rhythm in this dance.
The more impressive the jumping-clapping-combinations are, the higher is the chance to get the prettiest girl for the couple dances afterwards.
The combinations usually consist of 4-8 phrases, the first phrase is identical for every dancer but the rest is improvised. Repeats aren't allowed.
The female dancers stand next to the dancing ground in a line and sing mocking songs about the men, to taunt them to even more tricky moves.
The Ugrós is a dance, which origins in the west of Hungary and can probably be led back to medieval weapon dances. It's a rhythmical jumping-clapping-dance which can be danced both in a circle and in a pair.
Especially with a few pairs the dance usually starts in a circle and the style is switched a couple of times during the dance, between the pair form and the circle form.
What I especially like about the Ugrós is that all the dancers are equal when it comes to the moves, there is no difference if you do the dance only with women or only with men or in a mixed group and if the neighbour or partner has the same gender or a different one.
The Verbunkos is a dance which is used mostly for presentations instead of casual dancing by now. Verbunkos comes from the German word Werbung, which means advertisement or recruitment, and the dance was used by Hussar officers in the recruitment process to lure the village youngsters to the army, when Hungary still belonged to the Habsburgs.
Apparently the Csárdás, too, has it's origin in the Verbunkos, even thought the Legényes looks more like the Verbunkos than the Csárdás - at least in my opinion.
The Verbunkos was used as a recruiting dance only for a pretty short time, and by now the Roma are viewed as the main source of the dance, because with their music they formed todays picture of the Verbunkos to a great extend.