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Basic Steps for Hungarian Dances
By Andor Czompo

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Ann and Andor Czompo

BACKGROUND

Information: We find great practical value in using and referring to basic standing positions. The dancer begins movements, steps, and step patterns from these positions, or returns to them after movements or step patterns are completed. Also, they are useful to refer to, when, in dance descriptions, it is necessary to clarify relationships between the two feet. Other dance forms (ballet, modern, jazz, and ballroom dance) have used these positions for a long time, and adopting them for folk dancing is a must. Of course, they are not exaggerated to the same extent that they are in ballet, for example, but rather are done in a simple way.

  1. FIRST POSITION: The heels are together, the toes turned out at approximately a 90 degree angle.
  2. SECOND POSITION: The feet are apart in a side-to-side plane, about the length of one foot apart. The toes are turned out at sbout a 90 degree angle.
  3. THIRD POSITION: The heel of one foot touches the middle of the other foot. The toes are turned out at approximately a 90 degree angle. When the right heel touches the left foot, this is a Third Position Front. When the left heel tourches the right foot, this is a Third Position Back. The front or back third position is determined by the position of the right foot.
  4. FOURTH POSITION: The feet are apart in a forward-backward plane, about the length of one foot apart. A front or back position would be the same as described in Third Position, and is determined by the position of the right foot.
  5. FIFTH POSITION: The heel of one foot touches the toes of the other foot. Front or back position would be the same as described in Third Position.

In Hungarian folk dances, the most commonly used positions are First and Second, somewhat less the Third and Fifth. Fourth position is seldom used. These positions are also used with parallel footwork, especially the First and the Second positions.

Certain steps and their variations are frequently used in almost every Hungarian folk dance. These will make the dancer aware of certain basic characteristics which eventually will lead them to a better understanding of Hungarian folk dance.


CSÁRDÁS STEPS AND VARIATIONS

Single Csárdás

     Step on the R ft to the R side (ct 1);
     Close the L ft to the R ft (ct 2).
This can be repeated the same way or to the opposite direction with opposite footwork. Also, it can move forward or backward.


Double Csárdás

The most common variation of the csárdás step is the Double Csárdás.
     Step on the R ft to the R side (ct 1);
     Step on the L ft beside the R ft (ct 2);
     Step on the R ft to the R side (ct 3);
     Close the L ft to the R ft (ct 4).
Repeat with the opposite footwork (symmetrical). The Double Csárdës can also be done forward (zig-zag) or backward (zig-zag).

For the less experienced dancer, the author recommends that the csárdás step variations be done in a simple, smooth way, without any special knee bending or bouncing. The more experienced dancer should be aware of some of the special "styling" points of the csárdás step, as they are done by the Hungarian natives. There are two different ways of executing the steps. One is the so-called Rezgös Csárdás (tremble or shake), or, as modern dance researchers refer to them, Upbeat Csárdás. The other type is the Downbeat Csárdás. Both involve the bending and straightening of the knees. The relationship of the knee-bending and straightening to the music determines the upbeat or downbeat style.


Upbeat (Rezgõs) Csárdás

Begin in First Position Parallel.
     Before the actual first ct, bend both knees (ct &);
     Step with the R ft to the R side, straightening both knees (ct 1);
     Bend both knees (ct &);
     Step on the L ft beside the R ft, straightening both knees (ct 2);
     Bend both knees (ct &);
     Step on the R ft to the R side, straightening both knees (ct 3);
     Bend both knees (ct &);
     Close the L ft to the R ft, straightening both knees (ct 4).
Repeat with opposite footwork (symmetrical).

The emphasis is on the knee-straightening, which always occurs on the musical beat. Because of this, the term "Upbeat" is used. As an exercise, the author recommends that the step be done to simple counting, as follows: and-one-and-two-and-three-and-four. The and is the knee bend, and the ct is the straight knee.

In an actual dance situation, the knee movement is quite small. The bending and straightening are not sharply separated from each other. Variations also exist with respect to amount of force used to perform the movement. The knee straightening can be soft or sharp.


Downbeat Csárdás

The Downbeat Csárdás is just the opposite of the Upbeat Csárdás in counting and performing the pattern. The Downbeat Csáardás emphasizes the knee bend, which occurs on the beat.

Begin in First Position parallel.
     Step on the R ft to the R side, bending both knees (ct 1);
     Straighten both knees (ct &);
     Step on the L ft beside the R ft, bending both knees (ct 2);
     Straighten both knees (ct &);
     Step on the R ft to the R side, bending both knees (ct 3);
     Straighten both knees (ct &);
     Step on the L ft beside the R ft, bending both knees (ct 4);
     Straighten both knees (ct &);
Repeat with opposite footwork (symmetrical).

Here the count is: one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and, with the knee bend on the beat. In actual dancing, the knee movement is small and the bending and straightening of the knees is not sharply separated from each other. The Downbeat Csárdás is the exact opposite of the Upbeat Csárdás. Although this is true so far as structure and rhythm are concerned, in actual dance situations, the dancer might observe that the Downbeat Csárdás step is much softer and more relaxed in appearance. This is due to the fact that in this step, the knee straightening is never as stiff as in the Upbeat Csárdás. As a matter of fact, it should be executed with relaxed knees throughout.

In Hungary, these two different csárdás steps can be characteristic of local areas or even whole regions. In other places, you might find that both types are dance. However, it seems that the Upbeat Csárdás is more poplular with the older generations.

In the ballroom csárdás, the upbeat type is dominant, sometimes to such an extent that the whole thing becomes almost senseless shaking. This "style" developled among the rural landowners in the first half of 21st century. From them the name "Gentry Csárdás" developed.

Csárdáas step variations, although they are found in almost every existing Hungarian dance type, are the most common in the slow part of the csárdás and the women's circle dances.


RIDA STEPS

Another widely used step pattern and its variations is called the Rida step. Generally speaking, this is a side-step and a cross-step, or a cross-step followed by a side-step. It seldom appears as a single step, but is usually found in a series for couple turns, solo turns, or moving an entire circle.

The latest Hungarian dance descriptions based on theoretical investigation of the Rida steps and their uses by natives, divide them into two categories: Open or Closed Rida steps.

Open Rida

     Step on the ball of the R ft to the R (ct 1);
     Step on the L ft across in front of the R ft with a small knee bend (ct 2).
Repeat with the same footwork in the same direction.

The Open Rida generally has a "rising-sinking" feeling, but this up-and-down movement is rather smooth, soft, and continuous like an ocean wave and is definitely not staccato. The above description begins with the right foot and moves in a right direction. This pattern is called "Open Rida" because the first step, on the musical beat, is a side or open step.

The Open Rida can also be done in a walking style without emphasizing the up-and-down movement, or with leaps instead of walking steps, which gives the sequence a "running" style.


Closed Rida

The opposite type of Rida is the Closed Rida.

     Step on the R ft across in front of the L ft with a small knee bend (ct 1);
     Step on the L ft to the L side (ct 2).
Repeat with the same footwork in the same direction.

That which was said about the Open Rida is also generally true of the Closed Rida. The main difference is that the first movement is a cross-step with a slight knee bend and occurs on the musical beat.

Earlier dance descriptions refer to Open Rida as upbeat rida and to the Closed Rida as a downbeat rida. This was due to the relationship of the steps to the music. However, the rida steps can be done without emphasizing the up or down movement. Therefore, the author feels that the new Hungarian terminology is more accurate and practical than the previous one.

Rida steps are most commonly used in couple turns, either in the slow or fast csárdás sequences. Also, this is a very popular step in women's circle dances, especially in the first sections.

The author would like to point out that the Hungarian rida is closely related to similar steps in other national dance types. The so-called "grapevine" and poular "buzz step" are among them.


CIFRA STEPS

The third type of step to be described is also a very common Hungarian dance step, the Cifra, or "harpás lepes" (three steps).

Cifra

     Leap onto the R ft to the R side (ct 1);
     Step on the L ft beside the R ft (ct &);
     Step on the R ft in place (ct 2);
Repeat with opposite footwork (symmetrical).

All three steps are done on the balls of the feet, and this gives a light quality to the step pattern. The rhythmic pattern can be broken down into a quick-quick-slow (qqS) relationship. When Cifra steps are done in a series, the starting foot alternates. The pattern can be done forward, sideward, backward, turning, or in a zig-zag direction.

Some researchers believe that the Cifra originated in shepherd dances. Although the use of this step touches almost every other Hungarian dance type, it is still the most common in the shepherd dances, particularly the "Kanász" dances.

Among the relatives of the Hungarian Cifra are the Serbian "threes," the English "set," and the "pas de basque," as well as the three-step balances, and other step patterns in a quick-quick-slow rhythm.


BOKAZO

Recent publications of folk dance books and dance descriptions in the United States described another movement or step as basically Hungarian. The Hungarians call it "Bokazo," which means "heel-click." These publications contradict each other when they try to describe the Bokazo. Hungarian researchers, folklorists, dancers, and choreographers use the name "Bokazo" as a general term for all combinations of heel-click steps.


DOCUMENTS


From "Basic Steps Hungarian" in the Idyllwild Folk Dance Workshop 1977 syllabus.


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