Of all the art forms on offer in Budapest for the foreign visitor to enjoy, perhaps the most striking is dance. The city became home to a national ballet company when the Opera House opened, in 1884. In modern times, groundbreaking choreographers such as Yvette Bozsik and Éva Duda have set up their own companies to present contemporary dance productions of stunning originality.
When the Hungarian Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház) opened in 1884, the creation of a National Ballet Company to be based there was a natural fit – ballet performances had been given in Hungary during the previous century, usually in the salons of noble estates. The National Ballet has been operating under the aegis of the Opera House ever since, although current renovations at this ornate landmark mean that productions are being staged at partner venue the Erkel Theatre (Erkel Színház). Top international companies, most notably from Russia, also perform here.
Where Hungary also excels is in its folk tradition. Look out for shows by the Hungarian National Dance Ensemble, formerly the Honvéd Ensemble, founded in 1949, a 40-strong troupe whose repertoire covers the Carpathian Basin. When not performing in America or for the Hungarian diaspora across the world, the MNT can be seen at Budapest’s Várkert Bazaar (Varkert Bazár) and National Theatre (Nemzeti Színház).
Bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary, the Budapest Dance Theatre company was formed in 1991. The Budapest Dance Theatre building, which had dated back to the 1700s, closed in 2014 while a new location was developed at the Millenáris complex. In the meantime, the Budapest Dance Theatre company went from strength to strength, performing in Rome, Vienna and London, and 70 times a year in Hungary. Its current repertoire includes dance interpretations of ‘100 Years of Solitude’ and Ravel.
As well as the Palace of Arts (Müpa), where much of the annual Budapest Dance Festival now takes place, the other showcase for contemporary choreography is the multidisciplinary Trafó in District IX.
And Budapest has no shortage of companies to grace these stages, starting with the innovative TranzDanz under choreographer Péter Gerzson Kovács, who has been imaginatively combining folk and modern styles for more than 30 years. In similar vein, with an emphasis on the visual experience, Experidance also delves into the Hungarian folk canon. Fricska earned international fame with record-breaking folk dancing on nationwide talent shows in Hungary and the UK, before performing to TV audiences of millions at major global sports events.
Challenging traditional boundaries, Yvette Bozsik founded her namesake company here in 1993 while Éva Duda usually throws in a little street dance or martial arts into her company’s dynamic and surprising productions. Zoltán Fodor devises thought-provoking productions for his own INVERSDANCE troupe, for adults or children. Shows are taken around Hungary and, most recently, Ecuador.