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"Między Wisłą a Dunajem" [Between the Vistula and the Danube]: a few words about houses of dance

The movement of house of dance, inspired by the music and dance culture of Hungary and Transylvania, was born in Hungary in the 1960s. For our "nephews", this astonishing, mass activity turned out to be a self-purification activity and a remedy for the unification and aesthetics of the era of rubber fans. This autogenous - like tokaj wine - cultural fermentation restored flavor and balance to the landscape. A sense of identification with the place from which one grows up and a sense of community that does not exclude respect for otherness, but builds tolerance - these are tangible and noticeable positive effects of the education of Hungarian houses of dance.

The Polish branch of the movement of house of dance refers, among others, to the Hungarian experience. Initiated thirty years later, however, had a different cultural background. The Polish "ideological opposition" at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s was clearly recorded in poetry ("Nowa Fala" movement) and in theatrical activity: from political literary theater (Teatr Ósmego Dnia) to Grotowski's theater, Gardzienice Staniewskiego and derivative paratheatrical movements (Teatr Wiejski Węgajty, Teatr Sejneński and others). The category of the population was clearly evoked here as an essential, primary culture-forming value. The underlying cause of the phenomenon was not political objection or the will to identify, but rather aesthetic objection and a need for an anthropological interpretation of the world. The activity of Polish houses of dance, established at the end of the 1990s, is, in a sense, also the result of opposition. Not against the political doctrine, but more against the model of mass culture promoted by the mainstream media. Several dance houses operated and still operate in Poland with varying regularity, under different addresses and signboards, including: in Warsaw (since 1995), in Kraków (since 1998), and in Poznań (since 2001). In the following years, there were initiatives in Olsztyn, Wrocław, Lublin, Suwałki, Gdańsk and Toruń, among others. Similar activities, though not by the name of the "house of dance", but under the banner of "folk house", are carried out by centers in Podhale: in Bukowina Tatrzańska and Kościelisko. Luckily: the traditions of multi-generational music-making have survived there until today, so they are not artificially reconstructed. Instead, they function as an almost everyday practice and still present element of the local culture landscape.


The Krakow House of Dance was established in 1998 and at first - more than "house" - it took the form of a "rolling stock". It has become a traveling project, operating on the basis of a group of traditional music lovers and various institutions that supported this initiative. The first meetings with traditional dance under the banner of the Krakow House of Dance were the initiative of the Muzykanci band, one of the first groups in the country dedicated to the search, reconstruction and practice of traditional songs and dances in the circle of Central European traditions. The first meeting place for the Krakow House of Dance was the Bücklein Theater (1998). Collaboration with Bücklein and the Polish-Balkan KOLO Association resulted in concerts in the space of the former theater hall, that gathered several hundred people . As part of their initiatives, there were: Serbian calabash players, Teresa Mirga with the Kałe Bała band and Muzykanci ensemble, conducting a series of Polish traditional dance workshops.


In 1999, Krakow House of Dance moved to  the "Chimera" Music Club at Gołębia 2 in Krakow. The famous "Fridays in Chimera" gathered regular fans of traditional dancing to the live music. Polish traditional dance workshops were conducted by Muzykanci (Hałas and Słowiński families), who also played regular dance parties. The club in the "old Chimera" was also welcoming of bands playing Irish music, the new folk of the south-eastern borderland, of which the Georgian-Ukrainian fusion Zumba Land (including Gija Dżaugaszwili aka PanGar, Zaza Korinteli, Walentyn Dubrowski) turned out to be particularly interesting. From Celtic-American-Jewish experiments, Stefan Puchalski's No Borders appears to be the most interesting years later. The repertoire of meetings under the banner of the Krakow House of Dance was by definition based on the reality-organizing rhythm of secular and religious rites and the annual calendar of nature. It needs mentioning, however, that the boundary of the form of workshops, concerts and folk entertainment in meetings in Chimera was usually quite blurred.

Since 2000, the KHoD activity has also been intertwined with the ROZSTAJE Festival. As part of the Festival Club, as well as separate projects, the Krakow House of Dance hosted bands from Slovakia (Dudvah), from Moravia (Maly Beskid), the Hutsul region (Tafijczuk family), Hungary (Maskaras, Kalyi Jag), Transylvania (Haromsek), as well as from the USA (Clog America) and France (a concert by Stephane Delicq - master of music to dance to and a virtuoso of the diatonic accordion).

In 2002 and 2003, KHoD visited the Groteska Theater in Kraków. In cooperation with the Cracovia Express Hungarian Center in Krakow, a series of regular workshops, concerts and separate music sessions were organized. Weekly learning of the basic steps and dances of Central Poland and Podkarpacie (polka, oberek, trojaki, czardas) was led by Joanna Słowińska (the host of the Krakow House of Dance), and once a month, groups from other Central European countries presented themselves in the form of dance workshops. Dance classes were conducted by: Muzicka & Draguni (House of Dance from Bratislava), Muzykanci (Polish traditional dances), Beata Palya & Karpatia (Hungary), Haromsek Dance Theater (Transylvania / Romania), Teresa Mirga & Kałe Bała (Spisz; gypsy songs and dances), Leon Blank ( Sweden; Jewish dances) and the Di Galitzyaner Klezmorim ensemble (Krakow). As part of the KHoD concerts, they also presented a series of Passion songs (Polish, Gypsy, Lemko), as well as new and forgotten Polish (Muzykanci) and Hungarian (Makam from Budapest) carols.

In the following years, activities related to the idea of ​​a house of dance included: initiatives by Monika Dudek with an emphasis on the dances and songs of the Krakow region (, Paweł Płaszczak (Folk w Krakowie), Jacek Skoczek (Muzyki i Folklory) - focused on the themes of Polish traditional dances - and also numerous projects of the Rozstaje/Crossroads Association, implemented as part of subsequent editions of the Rozstaje Festival (Visegrad House of Dance, School at the Crossroads), as well as in the form of separate projects. In 2010, this idea took the form of the Malopolska House of Dance - a series of workshops and concerts presenting the musical traditions of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, but also Ireland, Georgia and India; an educational project for everyone interested in traditional music in its non-commercial form.


Krakow House of Dance / Strefa club

In recent years, the idea of ​​'táncház' in Krakow includes intensive educational activities accompanying the subsequent editions of the EtnoKraków/Rozstaje Festival and regular dance meetings at the Strefa club, which in the context of the educational and concert program has become an all-year festival club of EtnoKraków/Rozstaje. The Strefa club in Krakow was founded in 2016 by Joanna and Jan Słowiński and in recent years it has become one of the most active places of ethno and improvised music in Poland. It is also a space for meetings and workshops of communities focused around not only traditional dances of Poland, Slovakia and Hungary (project: "Między Wisłą a Dunajem" [Between the Vistula and the Danube]), but also around forró, blues, kizomba and balfolk initiatives. The Strefa club's proposals that are also closely related to the idea of ​​the Krakow House of Dance are: the Workshops of Krakowiak led by Kasia Chodoń, Polish traditional dance workshops by Piotr and Bogusława Zgorzelscy, Italian dance workshops by Vittoria Agliozzo, dance parties with great bands of the Polish ethno scene (Muzykanci, Kapela Maliszów, Raraszek, Tadirindum, Kapela Na Krzywych Dźwiękach, Pokrzyk and others) and artists from all over the world, traditional song workshops (led by Joanna Słowińska, Sofia Herian, Kasia Dudziak, Svetlana Spajić, Branko Tadić and others). Since 2019, Strefa is also a place of regular meetings of FonóKraków - which is the Krakow scene of the famous Budapest publishing house Fonó and at the same time one of the most meritorious initiatives in recent decades working for the revival and promotion of Hungarian traditional music.


The house of dance movement has been developing with varying dynamics and in various centers in Poland for over two decades. Regardless of the decisions, whether the constant readiness to oppose and contest - which has been its feature from the beginning - is its strength or weakness, today this movement is one of the most important, refreshing, creative trends in contemporary Polish music culture.

[Jan Słowiński]

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