Hungarian National Ballet

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(Hungarian State Opera Ballet; Budapest Ballet). Hungary's leading ballet company which performs in Budapest's State Opera House and also in the city's Erkel Theatre. Its origins date back to ballet performances held at the Ofen Court Theatre and the National Theatre, but in its current form it was established in 1884 with the opening of the State Opera House. At first it was subordinate to the opera company and its early, rather parochial style evolved via the influences of Hungarian folk dancing and Russian ballet. Demands for higher standards led to the engagement of the Italian ballet master Nicola Guerra. He not only raised the company's technical and artistic levels but also choreographed nineteen works for the company between 1902 and 1915, including Adventures of Love (mus. Mader, 1902), Hungarian Dance Suite (mus. Liszt and Szikla, 1907), Prometheus (mus. Beethoven, 1913), and Games of Amor (mus. Mozart, 1913). After Guerra the company declined (although Polish choreographer Jan Cieplinski created some notable ballets) until 1937 when Ferenc Nádasi was engaged as ballet master. Under his regime standards rose sharply (among the dancers he trained were Melinda Ottrubay and Ernö Vashegyi) and he also established a school within the Opera. Equally important was the emergence of Gyula Harangozó as a choreographer. Scene in the Czárdas (mus. J. Hubay and J. Kenessey, 1936) was his first ballet on a national theme and he became internationally renowned for the ballets he created to music by Bartók, such as The Miraculous Mandarin. (See Harangozó) After the Second World War a new generation of dancers emerged such as N. Kovács and I. Rab, and in 1948 Charrat mounted Stravinsky's Jeu de cartes. In 1950 the Ballet State Choreographic Institute, now the Hungarian Dance Academy, was founded from the merger of the Opera school and a private school run by Nádasi and during the rest of the decade many Soviet ballet masters were brought into the company to teach the Russian repertory, including Messerer, Zakharov, Lavrovsky, and Chabukiani. At first native artists like Nádasi and Harangozó were pushed aside, but they were reinstated once their quality was acknowledged by the Soviet authorities. During the 1960s and 1970s a new generation of Hungarian choreographers emerged including Imre Eck and László Seregi. The latter created many works for the company during the 1970s, some like Spartacus in the Soviet mould, others like The Cedar Tree more distinctively individual. Antal Fodor also created works for the company, introducing neo-classical and modern influences into its style, and during the 1970s the repertory also opened up to include foreign works by, among others, Ashton, Béjart, Balanchine, and Ailey. Since the 1960s the 120-strong company has toured regularly in Europe. Seregi was artistic director from 1977, Gabor Keveházi from 1990, and Gyorgy Szakály from 1992 and Gyula Harangozó (jun.) from 1999 to 2005. Under their influence a new generation of Hungarian choreographers has emerged, such as Lilla Pártay who created Anna Karenina (mus. Tchaikovsky, 1991), and Péter László who choreographed Derby (mus. Gyorgy Vukán, 1989). Political changes during the early 1990s affected the funding of the ballet, which drove it to stage productions in cooperation with the Opera company and with private funds. But under the recent direction of Harangozó and Keveházi, who returned in 2005, the repertory has been widened with the acquisition of works by MacMillan, Cranko, Kylián, Balanchine, and Forsythe, and new creations including Pártay's Gone with the Wind (mus. Dvorak, 2007) and Keveházi's setting of Beethoven's 9th Symphony (created with Iván Markó, 2006). The company still takes most of its dancers from its associate Hungary Dance Academy.


Subjects: Dance.

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