When documentarian Glória Halász started filming the Hungarian Dance Academy, she was most interested in the young male ballet dancers. “It’s not a typical profession among boys,” she acknowledged during the North American premiere of her film Három Tánc (“Three Dances” in English) at Film at Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera Festival 2019. The movie follows three boys ranging in age from 10 to 18 as they train for the upper echelons of European ballet. The youngest wakes up at 6:15 each morning to practice; he cries when he receives a B on his first-year exam. The two teenagers crunch their abs in endless sets of sit-ups and side planks. One admits he spent 18 months on painkillers, while the other confesses that he didn’t have much of a childhood.
The austere mood of Three Dances couldn’t be more different from the playfulness of Hungary’s Liget Dance Ensemble, a youth folklore group that performed at A.R.T./New York Theatres shortly after Three Dances played at Lincoln Center. Members of the ensemble presented a series of Hungarian folk dances, then put on the musical Hungarian Nights, which incorporates centuries-old Romani music and uses a Roma camp as its backdrop. The show offers a different view into Central European culture, one where white and nonwhite Europeans co-mingle and “common folk” influence culture more than the elite.