2023 05 16

Dear Janusz!

Thank you for the invitation to the festival. We had a great time (at least I can speak for myself). The organisation and the atmosphere were excellent. I thought I would write my impressions as an architect too.

The venue on Saturday (Forteca Kręgliccy, Warsaw) was excellent in many ways, it would be nice to have Mazurki there again.

  1. Close to downtown.
  2. It is in a park, in a nice location, and the music and vendors outside the walls are atmospheric. It's nice to be greeted by this when arriving. The sound is not disturbing either, you can play music outside. (In city buildings, you are often not even allowed to open the windows, you are left with unhealthy, uncomfortable and expensive mechanical ventilation.)
  3. The building is beautiful, especially because of the brickwork. The traditional building also suits the traditional music. The entrance bridge is also a worthy, accentuated entry point.
  4. The great hall is also beautiful and welcoming, with a circular shape and a yurt-like tent roof.
  5. The size of the large hall was just right for the number of guests; a larger number would compromise the friendliness of the event, it would become overcrowded, alienated and crowded. The size was also just right for the instrument makers' fair.
  6. The ratio of large halls to small rooms was just right for the size of the main and smaller dance occasions.
  7. It is a very good and fortunate design for this event that the small rooms open directly from the main hall with spacious passageways, without doors or corridors!
  8. The lighting was largely acceptable, especially compared to the overly bright glare of the Friday venue (modern community centre). It was good that there were eight "retro" halogen incandescent lamps (reflectors) on the stage, illuminating the whole hall with a nice and healthy light. In the corridor, the cold white LED (or fluorescent) lighting was too strong in some places, and the blue LED light in the hall was not physiologically and atmospherically lucky.
  9. The acoustics were quite good in both the large and small spaces, perhaps due to the brick walls. The sound system was generally of good volume and quality.
  10. The food was excellent.
  11. The toilets were cosy and cultured.

Of course, I don't know if there were enough organizer rooms, storage rooms, if the restaurant and kitchen were big enough, etc. The dance floor should obviously be wooden, and the small rooms had sloping, cracked concrete.
About the programme (what we saw of it, i.e. mainly the dancing part):

Well done for the dense rotation of many bands, avoiding a bigger than usual (one hour) delay. It was good and friendly that, despite the rather strict schedule, the audience could sometimes ask for an encore. (I didn't like the gypsy band so much, by the way, preferred more their costumes.) The scheduling of the (A:) completely traditional (string?) and which were innovated with the accordion (B) and the more modern (C, e.g. gypsy or sentimental) bands, was well balanced.

(It was a pleasant surprise to hear the Austrian orchestra perform a Transylvanian dance from Kalotaszeg on the main stage.)

The last music-making and dancing in the morning, which lasted until 8.30 a.m. outside the bridge, was a particularly excellent good atmosphere and a very good experience, thanks to, among others, trumpeter Kazik Nitkiewicz from Warsaw and his violinist partner, who laid down their instruments for the last time, and the Austrian musicians. It was good that the dance night ended gradually (after the large hall, there was a small hall, then outdoors), unlike the official way in Hungary when they chase the audience out of a cultural centre all at once. Here it was really the guests who counted.

Very friendly, sympathetic musicians and guests were present.

I wish you all the best:

Gergő (2023)





Dear Janusz!


Thank you for the renewed invitation to your festival in May 2024; we have been gladly coming to Warsaw for the fourth year in a row for the "Wszystkie Mazurki Świata / Mazurkas of the World" carnival.

Some thoughts on the event (we were only there from Friday night to Sunday morning):

Saturday was again a good day at a beautiful venue (20 April, Forteca Kręgliccy). It was a pity that the rainy weather prevented the guests and vendors from being outdoors. So the entrance was not the nice main gate and the fairground was a bit overcrowded. Trying out instruments is difficult with such a buzz. The outdoor part last year really raised the standard: the atmosphere, the air, the space, the lights, the sound effect is different there.

The event is a bit similar to the big annual national dance festival in Hungary (“Országos Táncháztalálkozó” organised since 1982), but:

  • One big difference, which is why I like it better, is that there are no stage concerts with a seated audience, just dancing. If the music for the dance (folk or otherwise) is really good and the audience is happy, it is inconceivable or strange to listen to music sitting down instead of dancing...
  • On the other hand, instead of a Hungarian flea market (where many villagers used to sell traditional costumes that were still really handmade), here there are instrument makers, which is also a sympathetic idea.
  • The size of the programme, the size of the hall, the number of the audience is good, even friendly, like a traditional big village wedding (400 people). The Hungarian “Táncháztalálkozó” has grown too big, already inhospitable, inhuman, very different from traditional community life; and in recent years it has been slowly fading away, with half empty halls.
  • Saturday's venue is welcoming, beautiful, unique. It's like a big yurt. Unfortunately, our dance hall meetings are held in rather ugly, industrial-looking sports halls, also because of their size. Besides, we don't have a very cozy, tasteful-looking building comparable to your venues, either in medium or giant size. (We may have had some nice castles; the provincial ones were blown up during the Austrian occupation, Buda Castle was destroyed from Turkish times until the world wars, and unfortunately it is not being rebuilt in the beautiful Renaissance style of King Matthias' heyday, which was our last independent period of our history, 500 years ago.)
  • The light is also better, less bright than most domestic dance venues. It was a particular delight that once again the beautiful yellowish-white "nostalgia" tungsten filament traditional spotlights were the main stage decoration, so that by switching off the other (LED, moving) lights we could conjure up lighting that was just right for us. (The fluorescent over-lit foyer of the Friday venue - Terminal Kultury Gocław - is a counter-example.)
  • The music is not as loud as in many places in Hungary, where you can't even talk. Interestingly enough, at the “Táncháztalálkozó” - at least when I used to go - the sound quality was always poor, perhaps the professionals did not understand folk music.

The organisers of the “Mazurki” treat the invited musicians to a good meal and a continuous buffet. Many events, on the other hand, are characterised by multinational sugary drinks and 'modern urban' food, which is particularly unsavoury at a traditional or national event. Unfortunately, the venue's dressing-room and instrument storage space was limited.

A nice, amusing extra to this night was the roof that thankfully only leaked/dripped at the stage. The spontaneously provided umbrellas over the musicians in a good colour scheme, the volunteer girls holding them and the character of the whole happening made it a nice touch to the festival.

As you can see in the short film I put together from my own short footage, I liked the line-up of the bands. Among the traditionalists, many of them were playing really old-fashioned instruments. For example, violin, drums; definitely without accordion, which is important for the natural temperament of the sound.

It is equally important for us (the ensemble “Szépszerével”) that you emphasized the older Polish dances, predominantly, like mazurka, oberek. On the other hand the big marching, leading, playful, partnered dances make the event more fun and communal. In the dance house movement here, after years or, for example, a week-long summer dance camp, after a while many people start listening to modern music or incorporating modern elements into the dance. Too much for them, bored with tradition, maybe not really feeling it, loving it, or just simply being urban children of today times. (They also grumbled about the healthy delicious traditional food made locally, preferring to buy fast food American drinks, snacks and sweets from the buffets. Today this is less of a problem, as modern bureaucracy has banned simple traditional village, wedding cuisine for legal, health and tax reasons.)

Of course, we only get to see the festival because the Hungarian Csángó dances we play are happily "tolerated" in the Polish dance hall, either as a kind of coloring, or as the Hungarian roots of the Polish "táncház" movement, or as a special community circle dance opportunity. The ratio is good, very much Polish tradition, very little other dance.

Coming back to size, in life we follow the theory of "Small is Beautiful" (Ernst F. Schumacher). In this respect, too, the venues around the main hall are particularly atmospheric, with spills and nooks where programmed and, better still, spontaneous music and dance parties are organised, with 5-6 bands at a time giving dancers the opportunity to choose the music they want. The particular advantage of small venues is that there is obviously no sound system and the musicians are in close contact with the dancers and singers. This changes the quality of the delivery of the music, beyond the question of human communion and connection (I have parts of this in my film set.) The direct connection, the permeability between the halls without doors and corridors is good - fortunately the sounds do not interfere too much.

These spontaneous, ad hoc gatherings, music-making, the formation of a community of friends and strangers is great for the guests and the musicians and dancers who join in. In this context, this festival, because of its long history, its partly permanent audience and its small size, still manages to develop a somewhat family-like community and atmosphere, which is a great value, especially in today's alienating world dominated by TV and the Internet.

For this reason, it is important that even the main stage is not too high, the musicians are still close enough to the dance floor to maintain contact. In Hungary, at larger events, the musicians are pushed far away from the dancers from a higher stage, behind the monitor (wedge, foldback) speakers. And even from each other. Peasant bands sat (stood) as close as possible to each other, centimetres apart. This makes it quite different to play music together from metres away. Sometimes, in the fashion of popular music festivals, there are corsets and beaters between the musicians and the dancers, and sitting on the stage, or even dancing on the stage, is now completely forbidden.

It's a good thing that there are still old and elderly musicians among the invited guests, as part of the family spirit and the preservation of tradition. Anything that has an old memory or value can be used. That is why the Hungarian meeting used to have Transylvanian women dressed in folk costumes, both as dancers and as vendors. That's why it's a good idea, if the production of old instruments is booming in Poland, to have them at the festival.

We move on from the old musicians to the young peoples. How good it is to have several generations together and to have so many young people. Traditionally at the balls, everyone was there from the children on down, even the old people had a good time dancing or watching the young people. In Hungary, the audience at dance halls has been ageing since the 2000s, and the 15-25 year olds who used to be typical are now hardly present. It is interesting and good that basically all girls wore skirts (and not short ones), while in Hungary half of the ladies now wear trousers to dance houses. (Hardly ever in school, on the street.)

It is also striking that the average dancing skills are good, and there are many exceptionally skilful dancers. In our country, the presence of clumsy beginners who disrupt the dancing of others has become typical over the last twenty years. As far as we know, dance and dance etiquette teaching also helps this at “Mazurki”. For this reason or otherwise, no inappropriate behaviour has been observed.

Thank you to the organizers for years, now technically too, for allowing us to make music among the dancers, not on stage. We were happy to be the closing band of the event at dawn, partly due to the stage being torn down and the dwindling audience, in the way we like it, without sound amplification.


I wish you all the best:


(Gergely Sámsondi from Hungary, Szépszerével Band)