by Diana Lynch and Flóra Carlile-Kovács
The Forgatós Dance Group was invited down to Albany, LA by Csilla Fogarasi to perform at the community’s Hungarian Heritage Festival; they were starting up again after a long break. Albany – also called Árpádhon by the founders – was settled by Hungarian immigrants who moved there from Ohio and Michigan between 1896 and 1920 to work for the wood processing mills. By 1920, there were about two hundred families on farms in the area, forming the largest rural Hungarian community in the USA. In fact, the parents of one of our dancers, Andras Zaborski, had met there! It’s a small world indeed!
In the mid 20th century the community became famous for their farming; their strawberries and produce were sought after from afar. During their hundred-year-old history, English language became their first language, but community members are still extremely proud of their Hungarian heritage, culture, and work ethic, and we were honored to be part of its celebrations.
We did two performances on Saturday which consisted of the Mezofoldi, Szeki cycle, Moldva and two solos, Flora and Chris Carlile-Kovacs performed Kaloteszegi dances, and Peter and Diana Lynch performed dances from Bonchida. We also did a special Mezőföldi performance in recognition of the community’s elder members. Forgatós received such warm welcome and generous hospitality that we can usually experience only among Hungarian communities in Transylvania. They were excited to see the dances and were enthusiastic to meet and get to know us better. They even wanted to get pictures with us. We all felt right at home. There was also a live band of men who were not Hungarian but had discovered Hungarian folk music and were enthusiastically learning it.
On Sunday, we did a whirlwind tour of the New Orleans French Quarter, led by Csilla. She took us through the highlights of the Quarter. We were treated to a wonderful mix of beautiful architecture, music, food, and historical sites, courtesy of her. We sure got our workout on that day! On Monday, we had a quieter time in City Park where we strolled through the Sculpture Park along with other parts of the park before doing a mad dash back to the airport to fly home. All in all, it was an amazing adventure for all of us.