The State Ballet Institute, which opened in September 1950, became the Hungarian Dance Academy on 1st July 1991 and has been called the Hungarian Dance University since 1st February 2017. The institution was reorganised as part of higher education in 1983 and has operated a primary school (later a secondary school for eight grades) right from its establishment. As the school has had a dormitory, too, we could introduce a unique model in Hungarian arts higher education. Qualifications to be obtained were constantly rising to a higher level: from 1950, the institution functioned as a school of an intermediate level, from 1975 as one similar to those in higher education, from 1983 with a narrower profile in higher education, from 2006 as an academy of higher education with BA and MA programmes and finally, from 2017 as a university running BA and MA programmes.
The roots of arts higher education in Hungary can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century. Independent institutions for training actors, musicians, and artists in fine and applied arts were firmly established by the turn of the century. Their successors are the University of Theatrical and Film Arts, the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, the Hungarian University of Fine Arts and the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. With regard to dance art, this process of development started only after a long delay, after the 2nd world war.
There was no systematic school-based dance artist training in Hungary until the middle of the 20th century. To educate future dancers for the Corps de Ballet, the Hungarian Royal Opera House maintained a ballet school from as early as 1884, but it had no fixed curriculum. It was ballet master Ferenc Nádasi who, in 1937, introduced a training programme split for different grades and a system of requirements. In January 1950, the government supplemented the ballet school of the Opera House with the School of Dance Art. When in September 1950, the two institutions merged, the State Ballet Institute was born.
Transformation of the training structure
For the nine-year-long ballet artist programme students, a primary school with an artist training specialisation of the intermediate level was launched, accompanied by a dormitory. The artist-training branch was reorganised into a secondary grammar school in 1954, named after Ferenc Nádasi (still functioning under that name). The so-called ‘artist training section’ with a two-year programme was started in the academic year of 1963/64. This provided an advanced theoretical backing for students who had already finished secondary school. This model laid the foundation for the concept of becoming a school of higher education. September 1971 saw the initiation of the specialisation in folk dances of intermediate level. From 1956 until 1963, a project for training ballet teachers for three years was running, re-started in September 1974 as a dance coach specialisation in a three-year evening course.
Keeping the original name of State Ballet Institute, the school became part of higher education on 1st September 1983. Existing ballet artist- and dance coach specialisations were re-organised, complemented by different programmes for choreographers and experts in dance theory. Re-organization primarily affected the nine-year ballet specialisation due to the problem of parallel ages.
The results are unequalled up to our times. In the ballet artist specialisation, the first two years of academic training overlap with the last two grades of secondary education, enabling students to obtain a degree within one year after leaving secondary school. The same method was applied for the folk dances-theatrical dances specialisations, raised to the academic level in 1998: out of the six years of training, the last four counted as higher education. Following the intention to mark this higher education status and concerning the broad spectrum of training programmes, the name of State Ballet Institute was replaced by Hungarian Dance Academy on 1st July 1990.
As a result of a nationwide boom in arts education at the primary level, training programmes were started annually from 1996. Besides ballet, folk dances and ballroom dances, specialisations in children’s dance, modern dance, modern ballroom dance and commercial dance were added to the palette. In cooperation with others or as venues of off-site training, several institutions or towns joined in as partners, including the Budapest Primary School Teacher Training College, the Hungarian University of Sport Science and the towns of Győr, Kecskemét, Nyíregyháza, Pécs, Sárospatak, Szombathely. All artist and dance coach specialisations introduced the course credits.
The so-called Bologna process targeted the adaptation to the structure of higher education in Europe (BA, MA and PhD programmes) and has reached the Hungarian Dance Academy as well. In artist training, the ballet and folk dance-theatrical dance artist specialisations were replaced by a 180 credited dance artist BA. The classical ballet begins at the age of 10, folk dance and modern dance at 14 and theatrical dance after passing the secondary school final examinations. (The first modern dance specialisation started in 2007, theatrical dance in 2018).
Besides restructuring these original specialisations into BA programmes, 120 credited, four-term dance artist MAs were also introduced: for classical ballet and folk dance artists. This way, new scopes opened for students to obtain qualifications matching former university degrees. The earlier choreographer specialisation was turned into a three-year BA in choreography.
However, introducing the Bologna system into teacher training has brought about much more significant changes in our institution, as an independent teacher training MA meant entirely new conditions. The earlier teacher training programme was split into a dance and coach BA and a separate MA, resulting in a five-year course instead of the previous four-year one. At present, the 180 credited, three-year-long, full time or evening course dance and coach training is available in the following specialisations: classical ballet, folk dance, modern dance, theatrical dance, modern ballroom dance and commercial dance. There is also a 60 credited (two-term) dance teacher specialisation based on the 120 credited (four-term) BA or the degrees obtained in the previous Dance Academy structure. Specialising options are classical ballet, folk dance, modern dance, modern ballroom dance, dance history and dance theory.
In 2016 at the government’s initiative, presented to the Parliament, a proposal was made to transform the Hungarian Dance Academy into a university. This change was justifiable, all the more so since MA programmes matching the former university standards had already been running for roughly ten years. Parliament has finally decided that since 1st February 2017, the Hungarian Dance Academy continued as the Hungarian Dance University.
The location of the institution
The headquarters of the institution and Ferenc Nádasi Secondary Grammar School had been the Dreschler Palace (in the 6th district of Budapest at Andrássy Road, No. 25.) for long decades. After periods of dispersed venues, new ballet rooms were built in the 7th district in Kazinczy Street, adding three more new ballet rooms to the original five there in 1987. The project of establishing our present campus started in 2001. Then, the secondary school and the administrative units moved into Columbus Street No. 87-89 in the 14th district. The brand new 12 ballet rooms gave home to the Institute of Dance Artist Training the following year. With this, the venue in Andrássy Road ceased. In the autumn of 2004, the dormitory (until 1990 at Gellért rakpart and then in Pillangó Street) also moved to the campus. The university got hold of the summer villa on its premises the same year. Reconstruction work for the library and health centre was finished in 201 1 there. In the same year, the reconstruction and extension of the theatre building also came to an end. As the last step, educational sections from Kazinczy Street moved to the Institute of Choreography and Dance Teacher Training, which was rebuilt for them on the campus in 2018 (Amerikai Street, No. 96.).
Domestic and international relations
The Hungarian Dance University has diverse domestic and international relations alike. There is practical cooperation with the theatres of the capital, domestic professional ensembles, the dance departments of various theatres, and several modern and contemporary ensembles. Secondary schools of dance art partner with us from many towns all over the country. The University is a member of the Seat of Rectors of Art Universities (MERSZ) and the Association of Hungarian Dance Artists.
Our university has accepted foreigners for long decades. We keep in touch with several dance artist institutions worldwide; the most intense ties are with the academies in Vienna, Dresden, Moscow, Oulu, Beijing, Rotterdam, Saint Petersburg and Zagreb.
Our ballet masters teach ballet methodology regularly at universities abroad (Zagreb, Maribor), and many guest lecturers and masters visit us from other countries. Our students are warmly welcome and perform with convincing results at major international ballet competitions and festivals (Vienna, Lausanne, Lecce, Beijing, Saint Petersburg, Varna).
Each year we have large numbers of foreign students, primarily in the classical ballet specialisation and also in the Institute of Choreography and Dance Teacher Training. Their education can take various forms meeting their needs and qualities, ranging from a certificate of attendance to degrees of BA or MA.
The annual summer course organised since 1986 meets the requirements and is most popular with international students, but many of our own students also take part in it. Thinking about the future, a unique programme of dance afternoons for the lower classes of primary schools was compiled in 2016.
The names and leaders of the institution throughout times
State Ballet Institute (1950. August 15. – 1990. June 30.)
Hungarian Dance Academy (1990. July 1. – 2017. January 31.)
Hungarian Dance University (since 2017. February 1.)
Lőrinc, György director 1950. August 15. – 1961. June 30.
Hidas, Hedvig director 1961. July 1. – 1972. June 30.
Kun, Zsuzsa director 1972. July 1. – 1979. June 30.
Dózsa, Imre director 1979. August 15. – 1983. August 31. director-general 1983. June 30.
Palovecz, János director-July 1. – 1992. June 30.
Gál, Jenő director-general 1992. July 1. – 1998. June 30.
Dózsa, Imre director-general 1998. July 1. – 2006. February 28.
rector 2006. March 1. – 2006. June 30.
Nagy, Zoltán Jnr. Rector 2006. July 1. – 2008. March 23. (†)
Bolvári-Takács, Gábor vice-rector with the rector’s authority 2008. March 23. – 2009. May 15.
Jakab-Zórándi, Mária May 15. – 2010. November 7. (†)
Szakály, György vice-rector with the rector’s authority 2010. November 7. – 2011. June 30. rector 2011. July 1. – 2018. August 15.
Bolvári-Takács, Gábor rector 2018. August 16. – 2023. August 15.
Biographies of leaders
Bolvári-Takács, Gábor (Sárospatak, 1967. March 15.) Dr. habil., PhD, historian, jurist, cultural manager. From 1993 expert-executive of the Hungarian Dance Academy, from 1998 senior research fellow, from 2007 academy-professor, from 2015 professor. Between 1993–98 secretary-general, between 2007–09 and 2017–18 vice-rector, in 2008–09 with the rector’s authority. Since 2018 rector, assigned until 2023. Parallelly: in 2000–08, managing director of Matáv (later Magyar Telekom) Symphonic Orchestra, between 2012–17, managing director of Honvéd Ensemble.
Dózsa, Imre (Budapest, 1941. November 9.) Dance artist, ballet master, Kossuth-Awarded Eminent Artist. Graduated from the State Opera House in György Lőrinc’s class. From 1959 member of the Opera House, soloist, eternal member and master artist. Between 1983-and 84, director of ballet. From 1979 ballet master of the State Opera House and at the same time academy-professor, later head of a department at the Hungarian Dance Academy.
From 2007 onwards: professor, professor emeritus at present. Director 1979–83, director-general 1983–91 and 1998–2006, rector in 2006. Honoured with the title of rector emeritus in 2018
Gál, Jenő (Budapest, 1938. May 3. – Budapest, 2015. June 1.) Dance artist, ballet master, Harangozó-Awarded. Graduated from the State Opera House in Ferenc Nádasi’s class. Member of the Opera 1957–85. From 1966, ballet master of the State Opera House and at the same time of the Hungarian Dance Academy, later head of a department. Academy-professor from 1983, later professor emeritus. Director-general 1992–98, deputy director-general 2002–05.
Hidas, Hedvig (Budapest, 1915. December 6. – Budapest, 2011. January 17.)
Dance artist, ballet master, choreographer, Merited Artist. Studied at the Ballet School of the Opera House. Member of the Opera House 1932–39, honorary soloist. Ballet master of the Dance Art School in 1950, at the State Ballet Institute 1950–80, academy-professor from 1969, director 1961–72. Head of the Corps de Ballet at the Operetta Theatre, Budapest 1959-73.
Jakab-Zórándi, Mária (Budapest, 1956. September 12. – Budapest, 2010. November 7.) DLA, folk dance artist, dance teacher, ballet master, Harangozó-Awarded. Graduated from the class of Katalin Györgyfalvay and Sándor Timár. Member of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble 1975–82, soloist of the Budapest Dance Ensemble 1982–84. Teacher of the State Ballet Institute and the Hungarian Dance Academy from 1975, later head of department. From 2000 academy-professor, from 2008 professor and rector 2009–10 until her death.
Kun, Zsuzsa (Budapest, 1934. December 9. – Budapest, 2018. December 24.)
Dance artist, ballet master, Kossuth-Awarded Eminent Artist. Studied at the ballet school of the Opera House as a disciple of Ferenc Nádasi. From 1943 student, from 1949 member of the Opera House. Soloist from 1952, eternal member and master artist. Academy-professor from 1972 at the State Ballet Institute and the Hungarian Dance Academy, ballet master and professor emerita, director 1972–79. She was honoured with the title of rector emeritus in 2018.
Lőrinc, György (Nagyvárad/Oradea, 1917. March 17. – Budapest, 1996. July 21.) dance artist, ballet master, choreographer. Founding director of the Dance Art School in 1950 and in the State Ballet Institute 1950–61. Ballet master there 1950–82, academy-professor since 1975. Ballet director of the Opera House 1961–77.
Nagy, Zoltán, Jnr. (Budapest, 1966. February 18. – Budapest, 2008. March 23.) Dance artist, ballet master, Kossuth-Awarded Eminent Artist. Graduated from the State Ballet Institute in the class of Katalin Sebestény. Member, soloist of the Opera House from 1985. Ballet master of the Hungarian Dance Academy from 2005 and academy-professor from 2006 until his death in 2008.
Palovecz, János (Nagykáta, 1939. August 20.) Teacher, higher education expert, chief librarian of the National Pedagogical Library and Museum, editor. Head of a research group, scientific secretary, deputy director at the Centre of Pedagogical Research in Higher Education (later the Institute of Education Research). Department head at the Ministry of Culture 1981–88. Teacher of the State Ballet Institute and the Hungarian Dance Academy 1988–96, director of institute, deputy director-general 1988–91, director-general 1991–92. At the same time, associate professor at the Academy of Theatrical and Film Arts from 1988 to 96.
Szakály, György (Nyíregyháza, 1955. December 15.) Dance artist, ballet master, Kossuth-Awarded Eminent Artist. Graduated from the State Ballet Institute in the class of Jenő Gál. Member and soloist of the Opera House since 1977, ballet director 1992–95, eternal member and master artist. Ballet master at the same time at the Hungarian Dance Academy 1993–95 and from 2003, later head of institute there, professor since 2008. Vice-rector (artistic director) 2008–11 and since 2018; exerciser of rector’s authorities in 2010–11, rector 2011–18.