Established in 1967
In Perth, WA
Keszkenő Hungarian Folk Dance group has been celebrating the folk culture of Hungary through music, singing and dance since 1967.
Based in Perth, Western Australia, the group has been a part of many multicultural festivals and events within the Perth area, the surrounding country towns and at numerous interstate venues.
Keszkenő is a community based amateur Hungarian Folk Dance ensemble who maintains their heritage through entertaining performances and social dance classes. It functions as a not-for-profit, incorporated body which aims at upholding and promoting Hungarian folk dance culture in Australia, by Australians with and without Hungarian ethnic origins.
The group endeavours to learn and display a true authentic representation from many Hungarian and Transylvanian villages. A focus on traditional folk costumes, music and dance styles, unique to each different village and region, enables Keszkenő to celebrate this truely rich culture.
Keszkenő was founded in 1967 by Mrs Barbara Atkinson (Csökönyi Borbala) who was fondly known as Borka to those around her. The dance teaching of the group also began with Borka initially who at that time taught from books.
Born in Hungary, Borka migrated to Australia after 1956 and was inspired to show the beauty of the Hungarian culture to Australians, especially to those born here of Hungarian parents. She was a very talented dress designer and throughout her 25 years as artistic director, Borka continually amazed dancers and audiences with her beautiful costumes. She always wanted the members of Keszkenő to wear her Hungarian costumes proudly; with honour and in respect of the beautiful culture of the Hungarian heritage.
The group began as an all-girls ensemble in its first year. Borka’s strict dance instructions ensured polished stage performances. In 1968 young men also became part of the performing dance group and some local male teachers helped instruct and choreograph.
There have been numerous teachers of Keszkenő since its inception. The longest standing teacher of the senior group was Marika Schaffer (1973-2010). She was also the main co-ordinator of all the teachers within the group during this time and the main female dance teacher. Over the years there were males who assisted her in teaching and choreographies. The long serving male teachers within Keszkenő at various stages in history were Tibor Annus (1968-1988), Zoltan Kovacs (1986-1996), Frigyes Schaffer (1998-2004) and Peter Sackett (1994-present). Other notable teachers who have had an impressionable effect on stage presentations and choreographies would be Palfi Csaba (4 visits from 1969-1979), Vasarhelyi Laci ba (1987), Jozsef Trefelli (1993-1994) and Antal Stopic (talalkozo teacher 2003 and several visits to Perth as dancer and musician). These aforementioned teachers have contributed markedly to the training and knowledge of Keszkenő dancers.
Since the first Australian Hungarian “Talalkozó” convention in 1969, Keszkenő has regularly attended seminars in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane & Canberra, developing strong collegial bonds with other dance groups from around Australia. In 2009, Keszkenő organized a large-scale camp in Perth with 5 Hungarian musicians from TÉKA and 4 dance teachers conducting music and dance seminars to participants from WA as well as the Eastern states. There have been a number of dancers who have spent time abroad in Hungary, sourcing material for the benefit of the group. In 2011, a group of 40 dancers and supporters toured Hungary, Transylvania and Southern Slovakia for an enriching experience of music, dance and culture.
The majority of Keszkenő’s costumes were made locally by the group’s founder, Borka Atkinson. Since her passing in 1993 new costumes have been difficult to obtain. Some have been bought in Hungary and on occasions local seamstresses have successfully replicated historical dress styles from examples, pictures and through verbal description.
The huge task of maintaining the Hungarian costumes has been carried out by Ingrid Vajda. She has volunteered in this position since 1980. The countless hours of washing, ironing, mending and adjusting these magnificent costumes (some of which are over 45 years old) is greatly appreciated by everyone in the Hungarian community and especially by the members of Keskeno.
Keszkenő’s first junior group was formed by Anna Varga (nee Alacs). Anna was a founding member, performing with the seniors while teaching and sewing for juniors & intermediates from 1973-1982. Junior teaching was taken over by Angelet Magyar (now Krikstolaitis) for 5 years and Emoke Korpas, a professional dancer from Hungary, who assisted with juniors and seniors in the mid 80s (1982-1987). After 1985 the juniors and intermediates groups folded. Borka’s last request before passing (1993) was to restarted the juniors. Marika resurrected the juniors in 1994 and continued to facilitate their tuition until 2011. With assistance from Sandra Sideris (juniors and intermediates 1994-2003), Revy Laszlo (1994-2009), Eva Dobozy (1996-2003) and Angelet Krikstolaitis again (2004-2010) the juniors have continued to flourish. In 2010, Lenke Winter, a dancer previously with Kengugro (Sydney), relocated to Perth and took on the task of teaching juniors and intermediates.
Keszkenő has always continued be a performing group as per its founder’s ideals and constitutional aims. However by 1994, the Táncház era of social Hungarian dancing, which was well established in Hungary and Australia, also became part of our teaching schedule. In 2004 our senior instructor, Peter Sackett, spent 12 months in Hungary. His return saw the introduction of many new dance styles and choreographies to Keszkenő. While abroad Peter purchased an authentic folk double base (nagy bögő) and upon his return formed a Hungarian folk music ensemble in Perth.
This became the catalyst for táncház to really grow amongst the young dancers in Perth. With Peter’s infectious dance style, teaching skills and regular joint Táncház events combining the Transylvaniacs (Sydney) and Hot Paprika (Perth) musicians, the landscape for Keszkenő had certainly evolved.