Dance for Magic of Life

Henriett Tunyogi, the beautiful, young ballerina, is a translucent figure. I am thinking not of her slender form or her facility as a dancer, but rather of her gracefulness and her baring of her inner self to the heavens, of how she seems to be imbued with light itself. And this gives her words such lucidity that our conversation became both a pleasure and an inspiration.


- I was always drawn to art, since the age of ten primarily to the dramatic arts and singing" - she begins, and I am delighted to note that she starts with her childhood, as it is perhaps here that the secret lies hidden.

- I never really even thought of dancing, but then one day my mother mentioned that auditions were being held at the State Ballet Institute and that I should try out. When I stepped into the room with its many mirrors I immediately knew that this was to be my life. When the music began to play and I had to dance, if perhaps at the beginning somewhat awkwardly and not knowing the dance steps, I was nevertheless transported to a different dimension. And ever since I've loved to dance, principally because I love to live out and give expression to the broadest spectrum of human emotions through dance and music. Of course this involves a great deal of physical work, four to six hours a day, sometimes as many as eight, work over the course of which I compose my body millimeter by millimeter so that it becomes plastic and harmonious. And sometimes on stage we are almost suffocating, we gasp for air, the shoes pinch our feet until they bleed, and the audience sees nothing of this, of how, when we come out, we are deathly pale and exhausted, and yet the challenge and trial of overcoming our physical limitations is gratifying. On stage we feel only the wonder of taking breathtaking leaps and slipping into skin of a character.

- What sort of an experience is that? The moment that you step out on stage does Henriett Tunyogi herself disappear?

- Yes and no. I disappear because it is not my life that I am dancing, but on the other hand I am very much present, because it is my personality that gives form to the role. If I watch a particular performance it's possible that I will leave following its close without having felt anything, and then perhaps when I see the same ballet performed again I may experience a catharsis, even though the music and the choreography are the same, I shed tears and am possessed by the most profound joy.

The difference lies in the fact that it is another artist dancing the role, one who possesses the magic. The question is what is important to that dancer, technique, the mechanical execution of the steps, or the experience of living out body and soul what she or he is doing. This is a gift, there are some who are born with it, but it cannot be learned.

- The expression is perhaps a bit bold, but still, knowing you I will risk it: how can one express transcendental experiences through the body, dance, and the arts? Is this the magic to which you refer?

- Yes. When we walk out on stage we do not yet know whether it will come together or not. Perhaps this is the enchantment for which one is capable of enduring countless sacrifices in life, much hard work and perseverance, so that when one finally stands there on stage and it comes together it is cathartic not only for the audience but also for the performer, the artist. At that moment I feel that I have accomplished something, that something took place that I did not hinder, something that enriched me. It is difficult to put into words if I try to describe it, this experience of fulfillment, which perhaps means something different to others, but I would say that it is this that I am seeking. This is what I yearn to experience, not only on stage but in all aspects of life. My life is dance, and when I create or perform I attain a mystical dimension that possesses a magical force the effects of which are capable of preserving the beauty of the human soul. In my life here in this world I have chosen the performing arts as my way of communicating with people. Fate has closed some doors on me and opened others I hadn't realized existed. As there is no sense pounding on a closed door, I summoned my courage and went through the open one. The path that awaited me there revealed the most important thing to me: every moment offers us the chance to redeem ourselves through our thoughts and our actions. When asked about my aspirations I usually reply that I actually do not have any particular desire to land more roles. I did at one time have such goals, but life has shown me that this is not the most important thing, what matters rather is to be inwardly free under any circumstances. This is my life goal: to attain this inner freedom. Dance is one means, marriage is another, as are friends, family, the situations in which we find ourselves, because it is through these that I have the opportunity to rise to the challenge. The question is how do we handle a situation, how do we react, can we be compassionate and why do we do the things we do. What I am drawn to the most, apart from art, is people themselves. They are a vivid mirror. When we meet people we see what they are like, how they think, what is important to them. We can see ourselves in them. In life every event is a means by which to put myself to the test, and every difficult moment is an opportunity for me to see how strong I am and how much I have grown spiritually. The biggest inspiration I get in life is from seeing that people are capable of overcoming their own limitations. The power of art and the power of love are the most important things in my life, and the two are closely intertwined. If we are brave and believe in the power of love we will see that there is a force present in everyone and everything, from the tiniest blade of grass to the universe itself. If we calm ourselves and listen to our hearts we will hear the inner voice and be able to set out in the right direction. It is our humanity and spiritual values that point out this direction to us.

- When did you realize that spiritual knowledge was among your most important yearnings? What was it that brought you to this realization, and what handholds did you then find?

- I must have been about eighteen years old when I became consciously aware that I was strongly drawn to spirituality. I had to acknowledge that there was something good in everything bad. I suffered bad back pain because of stress and emotional problems, and I came into contact with someone who asked me what I believed in. After reflecting for several minutes I replied that I believe in love. And at that moment I set off, I opened up and I started to read and seek out the people and the opportunities that would enable me to learn as much as possible about the spiritual world and the values important to me. When the body is sick or the spirit downcast this always indicates that the spirit, the soul and the body are not in harmony with one another, because when we are healthy and content there is peace within us. I have observed that we are drawn to the books and individuals from whom we can learn about and acquaint ourselves with true values. This is how I came to be involved in yoga as well. In London I go to several yoga masters and study and practice several forms of yoga, depending on what I happen to need. Accordingly, if I'm dancing eight hours a day I most certainly won't practice ashtanga yoga because that is strength yoga and it includes a great deal of exercises performed standing. Instead, I'll practice hatha or sivananda yoga, because that's what my system needs. The continuous search for balance is decisive. I have also practiced meditation ever since I was nineteen. I began meditating instinctively when I was fourteen, at first simply because I needed to gather calm before performances so that I wouldn't be nervous. Later I began to learn how to keep my thoughts from troubling me and create silence in my mind, to listen to the silence so that I could gain awareness of my own being, in which resides a powerful force, because one returns to a source with which one can easily rise to meet any challenge. In school we don't learn about many things we should study, such as knowledge of ourselves, for instance, for we often don't know why we do certain things or why we react to events in certain ways. Insight into this should be nurtured, beginning in nursery school. In later schooling we should preserve and strengthen in children the abilities and values with which they were born and draw out of them their hidden potential.

- Ballet, like yoga, moulds refined awareness of the body. How does this differ from what one gives shape to through yoga?

- The goal in yoga is to reach enlightenment, complete inner spiritual peace, while in dance we are telling stories. We give form to the ill-fated Juliet or Katherine, the infamous shrew, or we simply give expression to the music itself. Dance and ballet do not necessarily produce wholesome movement. Yoga and yoga breathing give harmony back to the body. As a ballerina, my life demands that I be attentive and strict about giving my body the necessary sources of energy. Healthy nourishment is indispensable, but in addition to that a stroll in nature, in fresh air is very important, as is getting adequate sleep. An occasional stress-relieving acupuncture treatment, massage, or Chinese herbal remedy can be life-saving, as it were, amidst the many performances and rehearsals. The task of daring to look ourselves in the eye and examine who we really are is equally necessary. If we begin to grow and then experience the joy of growth we will continue to seek out this joy. I read something very important recently in one of Swami Rama's books about non-attachment. When I attempted to adopt this in my own life I realized it would be a long process, because we are attached not only to other people, but also to bad habits, fixations, and character traits. We must separate ourselves from all this, we must not attach ourselves. If we practice this in certain situations in life we free tremendous energies, and we sense that everything is easy and simple, in spite of the fact that the world around us has gone mad and we are continuously compelled to resolve new dilemmas.

- Were you practicing this non-attachment when you decided, after spending many years as part of the Hungarian State Opera and the Leipzig Opera House, to work on individual productions with choreographers who wanted to stage performances with you? We have spoken a great deal about goals, but now I will use different phrasing. Fate held wonderful gifts in store for you, but what else would you ask of it, and do you have any sense of what lies before you?

- I am so open that I don't even think about this… I am very drawn to film, the vocation of the actor, especially since dancing alongside István Bubik and Kata Huszárik in the film by Sándor Hartung entitled Igézet (Enchantment). I hope very much to meet people of genius, as many as possible, writers, poets, painters, musicians, because this gives me inspiration. I long to teach in a school where I would be able to pass on the professional experience, knowledge and values I consider important. But I am thinking of a school that gives children the opportunity to retain as adults the child's openness and sincerity, because this could help change the world. There is need of a school in which children learn yoga and meditation, and where they are considered companions in the journey of life, where they are given direction and yet left to make their own decisions and learn from them. This is how I traveled my path. Life has given me much that was beautiful, but also many adversities. These two extremes were always present. After the most difficult trials there always came something that itself sufficed to make it worth having been born. This is my pattern of life: very difficult situations and wondrous splendors. And I believe it is this that lies in wait for me. The most important moment of course was when I met Tamás.

If only I could depict with words the joy that suffuses Henriett's face at this moment. Her first meeting with the world-renown pianist Tamás Vásáry, which was to change her life, and the marriage that soon followed were truly fateful experiences, examples of the great mysteries and lessons of life from which we too could learn.

- Wise people say that we are one soul or companions sharing a single vision. When we met it was such an overwhelming moment that we were unable to let each other go. We had not known each other previously. We were introduced to each other six years ago at the Music Academy, and time stood still. In that moment we were one, we didn't even speak, we were silent, and in that silence we told each other everything and greeted each other once again. "How good to see you again!" - this was how we both felt. Tamás says that love doesn't begin, it continues. Sometimes when we are alone we comment on how strange it is that it isn't strange that we knew each other without ever having spoken. Two days after the first time we met Tamás asked me to marry him and I said yes. Then I flew to Washington for a performance and when I returned we married without knowing anything of each other first-hand.

- How can you describe the challenges inherent in your union?

- There is a difference of forty-one years between us, which is thought of as considerable by society today. I often ponder why we chose this, and perhaps it was because it may send the message to people that you can be someone's true partner regardless of age. If by some miracle it were possible to change the fact that we are separated by an age difference of some forty years I wouldn't do it, because Tamás' wisdom and experience are an inexhaustible treasure trove for me. To live with a man of genius… Every day I am amazed by how much one man can know and grasp. To this day it is still a joy to hear him say, "how wonderful that you are here!" A day rarely passes when we don't note this about each other. Strange to say, perhaps, but it's true. And it is in part because of the difference in age that we live each moment more fully, as if we were both in our twenties. We both have countless obligations, we are called hither and thither all over the world, I regularly travel to various places, from Japan to Italy. I cannot consider any particular country or city home, because we live in three different places, but when we are together in the same city, even if only for a day, we always strive to set aside one or two hours to be alone with one another. And I'll let you in on it, we laugh all the time. If I were to name one thing that is constant in our lives, it is mirth.

"You are indeed blessed!" - I say almost involuntarily when we part. She is touched with joy unfeigned. And I wish as sincerely that she will continue to radiate this joy and share with us the blessing of her magic for a long time to come.

Zoltán Csörgő
Natural Healing,
January, 2007
Translated by Thomas Cooper