Amazing people X.: Fanni Benyovszki

“And then the world stops…”- this is how Fanni Benyovszki, the founder of Sauté Ballet School in Kecskemét talks about dancing. She teaches ballet to little ones as well as to adults. Now she is done with The Nutcracker that took place in December and this year she is planning to direct Swan Lake. Fanni kindly let me accompany her to Friday’s ballet classes and I could take pictures as well that had been a wonderful experience I’m so grateful for. I’m also very thankful for letting me have great memories of ballet when I myself was a student of her.

Lady Fraise (LF): When did you start taking an interest in ballet?
Fanni Benyovszki (FB): I was in kindergarten when my grandmother told me that the sister of my father used to do ballet. That was the moment I started to wish I could do it myself too. In that time there was no chance to do it in the countryside and my mother was not supporting the idea either, so I only got to do it later, when I became 16 years old.

LF: For how long have you been taking ballet classes and how did you become a teacher yourself?
FB: As a matter of fact I’ve been learning how to dance for 17 years. I started with majorette that has been a huge part of my life for 8 years, then side by side I started doing ballroom dancing. And now, after a 7-year pause I will compete as a ballroom dancer again in March. I’m very very looking forward to that! Besides ballroom dancing it was obligatory to go through classical ballet training. Back than I hated is, because it was painful, and for a Latin dancer it was completely unenjoyable, and notably it was something obligatory. In my opinion, a dancer is training him- or herself all through his of her life. I’m attending the voluntary classes of the Hungarian Dance Academy, every week I’m taking private lessons and group lessons of various studios, so basically attend everything I have time for. In the summer I’m taking at least 6 weeks of intense curses abroad and in Hungary too. Wherever I travel with my family, I visit classes and we go to theatres to watch ballet with them. How did I become a ballet teacher? Well, I’ve been always teaching from the moment one of my classmates asked me to help her train after she saw my results at competitions. I was attending the Technological College and learned to become an engineer and persistent with that I acquired a qualification of a dance teacher, but I started working in my other profession, clothes industry in a wedding dress salon. After the birth of my daughter it became impossible to do this physically laden and time consuming job, so the part-time job of teaching dance became my main profession. The idea of a ballet school came to me on an average day at the play ground in the morning. Wherever I’ve been in my life everybody told me I must be a ballerina because of the way I moved, my posture and my figure – which I felt like a burden when I was a child. The mother’s of the playground’s kids suggested me to teach their daughters so I had to update my knowledge. I found an excellent ballet governess. She gave me all of her knowledge and she stands beside me today as a best friend and supports me in my every action. I’m very happy, because my school has the support and appreciation of great names and my students pull through at summer curses, performances and competitions as well.

LF: Now let’s talk about your dance school! When did you found it and what kind of groups you teach?
B: I founded my dance school in 2013, and at first I was only teaching kindergarten children, then the work I did touched more and more people’s soul. Right now my youngest students is 2 years old. I have a kindergarten group, the greatest emphasis is on nurturing with learning the basics promptly. It may seem like we don’t learn a lot of things but we learn those with perfect exactitude. The next class is called Pre Ballet, they already know the basics from 2 years of training and they are able to perform all of the spar exercises. Besides that we are working on center, but it’s all about the basics here as well. There are separate group for teenagers. It is a bit harder because they missed the early ballet upbringing, so it’s more difficult for them to remember all the combinations of the steps and the moves became accomplished harder. They need a lot of concentration to be successful. For me the thing next to my heart is to spend time with teenagers. We laugh a lot, we have conversations outside ballet classes and I can’t imagine my days without their chatter. They have three levels of training and I try to motivate them as well.  Getting to the next level is not attached to obligatory things, but if someone’s hard-working I’m supporting that person and giving her a chance to progress. For example I call guest teachers for her. Only those can get to the next level who truly deserve it and work for it by coming to the training, workshops, private lessons and the camps regularly, so all together want to develop and not just spend some time with a little ballet. I also teach adults, that is a completely different thing. It’s typical for some people to hide behind objections of being overweight or unskillful. They ask about their options than tell me ‘I”ll come back when I lost weight’. But those who actually come love the lessons very much. The mood makes people come in hours earlier to watch other group’s classes and relax with a couple of hot tea and enjoy being away from their everyday problems. The spirit of the room is unbelievable, a small world of wonder where everybody can find peace.

LF: How was it to bring The Nutcracker in 2016 and in 2017 to the stage?
FB: The chance came in 2016 for my team to dance a whole ballet. In advance I did 1 year of research and then the team learned the choreography in 6 months. We learned our own variations, not the original version by Marius Petipa, because the dancers are not qualified enough, and there are many young students and I want them to perform more and more on stage. The reviews of the first performance’s direction made me extremely proud. In 2017 53 people appeared on the stage. I was just watching the recording of that these days and it is unbelievable how much progress my students made. Of course in 2017 we learned more complicated variations and put more thought in the story as well compared to 2016 and the costume bay grew to double. On the whole I’m very satisfied because we were dancing before a full house and we were asked to do 2 performances in 2018 because of the huge interest in the tickets. We will fulfill this request, but currently we are preparing for the exam performance of the spring semester, where we will dance parts of Swan Lake. Everyone is very excited about this, they can’t wait for the cast. In advance they can apply for each role and then they participate on a casting, where we learn short parts and those have to be performed later solo to get the part. This system seems too strict for a dance school but I consider determination very important.

LF: What are your plans for the future?
FB: Besides progress of course, I would like to improve my class room. Each time someone comes in, the huge space and the beautiful frame impresses them. What I would like to have the most is the greatest quality of ballet floor. For this more students are needed. Fortunately this goal seems to come closer every year because more and more students are applying, currently I have almost 100 students, but it’s necessary to maintain such a huge room.

LF: What does dancing mean to you?
FB: Dancing always meant freedom and ease for me. You may be in a bad mood or have a headache, or you are agitated and tense, or have financial problems, but in a moment music starts, and then for a couple of seconds the world stops.
I was a very tatty teenager, there were troubles all the time at home, because I often skipped school and I was forbidden to go to dance classes ‘because of the importance of studying’. Then my mother was waiting for me at the door with a big slap and asked me: ’was it worth it?’. Of course it was!
Every time I had troubles in my life dancing helped me get through them. I remember that after my spine surgery I put the photos and medals of last weekend’s competition to give me strength to recover sooner. It also helped me in postpartum depression. I’m very grateful for the father of my daughter and his mother, because they locked me out of the house with my dancing equipment and forbade me to come back till I had a dancing lesson. It’s funny now to think about what the neighbours might have thought.
As a dancer every day is a new challenge. You are not competing with others but yourself. You try to acquire more and more knowledge and try to get to know your body perfectly and the possibilities it holds.

Sauté Ballet School

Fanni’s Instagram


New Year’s photography resolutions

When I was a teenager I was very fond of writing diaries. In the spirit of this I made New Year’s resolutions at the end of every single year. Of course I couldn’t achieve all of them and it made me sad and it felt like I was not successful that year at all. Time went by and I gave up this habit and started to despise who were proudly saying what they wanted to do at New Year’s parties . Although I’m still not making strict resolutions anymore I want to list all the things I want to do according to photography. The duration of these doesn’t matter and even if these are not going happen at all I will not be sad. Taking pictures become a part of my life and every second of it gives me great joy.

  1. I would like to read more books and newspapers about photography and make reviews and tips about them on this website. Just like this.
  2. If I’ve got time maybe even attend a short course.
  3. I would love to start doing portraits.I already have some great ideas and I asked the first person to model for me.
  4. Besides that I want to preserve events that occur in my family and in my town. Festivals, travelling, anything can come.
  5. I noticed that if I want to become a great photographer, I have to know as much about photo editing as photography itself. So, next would be to learn how to use Photoshop, not only Instagram filters.
  6. I would like to own a Polaroid camera. Not for special reasons, just for fun.
  7. And for the last thing, something completely far fetched. If I learned everything I could about photography and I had the money and a great purpose, I would love to buy a drone. They can make amazing pictures (and of course other records) from above. It would be a great way to remember holidays later.

My travelling year of 2017

2017 has been amazing! I’ve been to 6 countries (counting my own, Hungary as well). Pictures speak more easily than words, so without further ado, here are my journeis of the last year:

In my town, Szeged, I went to the Lavender Days, the Zoo and the Salvador Dalí exhibition:

I went to see Nandafalva hindu temple in Balástya:

I’ve been to Siófok (Lake Balaton) twice, for a one-day trip and for a long spa weekend. On the way I also saw Simontornya and Ozora Castles.

I went to Balatonfüred for a conference and took a boat trip to the other side of Lake Balaton to visit Tihany:

I saw Hungary’s second biggest town, Debrecen for the first time:

I took a one-day trip to the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Can’t wait to go back to the most beautiful natural sight I have ever seen.

6 days is not enough for Slovenia, but it is a great start. Maribor, Ptuj, Postojna, Predjama, Piran and Portoroz, it was nice to see all of you!

I faced my fear and took the very first plane ride of my life to Barcelona and saw my favourite architectural wonder, Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia:

And of course no year can pass by without me visiting as many Christmas fairs as I can. Here is Szeged…

… Budapest…

… Kecskemét…

… Bratislava…

… and Castle Hof in Austria:

I don’t know what 2018 holds for me, but I’m ready for all the new adventures to come!

New Year’s Eve in Hungary

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a great time last night and are ready to see what 2018 holds for you. Here is how we celebrate New Year’s in Hungary:

In the old days this has been the day of superstitions and predictions. Some of them still exists, but most of them are gone. For example we don’t make love forecasts anymore but the remaining habits are all in order to bring luck for the next year. The main symbols of luck are clovers, coins, pigs and chimney-sweeps.  These usually appear as decoration, small ornaments or toys. People usually go to house or organised parties this evening. There are some beliefs like you shouldn’t borrow money this day or at least you have to pay it back till midnight. And of course everyone sums up his or her year and makes resolutions for the next one.

Eating habits are also organised to bring luck. The only meat you can eat is pork, because this animal digs his nose in the ground so he can ‘dig out the luck from the ground’. Pigs are often cooked in whole this day or they are eaten as sausages. Stuffed cabbage is also a New Year’s dish, it is made of pork mixed with rice, onions and spices and they are coated in sour cabbage. You can not eat poultry because they ‘scratch out the luck from the soil’. Fish depends on where you live, because if you are living next to a river, it will bring you luck but if you don’t, then it will swim away with it. Leguminous plants such as beans or lentil symbolize money so they are highly recommended. Sometimes people put some dry ones in their wallets as well. Eating something sweet can make you next year sweet. And of course champagne to clink glasses with at midnight.

At midnight people listen to the Hungarian National Anthem and then wish each other a Happy New Year. The American habit of kissing your partner at midnight also starts to become popular. In bigger towns their are always huge fireworks as well.


Favourites of December 2017

We are getting very close to the end of this year. It is the time to think and remember. Let’s see what I was up to this month.

Book experience of the month:
I was finally able to read Dan Brown’s Origin and it was worth the wait! Most of the story takes place in Barcelona and it even has a Hungarian character. If you are interested in art, science or artificial intelligence, I truly recommend this book for you! There were 5 twists at the last pages and I couldn’t really put it down.
The other book I read this month was about my favourite Hungarian actress, a true legend, Mari Törőcsik. Written by director László Bérczes in an interview form, it was very interesting to read.

Audiobook experience of the month:
I continued with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling, but I’m not finished yet, because I wasn’t travelling by tram every day, I am at home since 21th December. So Harry, see you next year as well!

Movie experience of the month:
Fortunately I was able to watch a lot of movies this month, but I’m only gonna list the ones that are not Christmas related, because I made a blog post about them earlier (click here!).
First of all my family’s old time favourite, Much Ado About Nothing. The movie is only one year older than me and it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the main role of Benedetto. You can see other actor icons like Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves and Kate Beckinsale. I consider it the best Shakespeare adaptation ever.  ‘Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner;’ there’s a double meaning in that…” /Benedetto/ Hilarious!!
My other favourite movie this month has to be Tulip fever. It reminded me a lot of Girl with a pearl earring, because both of them takes place in the Netherlands, have a painter in the center of attention and gave me the same mood after watching them. Alicia Vikander continues to amaze me.
The Lost City of Z is based on the true story of Percival Fawcett, a Britisch explorer. After King Arthur and this movie, Charlie Hunnan made a good impression on me, I consider him a great actor. Fun fact: the new Spiderman, Tom Holland plays the role of his son.
Inspired by the book about Mari Törőcsik, I decided to watch her first movie, Merry-go-round from 1956. It was nominated for a Golden Palm and has been named one of the best Hungarian movies of all time.
I was very curious about Beguiled, Sofia Coppola’s new drama/thriller movie from 2017, but it wasn’t that exciting as it seemed in the trailer and the scenery was sometimes so dark it was hard to see the characters.

Cinema experience of the month:
I went to the cinema yesterday to see the new Star Wars movie. It was hard to be on the internet with no spoilers or opinions, but somehow I managed. The movie is 2,5 hours long, but time flies fast if you are having fun. I really liked the new creatures, especially the little half bird-half hamster cuties. It’s hard to believe that the last Star Wars movie was the very first role of Daisy Ridley, she is very talented. Since that she appeared in the new Orient Express movie that I unfortunately missed in the theatres. Kylo Ren’s character is also very interesting and it was lovely to see the darling Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, R2D2 and C3PO as well. I’m looking forward to the next movie, which is promised to come in 2019.
I also saw A Viszkis (I checked, there is no English title of the movie yet, it means someone who drinks whiskey). It is the movie of Nimród Antal and is about Attila Ambrus, a robber who became very famous in the 1990’s. It has been an awesome year of Hungarian movies (Sing, Kincsem, About body and soul, Budapest noir) and this is also a great one.

Series experience of the month:
The 5th season of Vikings started and it is as amazing as usual! I thought it would be wierd not to have Ragnar in the cast, but I still love this show. I’m very excited about Ivar, the Boneless’s character.

Travelling experience of the month:
I went to see Bratislava for the first time, you can read my thoughts about it here.

Photography experience of the month:
It has to be all the Christmas fairs that I’ve been to this year, and fortunately there was many of them.

Music experience of the month:
Besides Richard’s Clayderman‘s Christmas music, it was Camila Cabello’s earworm partysong, Havana. It always makes my legs move.

Food experience of the month:
!! And the minestrone soup I ate in my favourite restaurant for my birthday dinner. 

See you soon in the new year!


Bratislava Christmas Fair

Unfortunately we arrived to the last Christmas fair related post (sigh)… Now we have to wait another year for fun like this to come. But don’t let that spoil our mood, let’s see what the lovely Bratislava holds for us.

As far as I know, there are more markets in Bratislava, but I only saw the one at the Main Square (Hlavne Namestie). In the background you can see a Catholic church and a Christmas tree in front of it. The tree is decorated with glass ornaments and lights. The tents make a U-shaped form with a lot of food stands and in the middle there are lights in form of a taper. All of the vendor’s and food stands have a red roof. The vendor’s are selling toys, souvenirs, minerals and handmade things but this fair is mostly about the food!
Keep in mind that because of its location, this market gets crowded easily!

So let’s what to eat or drink in Bratislava?
– mulled wine (regular or special ones like honey, rose, strawberry or blueberry wine)
– fruit spirit
– Medovina (traditional Slovak alcohol with honey taste)
– punch
– salty pancakes (these are actually potato pancakes filled with cabbage, sausage or cottage cheese and chopped onions are put on top of them)
– sausage served with mustard and bread
– goulash (its not like the traditional goulash, but a meat stew)
– gypsy roast (roasted pork or chicken with a LOT of onions)
– Camembert cheese
– potato chips (sometimes on a stick and in a twisted form)
– strudel (filled with cottage cheese, sour cherry, walnut and poppy seed)
– sweet pancakes (of course, but they are in minority because of the popularity of their salty cousins; filled with Nutella or nuts)
– chimney cake
– gingerbread
– wafers
– glazed apples (look out for your teeth!)

Christmas has passed so other kind of topics will come next. Stay tuned and bon voyage!


Kecskemét Christmas Fair

Half way from Budapest to Szeged there is another county town called Kecskemét. It has a center that was built in secession style and this time of the year all of the streets are decorated with lights (even the trees and the lamps!). The most beautifully decorated building is the City Hall, which is next to the fair. The town’s Christmas tree is in front of it (also decorated only with lights) with a nativity play.
The speciality of its Christmas fair is the skating rink. It is a bit small but it serves perfectly its purpose, fun. Next to the rink there are many facilities for children. Merry-go-rounds, bumper cars and fishing for presents stands.
The vendors are selling toys, ornaments (many of them are handmade), food (like honey and jam) and clothes (for example hats from real sheepskin to keep your head extremely warm).

So what to eat or drink here?
– mulled wine (from red or white wine and specialities like sour cherry mulled wine and gingerbread flavouring)
– regular and fruit wine
– punch
– tea
– chimney cake (kürtőskalács)
– gingerbread
– sausage
– trotters and other kinds of roast meat
– roast joint
– cheese
– roundel filled with cheese/sour cream/pickles/ham

Go and see the beautiful winter lights of Kecskemét!