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Tancujúce medvede

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  477 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Witold Szabłowski hovorí, že sme ako tancujúce medvede. Nie, nie je to žiadna nová „darwinovská“ teória. Akt oslobodenia cvičeného medveďa je jeho metaforou vývoja spoločnosti v strednej a južnej Európe po páde komunistických režimov. V tejto knižke stačí zameniť slovo „medveď“ za iné, napríklad Poliak, Slovák, Srb alebo Rumun, aby sme pochopili, aká bola naša cesta za slo ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published 2017 by Absynt (first published May 8th 2014)
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Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This volume is an extended contrast - the liberation of dancing bears and their repatriation to the Belitsa Dancing Bears Park in southwest Bulgaria, and the wandering outcomes of those who lived in post-Soviet countries.

Szabłowski, a Polish journalist, hit upon the idea after hearing a Bulgarian colleague describe it as a "freedom research lab". He then began to think on freedom, in the small-l liberal sense of freedom, what it promises, how it liberates, how it could overwhelm those unaccusto
Kristy K
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, arc, history, netgalley
3.5 Stars

This was such an interesting story about a slice of recent history I feel few know about. Szablowski tells stories related to the dancing bears in the first part and former citizen’s opinions of the fall of the USSR in the second.

Dancing bears were a part of Bulgarian gypsy customs for a while, when the Soviet Union collapsed this cultural performance was no longer acceptable.

Their handlers would de-teeth these bears, get them addicted to alcohol, and many times abuse them. Sadly, thi
In Dancing Bears, Szabłowski investigates the Romani dancing bears - kept and trained for centuries to perform and serve as the livelihood for the traveling peoples. When Bulgaria joined the European Union this practice of bear-keeping became illegal, and the bears were gathered up and placed in a reserve where they were allowed to live their days "as bears", even though they didn't know how. They were taught to hunt, to eat by themselves, to hibernate, and to live in this new way. Some made it, ...more
Text Publishing

‘A compelling and nuanced portrait of the push between the freedoms of modernity and nostalgia for the old communist system…[Szablowski ] displays the qualities of a top-notch reporter: an eye for telling detail and inherent sympathy for his subject.’

Otago Daily Times

‘Utterly original…Provokes a far-reaching and unresolved conversation about what freedom might really mean.’
New York Times Book Review

‘Szablowski has a keen eye for the absurd.’
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Begrensde vrijheid en grenzen met vrijheid

Bulgaarse zigeuners trokken in de communistische tijd rond met dansende beren als act. In het journalistieke reisverslag Dansende beren vertelt Witold Szablowski hoe deze beren hun vrijheid kregen, maar ook hoe zij een metafoor zijn voor hun bazen.

De auteur zelf is geboren in Polen ten tijde van de Sovjet-Unie. Hij heeft meegemaakt hoe in 1989 voor het eerst sinds de Russische overheersing vrije verkiezingen gehouden werden en democratie zijn intrede de
Dancing Bears is a massively interesting book on the rehabilitating of former "dancing" bears of Eastern Europe and its strange parallels to life in various countries after the collapse of Communism.

Dancing Bears is a perfect combination in nonfiction of accessible, entertaining and unflinchingly honest. I'm not well-versed on politics, truthfully, but I find the history and culture of these countries fascinating, especially since they are all firsthand interviews from the people who were there.
Robert Wechsler
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is really two books. The first is about dancing bears, more specifically Bulgarian Romani dancing bears, which were outlawed ten years ago, when Bulgaria joined the European Union. It is an amazingly well-chosen series of monologues from Romani, those trying to save the bears, and others. I was lucky enough to see one of these bears 35 years ago in a visit to the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. It was such a part of the resort town that it took me a while to realize the bear was standing in th ...more
Jessica T.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, nonfiction
Holy dancing bears... This book was excellent. The first part of the book gives the reader a concise history of the dancing bears of Europe and it ends with the conservation effort of these bears. The second part discusses how citizens of post communist countries are finding difficulties adjusting to freedom/capitalism. It shows the parallels between the bears and the people and helps explain why freedom is so difficult. This was an eye opener for me and written in a language anyone can understa ...more
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

This book is in two halves, the first of which tells of the last few Bulgarian Roma families to own dancing bears. Szablowski spent time talking with these families about how they kept and trained their bears, how they were fed and cared for. He also spoke with the Austrain Four Paws charity which was committed to rescuing the bears and now provides them with a safe home and the illusion of freedom. Having been captives for practically all th
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really good book. To start with, you accept the metaphor that an Eastern European removed from the shackles of Communism is like a dancing bear, reduced to wondering what they did wrong and where their next meal is coming from. But then we see the truth – this is about dancing bears, not metaphorically. And by Chapter 3 you clearly see the fact that huge international fund-raising efforts were undertaken, for the sake of a couple of dozen animals at most, and that it was clearly an ant ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Přiznám se, že jsem po celkem rozpačitém zážitku s Vrahem z mesta marhúľ měla jisté předsudky vůči autorovi. Nicméně se tady ukázalo, že není tak zlý. Kniha je rozdělena do dvou částí, v první se seznámíme s "kulturou" tancujících medvědů a jejich následným odebíráním a umístěním do speciální rezervace ochránci zvířat; bylo to sepsáno tak sugestivně, že mi ze začátku bylo těch cigánů dokonce i líto :) V druhé části pak autor přináší reportáže z postsovětských krajin a snaží se pomocí úryvků z pr ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Zaujímavá reportáž. Prvá časť je o Bulharsku a aj keď je zaujímavé sledovať ako sa tam menil režim, až tak to nie je moja šálka kávy. Druhá časť už bola venovaná viacerým postkomunistickým štátom, to ma bavilo viac. :)
Rokay Mukhtar
The book has two parts, the first part is about the dancing bears, their interactions with people, how their lives change after captivity, how they are made and taught to dance and the most interesting part “FREEDOM”. The second part is about the nostalgia of Eastern Europe countries which is not very interesting.
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of people coping with Eastern Europe with the fall of communism. The dancing bears of the title refers to an an outlawed carnival act, popular in rural Bulgaria. The dancing bears serve as a metaphor for other victims in Estonia, Poland, Serbia, Georgia, and even Greece (they are suffering the aftermath of EU membership and don’t really belong here). The first chapter is a great meditation on how very similar things are in Eastern Europe to other areas of the world victimized ...more
Olga Nakhodkina
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book must be read in high schools of post communist countries. It opened my eyes on many things that are going on with my native country.
When you are trying to change this world for better, you surrounded by mostly likeminded people, and you forget that there is people described in this book. It is very eyes opening, when you are not only seeing them on the street, but you also read their stories.
I got from Moon to Earth after this book, and I bought a couple to present for my friends a
Joe Zivak
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Ked sa dokumentarista rozhodne napisat esej, tak to moze dopadnut paradne. Len si nesmie ako zakladnu metaforu vybrat vycvik rumunskych medvedov.
This book was a lot more about bear rescue than it was about life after communism. It’s a great mission, but I have a hard time hearing about animals being treated inhumanely, and a lot of it was upsetting to read — especially when it comes to the bears’ lingering psychological damage.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For both work and family I occasionally travel to Eastern Europe. In many conversations I have been surprised and confused how people pine for the “communist time”. I was just especially perplexed at the crowds of Germans in DDR museums talking about how great the old days were. This book helped me to understand those emotions and current Hungarian politics.
Maggie Chen
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chinese-books-18


Angela Chang
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition





First rate reportage of Bulgarian former dancing bears and Slavic former collective workers, both nauseated by the freedom of the ways of the West, longing for a return to tyranny. Hilarious and tragic.
The Idle Woman
There’s a fascinating premise behind this book by the Polish journalist Witold Szabłowski. Its first half is devoted to the tale of how Bulgaria’s entry into the EU obliged it to forbid the keeping of dancing bears, thereby destroying one of its cherished traditions. Following the ‘rescued’ bears in their new home, Szabłowski looks at how the animals are coping with their new ‘freedom’ and also follows the fate of their former keepers. In the second half of the book, the bears’ clumsy encounter ...more
Moray Teale
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating oral history that in its first part tells the story of Bulgarian dancing bears, removed from performance into (relative) freedom in nature reserves. In the second half Szablowski speaks to a variety of people from Cuba. to Estonia, to Kosovo about their experiences of the post-Soviet world. From dyed-in-the-wool party members to black-marketeers, pro-EU campaigners and those determined to roll back capitalism. He paints a striking, complex and often uncomfortable picture of ...more
Marek Pawlowski
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Niezwykła książka, w przypadku której dosłowność głównej metafory jest niezwykłym atutem. Po pierwsze mamy ukazany obraz uwalniania niedźwiedzi z rąk treserów: historie tresujących oraz tresury jak i motywacje organizacji, która chciała zapewnić tym zwierzętom lepsze życie. Po drugie mamy obraz świata wydostającego się z komunizmu a opowieść o nim przeplatana jest cytatami z pierwszej części tej książki nawiązującymi do życia tańczących niedźwiedzi. Pomimo tego, że autor wprost naprowadza nas ja ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an intriguing collection of people who miss the "comfort" of living in an oppressive society. Szablowski interviews people from Cuba to Poland to Estonia, asking them what made their lives better when it was run by a dictator or an oppressive government style. Their responses are very eye-opening and really made me draw parallels to people in the US. The profiles also made me feel really lucky for living in the country I'm in.
The first half of the book though is a little heart-breaking
Aug 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not a book but a series of articles or, more often, mere interviews from a variety of countries: Bulgaria, Cuba, Ukraine, Albania, Estonia, Serbia, Georgia, Greece etc. Most of these reportages were already out-of-date when the book came out in Polish in 2014. Translating them into English in 2018 makes no sense at all. Although the short introduction makes some sort of claim about these texts highlighting how difficult it is for humans as well as for bears to acclimatize themselves to freedom a ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting premise but unconvincing to me. I do not see capitalism as "newly free societies." In actuality, the descriptions of people scrambling to make money is not freedom. I also have been reading Second Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich which gives me a better picture of the readjustments made by people living under Communism.
Michael Lovito
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this book details the banning of training bears to dance in Hungary, and the effects it had on both the trainers and the bears themselves. The trainers think that their way of life is being destroyed and that they, people who cared for these animals their entire lives, are unjustly painted as monsters. Meanwhile, the bears themselves have to be taught to live in the wild which, given their abnormal diets, lack of teeth, and lack of socialization with other bears, is hard to do. ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dancing Bears is an interesting piece of investigative journalism. Polish reporter Witold Szablowski tackles the subject of communism by comparing its collapse to the end of bear keeping in Bulgaria. Both survivors - bear or person - are physically free in that they are not enslaved to a regime or owner. Emotional freedom, as it turns out, is much harder to grant.

Szablowski makes a point to interview citizens from several communist countries - Estonia, Ukraine, Cuba, and Bulgaria. Their unhappi
John Ronald
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a Polish journalist who covered the story of the last "Dancing Bears" of Bulgaria, trained by Roma bearkeepers. The practice was eventually outlawed and a foreign NGO took as its mission taking care of and trying to restore these bears back to a more natural, non-exploitative way of life. He devotes a considerable part of the text telling the details of this story, the NGO representative's negotiations with the Roma owners of the bears, a little of the history of trained bears in B ...more
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Witold Szabłowski is an award-winning Polish journalist. At age twenty-five he became the youngest reporter at the Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza’s weekly supplement, Duży Format, where he covered international stories in countries including Cuba, South Africa, and Iceland. His features on the problem of illegal immigrants flocking to the EU won the European Parliament Journalism Prize; hi ...more