(Editor’s note: The world, we are told, is shrinking, and all of us are coming to share the same global superculture. However, this brief report from a Slovakian college girl shows what happens to a commercial dance craze when it is taken up by an ancient community living on the fringe of Europe and transformed into a ritual of communal solidarity.)

To most Americans, even to readers of Chronicles, the eastern fringe of Slovakia, where I come from, must seem like the other end of the world, but the truth is—and I am not a tourist agent—Slovakia is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. If you are searching for a land of mountains and deserts, swamps and rocky caves, wild rivers, dramatic waterfalls, and untouched woods—everything but a seacoast, which would ruin the solitude—you will find all of them in Slovakia.

The capitol and largest city of Slovakia is Bratislava, 60 kilometers down the Danube from Vienna. Bratislava is a wonderful, cosmopolitan city—as German as it is Magyar and Slovakian—and it is visited every day by tourists taking the obligatory Danube cruise. For a more truly Slovakian experience, however, you must visit the second-largest city, Kosice, which has only 300,000 inhabitants, hi Bratislava, you are not far (either in distance or in atmosphere) from the city of Strauss, but Kosice is home to the world’s record Macarena dance.

How the SuperMacarena came to Kosice is a long story that stretches back to the beginning of European history. Located in a river valley not far from the Ukrainian border, Kosice was first settled in the Stone Age, long before the arrival of the Slavs. The oldest preserved document referring to the city, the Donation Paper of King Stephen V (of Hungary), dates from 1230. Kosice became a free town in the 14th century, and it was granted a coat of arms in 1369 by King Louis the Great. This consisted of a shield with four silver and white horizontal stripes on a red background. In the upper part were three lilies —the royal emblem of Anjou. This was the first coat of arms, not just in Slovakia but in all of Europe, to be established by royal decree. Today, the city’s coat of arms also includes an angel, added by a later royal decree.

In May 1997, we commemorated the 628th anniversary of our attaining the privileges of a royal free city by celebrating the third annual Kosice Days. The festivity lasts nine days, and the celebration provides a series of amusements for residents and visitors alike, including the annual opening of the children’s railway in Cermel Valley. Children are taken by a train, powered by a 133-year-old steam engine, on a three-mile trip to Alpinka, a favorite local resort. There is also the eating of a special seed cake, which, in 1997, was 628 meters long (to commemorate the anniversary); the election of the queen of Kosice Castie; and a naval battle between the people of Kosice and a band of pirates — despite the lack of a naval tradition (or a seacoast), the home team always manages to win.

The history of Kosice is closely tied to the development of crafts and trade, and no celebration in our town would be complete without a craft fair. Walking through the stalls, you first meet a man who mints coins commemorating the event, each year with a different design. Beside him is a dressmaker, wearing a traditional Slovak costume. After chatting with her, you come upon a man in traditional garb, including a broad belt and a large hat. With the sound of his whistling in your ears, you visit a stall displaying handmade dippers (crpak). One of them is so huge that a man would have to carry it with both hands. The carver, Frantisek Estocin, is entering his dippers into the Guinness Book of World Records.

During the third annual festival, Kosice made another bid to enter the Guinness Book: the biggest Macarena dance in human history. The SuperMacarena, which would beat the 48,000-dancer record set in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the brainchild of Peter McFadden, a New Yorker who loves our city, where he has lived for two years. The idea came to him as he was returning from a party at Postova High School, where he teaches.

The countdown began on May 6, when we learned that 40,000 tickets had been distributed; the next day, the number rose to 45,000; and on May 8, the total reached 60,000-10,000 more than the impossibly high total we had hoped for. May 9 began gloomily, but by that evening, it would put Kosice in the record books.

The whole population of our city was set in motion early that day by the anticipation of two special events: sailing on the Hornad River in the afternoon and the SuperMacarena in the evening—a double holiday, as our mayor, Rudolf Schuster, described it.

By late afternoon, the crowds were immense. Some people had decided to watch the day’s happenings at home on local television; most, displaying our native good sense, directed their steps either toward the sailing on the Hornad, upon which the weather was smiling, or toward the fountain square on the main street where the SuperMacarena stage was constructed. By evening, it was no easy matter for people to make their way to the city center, as my brother Peter and I discovered.

We slowly worked our way to the square, which was one of three designated dancing spots. As we came in, we saw the big screen which recorded the number of people registered by computer. Everyone who registered was given a special ticket indicating his dancing area. The ticket was supposed to be worn on the clothing, but some dancers cheerfully stuck theirs on their foreheads. The show began at 8:00 P.M., and by then the computer count was 10,563.

Reporters from the regional radio and TV stations, as well as from the first private TV network in Slovakia, set up equipment on balconies and also squeezed through the crowds to ask for reactions to the megashow. The stage held our attention as various dancers and small groups gave performances as well as helpful lessons and lectures about Macarena dancing. The demonstrations and instruction kept us busy as we all watched the screen, waiting for the magic number to appear; 70,000. Every time the number rose even a little bit, people clapped their hands and shouted “Kosice, Kosice, Kosice!” At 9:00 P.M., there were 40,293 dancers; at 9:55, the number was 65,003.

By 10:00 P..M., 67,156 dancers were registered, although the official count put the total at about 66,000. The statistic gave Kosice a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. But my feelings during the event cannot be explained by a number. I was happy to be a part of such a crowd, and I was dancing as best I could, but there was something more going on, something almost mystical. I was dancing with people who were all taking part in the same civic ritual; nobody paid any attention to the time, the weather, or anything else.

I had the feeling of being part of something whose significance I could not explain rationally. Imagine yourself in the darkness, in the streets with 60,000 other people dancing.

After ten minutes, the song was over, and the dance was an historical moment. When we finished, everyone shouted. cheered, and whistled so loudly that the noise stunned our ears and the spotlights dazzled our eyes. At that moment, we knew we had broken Cincinnati’s record.

We continued the celebration until midnight with discotheque dancing. There was also a raffle; the first prize was a car. In a perfect ending to the festivities, a young man who was to take his final driving test in two days won the car. It was an evening that he and the rest of us in Kosice will never forget.