Balfolk is a revival of traditional European folk dances and music, a vibrant fusion of centuries-old dance traditions and modern innovations; new ways of dancing old dances.
Repeating patterns encourage the participation in inclusive group dances, and basic structures become the basis for improvisation and individual creativity; an intriguing mix of tradition, freedom and innovation.
Balfolk includes partner and group dances, and places a strong emphasis on inclusivity and the dance experience itself. There is a profound intention for the dances to be accessible to as wide a range of people as possible.
Live music remains a centrepiece of Balfolk, with versatile musicians weaving together a range of traditional and contemporary instruments to form a unique soundscape that reflects the dance’s diverse influences and folk traditions.
Michael Parmenter and Kate Grace will lead two workshops at Lunasa, (Friday and Saturday), to introduce several of the dances, accompanied by Craig Denham on accordion. There will be opportunities to learn the basics of the dances, integrating the steps with the flow of the music, and to improve dance technique.
Michael and Kate will also lead a Bal (dance) at the main music stage on Sunday, accompanied by a live band led by Craig Denham along with several musicians playing at Lunasa; an invitation to put into practice what you have learnt in the workshops, and experience the dances flourish in the context of the festival dancefloor.
The Balfolk dances all have their own unique charm and rhythm; the elegance of valses, mazurkas, and bourrées intertwines with the calm or vibrant energy of ancient circles dances and the energetic foot stomping quality of some contredanses.
Balfolk events are typically very social, and you’ll have the opportunity to dance with various people.
One of the distinctive aspects of Balfolk is its fluidity in partner roles; Balfolk allows dancers to switch roles during the same dance or from one dance to another, offering individuals the freedom to explore their dance preferences irrespective of gender and within a supportive environment.
Everyone of all ages, experience and skill levels are welcome to come along!
You can find out more about Balfolk and various dances here (copy and paste the link into a new tab on your browser)
What is Balfolk?
Mazurka musicality – Balfolk tutorial with Michael Parmenter
A Starter’s Guide to Balfolk: Do You Know Your Bourrée From Your An Dro? Part 1 & 2
Michael Parmenter is one of New Zealand’s leading dancers and choreographers, spanning over 4 decades of performing, choreography, and teaching. From innovative solo works to large-scale opera-house productions, (such as Jerusalem, Insolent River: a tango, A Long Undressing, OrphEus: a dance opera) his works are all iconic in New Zealand contemporary dance.
Alongside his teaching of dance technique, Michael is also a highly regarded teacher of partner improvisation in dance. Drawing on his background of contact improvisation, capoeira, tango and swing, Michael has developed Piloting/TACTICS as a comprehensive approach to partner improvisation in dance.
Most recently Michael has expanded his passion into the world of social dance. This includes his recent exploration in the world of European folk dance, with the establishment of Balfolk Auckland in 2019 and the establishment of Balfolk Aotearoa/NZ in 2022.
Currently, with collaborator Kate Grace, he is teaching Balfolk workshops and curating social dance events at numerous events throughout New Zealand.
Kate, a native of France, grew up in the Burgundy region where, during her teens she immersed herself in the local folk-dance revival of the 1970s. In her early adulthood she discovered African dance and Contact Improvisation and became a devoted student of African dance and drumming.
Life led her to New Zealand, where she settled in Dunedin with her Kiwi husband and their children, and for over a decade she taught African dance. After a three year visit to France, participating in ‘néo-trad’ music and dance workshops and events, Kate returned to New Zealand and formed a five-piece band that played European music for dance and organized several French bals.
After meeting Michael Parmenter in mid-2022, Kate started collaborating with Michael to spread Balfolk, and is co-founder of Balfolk Aotearoa/New Zealand. Together, they have been teaching workshops and leading bals in various towns and cities and folk festivals throughout the country.