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The Tūranga Bal

What better way to celebrate Spring than coming together to dance!

At the end of September, folk dancers throughout Aotearoa will be gathering in Gisborne to do

just that. Run by Folk Dance New Zealand and hosted by Gisborne’s recreational folk dance

group, Good Folk, the weekend of dance workshops features both visiting and local tutors and is

open to everyone.

Good Folk director and former president of Folk Dance New Zealand, Gisborne resident Jane

Luiten is hoping the weekend will whet local appetites for community dance, both from dancers

and local musicians. ‘Dance is the shortcut to connection and joy, regardless of age or

background or skill’, says Luiten, ‘There is no quicker way of bringing people together.’ Such

occasions, she adds, spring fully into life with live musicians on board, who equally enjoy

playing for live dancers. With so much musical talent in Gisborne, the hope is that the event will

be the springboard for future community dancing. ‘Dancing together is in our DNA – just look at

the district dance halls throughout Te Tairāwhiti and beyond. We just need reminding how.’

The feature act of the weekend, from which the event takes its name, are the Balfolk dance and

musician workshops held on Saturday, to be followed by an evening Bal, or Folk Ball.

Balfolk is a lively and participatory dance genre originating from European folk traditions.

It encompasses various partner dances, group dances, line dances and circle dances, with

each dance having plenty of room for individual expression and improvisation. The dances

range from fast-paced and dynamic to slow and graceful, catering to dancers of all skill levels.

Balfolk gatherings feature live music, creating a communal atmosphere and a vibrant dance

experience. The musician workshop run concurrently on Saturday is aimed at local amateur musicians who want to be part of the fun. Sheet music for the tunes can be obtained prior to the event, the idea being that after a day of directed workshopping, dancers and musicians can come

together in the evening, when the magic begins.

The inspiration for the Tūranga Bal is largely the collaboration of two seasoned dancers on a mission to grow the Balfolk community in Aotearoa. Renowned dancer, teacher and

choreographer Michael Parmenter, of Auckland, brings to the floor a lifetime of

knowledge and experience in dance. Michael recently completed a fellowship in community dance at the University of Otago. Kate Grace of Dunedin, also a community dance teacher, brings a cultural perspective. Kate grew up in France immersed in the rich tradition of Balfolk and has an innate understanding of its significance within the community. Like Jane Luiten, their efforts to create a ripple effect that touches enthusiasts across the country stems from a deep belief in the transformative power of dance in bringing people together and enriching lives.

On Sunday, the Appalachian clogging workshop draws on local dance enthusiast Elizabeth

Raines, whose clogging team in her USA homeland has toured extensively internationally.

Clogging is distinctly American as it blends dancing elements from the British Isles, Africa and

pre-Columbian America. The workshop will focus on beginning/intermediate clogging steps and

then integrate them into mountain-style square dance figures. In the afternoon, international folk

dance favourites are revised by Jane. The dance party on Sunday evening features simple

folk dances accessible for all. Over the weekend, Folk Dance New Zealand members will

also be learning a song specifically composed for them, in waiata-a-ringa workshops led

by Paraone Luiten-Apirana.

Folk Dance New Zealand is a national organisation that seeks to support all forms of folk dance.

The Tūranga Bal is the annual gathering for members but, Jane stresses, the weekend is for

everyone. The musician aspect of the event is supported by funding from the Creative

Communities Scheme. From complete beginners to seasoned enthusiasts, everyone is warmly

encouraged to join. ‘Folk Dance, by definition, is inclusive: ‘People Dance’, which doesn’t

require partners, experience, or skill particularly. Bring your smile!

The Tūranga Bal runs from 30 September – 1 October 2023. For further details and registration visit


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