European Folk Day – September the 23rd

European Folk Day: 23rd September 2023

A few days ago we received the submission from the page Get involved! of an event that will take place in New Zealand. New Zealand! Yes, you understood well. That country in the opposite side of the planet.

Kate Grace, from Balfolk Dunedin, explained to us that she and Michael Parmenter are on the mission of spreading Balfolk and European sensibility through dance/music around New Zealand. Michael is based in Auckland in the North Island and Kate is based in Dunedin in the South Island, the two extreme points of the country. 

Kate has been trying to promote Balfolk and other European forms of dance and music in New Zealand for 15 years. She is originally French and arrived in NZ in 1995, she taught African dance in her first 10 years down there. Transmitting European dance – wether Balfolk, French contredanses or English Country Dance (as she is interested in these forms) has always been an uphill battle for her. She explained that “NZ is very isolated and I have been pretty much on my own in that endeavour from the start. I think culture is the most difficult thing to transport.”

Kate met Michael Parmenter last year when he was the dance fellow at the University of Otago for 6 months. According to Kater, it was a big curve for her as he is a big name around NZ and she is only a community dance teacher, but they straightaway realised that with the two of them working together, it could finally happen.

Michael just started Balfolk classes in Auckland at the time (having lived in Paris for a couple of years and discovering Balfolk there). So they embarked for what is now a good year of taking part in several NZ festivals, presenting bals, organising events and running community classes each in our own part of the country.

When they realised that they already had two events planned on the week-end of European Folk Day, they thought that it could be a great opportunity for them to place their events under the umbrella of the European Folk Day:
– The Jane Austen Ball on the Quarantine Island will be presented by Balfolk Dunedin.
– And the Equinox Bal, by Balfolk Auckland.
Kate will be flying up to Auckland an hour after her Dunedin event to be at present the Auckland event the following day.

Kate also explained that “Balfolk” is not a name that is known around there. They want people to realise that it is a movement in many countries. The American influence on NZ is massive, so European sensibilities are unfortunately hardly ever under the limelight.

Kate continues explaining that “our two events – and especially the Jane Austen Ball, Dunedin being in the South of the South Island of NZ, one of the last towns before Antarctica – are based in the country that is the furthest away from Europe one can be, “Balfolk NZ / Aotearoa” might well be a story of interest for your medias and overall promotion of European Folk Day and its international reach.” Undoubtely, it is of that interest as well as a reason to be proud and thank as Europeans, and we are moved for Kate’s and Michael’s enthusiasm! Much respect for you! 🙏🏽

Credits: the portrait of Kate is from her website and the picture below is from Balfolk Dunedin’s facebook page.