Photo : Samuel Lagneau - Marshmallow photo

10 good reasons to start bal folk

Are you looking for a fun activity to do during the year? Do you like live music, friends, spending an hour chatting at the bar and dancing like crazy ? Yes, bal folk is for you. I have done historical dances, tango, swing, latin dances … and among all these dances that I like, bal folk really stands out for its variety, its atmosphere, and its fantastic musical quality. So I decided to give you a little recap of all the reasons that make me love this discipline.

1. It’s fun and easy

This is the first, profound, motive that makes this discipline my favorite, and that’s why bal folk is still the number 1 in my recommendations. At the bal folk, every tune is a different dance, sometimes a group dance, sometimes a couple dance, it may be a circle or even solo. Some are more difficult than others, some are funnier than others, but overall: from the first night we can dance, even if we have two left feet. The dances are numerous and simple enough for the dancers to explain to you, and by the end of the evening you have had a blast in half the dances.

Somebody will explain to you, or show you. You’ll imitate, you’ll try, you’ll experiment… Until the day you start thinking “hey, I’m totally tempted by the Bourrée d’Auvergne workshop next week!”

Dance demonstration during a ball – Le Son Continu 2018 – Video produced by Accordéoniste Flou

2. It’s varied

There are dances for all tastes and feelings: physical dances that will make you sweat, sweet mazurkas and their slow atmosphere.

Branle de Noirmoutier will make you sweat –
Video by Accordéoniste Flou
Neo mazurka will make you slow down
Video by Ludmila Queirós

3. It’s intergenerational

When I was young, I saw bal folk like an old thing with accordionists doing tzointzoin. And thank goodness I grew up – and got older too, which made me relativize and go beyond my preconceived ideas. With the practice of bal folk, I drew some conclusions:

  • there are also many (many!) young people
  • there are also old people, yes, but we can also have a good laugh with them (besides, we are all somebody’s old man)
  • some old people have a dance or musical technique that will just give you a nice slap in your young face

Truth is, one of the great qualities of this dance is that it is intergenerational. There will be young people as well as families, middle-aged people, older people. It comes, in part, from the fact that the dances are varied and that there is therefore something for all tastes, but also from the idea that there is no injunction of physique or style to respect, everybody can come as they are.

You will see that the notion of transmitting knowledge from one generation of dancers to the next is very important in bal folk. The dances are taught with the idea of ​​a dance heritage to be respected (even if it’s more or less respected) and to be safeguarded (yes yes), and you will hear a lot about learning ‘by impregnation’ which differentiates the “authentic local dancers”, from dancers like you and me who discover the bal folk later in their life.

4. It’s technical

I said earlier that folk ball dances are easy. It is both true and false. Some dances can be very technical, sometimes difficult to master. If dancing during a bal is tolerant with approximation, the room for technical progress to actually be a good dancer will require a good deal of time and work.

Demo Congo de Captieux by Frisse Folk @ Kattendijk
Challenge #38 : learn le Congo de Captieux
16ème Trad’Hivernales – 2015 – Sommière – Rode de bourrée 3 temps – Vidéo réalisée par Paco Paquito
It looks easy, at first we try to do crazy impro, but it’s super technical !

5. It’s our heritage

The bal folk is largely composed of more or less traditional French dances, but can also mix foreign dances (Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Israeli, Irish and so on). These dances are inscribed in a history, a heritage. It is a link with the past, whether it comes from 19th century Austrian or Polish salons, or 17th century French berrichons peasants.

However, the bal folk is not a reenactment environment, you won’t meet people in traditional costume, it is a completely different environment which does not have the same objective. The bal folk remains for the most part in a context of social dance.

6. It is an area of ​​artisanal creation

I was talking about it some time ago in The incredible creativity of bal folk music, it is one of the major assets of bal folk: in France, we only dance TO LIVE MUSIC, by musicians from all Europe, amateurs or professional, and all have designed their music to be danced. The bal folk is an incredible field of musical creation. It is an extremely rich universe, with very high quality creations. On this scale, it has no equivalent in other dances.

7. It is an open door to many activities

As has been said, the world of bal folk is closely linked to musical creation, to professional and amateur musicians. Bal folk, also means many musical jam sessions, everywhere in France (and in Europe), and there are many dancers who start to learn the diatonic accordion or the hurdy-gurdy to be able to join the jam session.

Photo : Samuel Lagneau - Marshmallow photo
Photo : Samuel Lagneau – Marshmallow photo

We are also multi-dancers, used to learning new dances, and very often our horizons are wider than those of bal folk: contact dance, tango, yoga … The population of folk balls is varied, and external influences are numerous . It i not uncommon at festivals to find initiations into other dances and artistic practices.

Collectif Crazy Moves & Duo Fermé Exibard at Festival Funambals 2018 – Vidéo by Accordéoniste Flou
Sung jam session during le Son Continu 2018
Video by l’Accordéoniste Flou

8. It is a welcoming community

Like in real life, let’s not hide it, there are also difficulties. People who do not fit in, others who have trouble getting invited, beginners who has a hang-up about their level, and good dancers who only dance with their friends. But overall, believe me, compared with other dance communities, bal folk is one of the most welcoming and inclusive dance communities.

And we like pubs.

Julien Wieser Folkographie - Chatillon 2016
Julien Wieser Folkographie – Chatillon 2016 – Drinking Clairette de Die at a costume dance party.

9. It is international

The bal folk is an international discipline and French dancers and musicians are quite well received. Each country goes there with its main festivals, and with each festival we share both a base of common dances and we discover unknown local dances.

For my holidays, I hesitate between Center France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic… or Poland, why not!

A very nice festival, Lovembal in Poznan, Poland !

10. It is opened on the future

There are still a whole lot of reasons that make bal folk a great community and a fulfilling activity. It is an environment where we talk more and more about consent, shared-leading, quality of transmission… An environment which gradually breaks down the barriers of gender-based roles in dance, which teaches respect between partners. A community of volunteers and passionate people, who put the pleasure of music and dance first and without it becoming a business (and even that sometimes it becomes difficult to make a living, when you’re a musician and you can’t eat “passion”).

An environment that I love and that I hope you’ll discover !