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Dance your heart out at Balfolk Istanbul


Balfolk refers to the traditional dances of several European countries that include a wide range of group, couple and line dances spanning from the Circassian circle, polka and Scottish folk dance to the waltz. There has been a revival in recent years of interest in these traditional folk dances, with communities in cities across Europe taking part in classes and balls and dance festivals such as this weekend’s Balfolk Istanbul Festival.

Balfolk Istanbul has been around for approximately four years now and was founded by a Turkish and French duo of women, Esra Hızır and Anna Marquer-Passicot, who met in Turkey and decided to start the organization to share and take part in the traditional dances they love. Since then, the community has grown exponentially and holds regular weekly lessons and dance parties with live music. Every Thursday, starting at 8 p.m. Balfolk Istanbul holds dance classes in varying styles at Arsen Lüpen in Beyoğlu. For example, last week, the style taught was Sirtaki and the week prior was Mazurka. After the one-hour class, the band Deli Reçel performs for a dance party accompanied by live European folk music. However, that’s not all as Balfolk Istanbul also hosts a wide variety of dance events at various venues throughout the city. Beginners are welcome to all of the events, which can be found listed on Balfolk Istanbul’s Facebook page. This weekend will be a Balfolk extravaganza with the third Balfolk Istanbul Festival being held this weekend from June 28 to 30 with dancers and teachers flying in from Europe to give workshops and take part in a variety of dance parties and events.


While the festival begins this Friday, tonight, Tuesday June 25, Balfolk Istanbul will also be holding a “Balfolk Workshop and Pre-party” that will be taking place at Zeytuna Cezayir, which is located at the top of Beyoğlu’s picturesque and characteristic Fransız Sokağı, aka French Street. This special edition workshop and pre-party is intended to give those new to these types of dances the opportunity to take part in a workshop as a primer, so participants can truly enjoy the dance events that will be taking place over the weekend. Starting at 7:30 p.m., there will be a two-hour workshop teaching a variety of dance styles followed by a dance party to give participants the opportunity to practice. The workshop and party are free to attend, no prior dance knowledge is necessary nor do you need to come with a partner.

The Circassian circle dance is one of the most performed European folk dances at Balfolk Istanbul.

Held for the third consecutive year, the Balfolk Istanbul Festival brings Balfolk teachers and enthusiasts from a variety of countries in Europe to teach and take part in the event. This year’s Balfolk Istanbul Festival will begin this Friday and will run through the weekend with daily workshops led by professional French and Italian dance instructors and evening dance parties with visiting and local bands. One of the highlights will be the arrival of Parasol, one of the most popular Balfolk bands in the world that will not only be performing but will also be leading a number of workshops throughout the weekend.

The first workshop of the festival will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 28 and will be led by none other than Gérard Godon, Parasol’s accordionist and will be on “Variations on Mazurka.” On the following day, Saturday, June 29, there will be another workshop on both Mazurka and Scottish dance that will take place from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and will be led by French dance teachers Fortun and Isabelle. From 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Gianmarco from Italy will be teaching a traditional Basque Fandango dance. Grard returns at 5 p.m. to teach a workshop on the waltz and at 7 p.m., Fortun and Isabelle will be leading a workshop on polka dance.

On Sunday, June 30, the day begins with a workshop on Balkan dances starting at 3:30 p.m. At 4:30, there will be a workshop on southeastern Turkish folk dances led by Beşik Academy. At 5:30 p.m., G

rard from Parasol will be teaching variations of the French Bourre style. Then, at 5:30 p.m. Eric from Parasol will be giving a music workshop on the Balfolk style for skilled musicians that play any type of instrument.

In the evenings of Friday and Saturday, both Deli Recel, which is Turkey’s first Balfolk music group and serves as the house band for Balfolk’s weekly dance parties and Parasol, whom have flown in from France, will be performing live from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

To find out more about the event and the venue, which will be announced prior to the festival’s start, check out the 3rd Balfolk Istanbul Festival’s event page.

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