Folk Dance Canberra, a vibrant community that transcends barriers of age, culture, and language, has created a tapestry of unity through the art of traditional folk dance. Active in Canberra for over three decades and formally established in 1994, this dance group has become a hub for individuals to come together and celebrate cultural heritage through dance.
With its doors open to people of all backgrounds, abilities, and age groups, Folk Dance Canberra aims to cultivate an appreciation for the rich tapestry of traditional folk dance. For nearly twenty years, Dutch dance maestro Andre van de Plas has been crossing continents to share his knowledge of dances from around the world. Amidst the global pandemic, the group pivoted to virtual workshops, allowing participants to learn new dances from the comfort of their homes.
“We try to be as authentic as possible. Obviously, things change and evolve, a bit like Chinese whispers, but we really try to get to who the teacher was, where the source was,” says Bec Lane, a dedicated dancer, teacher, and committee member of Folk Dance Canberra.
Bec’s journey with the community began when she sought a personal outlet while raising her three young children. What she discovered was a treasure trove of cultural dances that transcended physical demands, providing a space of accessibility and inclusivity.
This diversity of dances from various cultures fosters an enriching environment where dancers can learn from multiple regions simultaneously. Classes can feature dances from countries as diverse as France, Germany, Central America, Türkiye, Macedonia, and Bulgaria, each offering a unique rhythm and storytelling through movements.
Generational Bonds and Unity
One remarkable aspect of Folk Dance Canberra is the intergenerational participation it encourages. For Evie, Bec’s daughter and a long-term student, the experience of dancing alongside her mother and forming friendships across generations is profoundly special.
“It’s a really special thing to do this with your mum, or a parent or family member. It’s really cool how it is all these different generations,” Evie shares.
Starting her journey in the children’s class at just four years old, Evie has grown up with the community, fostering friendships that span age groups. One such bond she cherishes is with two Bulgarian sisters, highlighting how Folk Dance Canberra creates an environment for people to connect through shared passions.
Beyond Cultural Boundaries
Unlike traditional dance classes categorized by culture or region, Folk Dance Canberra’s approach is refreshingly inclusive. They often work on mastering dances from multiple countries simultaneously, fostering an environment of diversity and cross-cultural interaction.
More than just a pastime, folk dance has numerous benefits for physical and mental health. Older participants find balance, coordination, and cognitive stimulation through dance. It’s a gentle yet effective way to keep both body and mind active.
Throughout the year, Folk Dance Canberra takes their vibrant performances to cultural events such as the National Multicultural Festival and Floriade, showcasing the beauty of traditional dances to a wider audience. However, the heart of the experience lies within the group itself.
“It’s something that’s really timeless. People have been dancing together for such a long time, and particularly in this way, it comes from village dance. It’s quite an amazing feeling, just being part of this group and holding hands in a circle together, moving to the music,” Bec reflects with a smile.
Folk Dance Canberra serves as a testament to the power of dance in bridging cultures, generations, and distances. Through the graceful movements of folk dance, this community continues to write a story of unity, appreciation, and celebration of cultural heritage.