News

Studio Closed – March 16 – April 26

UPDATE: As of April 10, the closure of the studio has been extended to at least April 26th.

UPDATE: As of March 25, the closure of the studio has been extended to at least April 12th. The tentative re-open date is Monday, April 13th. More updates to follow.

We have been following the COVID-19 coronavirus situation very closely for several weeks now. After a lot of deliberation, we at the studio have decided to close classes and events starting next Monday, March 16th. We will remain closed until at least March 30th. We will update everyone via Facebook on when we will be reopening. We ask that you stay healthy, wash your hands, take care of your loved ones, and best of luck during this period of challenges. Again, we will be closed March 16th and will be opening March 30th, based on the situation.

Best wishes and thank you for your understanding.

A dash of Texas culture

New for January 2020, Texas Line Dance PARTY ANIMATION!

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce a new service available: professional party animation with Texas Line Dance lessons.

Born and raised in Texas, I’m happy to share a slice of my heritage with the people of Kraków. In Texas, we love getting together to dance to country music, and that includes world famous line dances. These fun, easy to learn dances are perfect for breaking the ice and getting the party going. We’ll provide the lesson, the music, and the energy… you just provide the party.

Want to see an authentic Texas line dance? Here’s a short video filmed in Luckenbach, Texas… only 20 minutes from where I grew up.

Texas Monthly: The “National” Magazine of Texas

We Texans have a reputation for being a proud bunch. We rightly think that Texas is the best state in the Union. In fact, did you know that Texas was it’s own country for a time? That’s right, after we won a war of independence from Mexico, we were a nation in our own right… we even had an embassy in London.

Nowadays, we have a magazine called Texas Monthly that carries the spirit of Texas with it. In it we discuss our culture and try to figure out what makes the Lone Star State so special. I came across an article on Blues music in this very magazine.

Naturally, we Texan’s are proud of the influence our native sons and daughters had on the Blues. You may be familiar with the Mississippi Delta and Chicago as birthplaces of the Blues, but did you know about Texas? Check it out!

 

First semester… COMPLETE! What comes next?

Well, the first semester of Kraków Dance Works is in the books. It’s been a great one, full of ups and downs, new things and realizations… but mostly just a lot of fun!

When people ask me how the studio is going, the best reply I can give them takes the shape of a metaphor. If the studio is a piece of metal, then it has just been removed from the forge. Opening the doors last semester was like pulling the white hot metal out of the fire. We could see the basic shape, but the brilliance of it was too hot to really understand what its final form may take.

Last semester was watching the piece of metal cool down to a point where we can start shaping it. Today, it is a lovely shade of orange. Still hot in the inside, but at a point where we can start hammering on it, turning it into what we wish for it to become.

What does this metaphor mean in practice? This means that the key people involved with the studio are now settled in. It means that the physical space of the studio has been established. It means we all now how the parties work, and can make ourselves at home.

This also means that now is the time to get to work developing the programs and ideas of which Kraków Dance Works will be known for. The chief amongst these is the idea that the studio is just that, a studio. A place for artists to practice their art. It is not a top-down institution. It is not a school, with strict chains of command. Rather, it is a place that nurtures and supports dancers who wish to expand their artistic pursuits.

I can offer an example of one such pursuit. My own.

I see dance as a tool for better understanding the human condition. We were all born human, and it’s important take advantage of what being human offers. Some people write poetry, some people build architecture. Others engage in politics or raise families. We are all given the chance to express how our individualness connects to the rest of humanity. My artistic pursuit is to understand how dance was used in our ancestors’ communities, and how we carry on those traditions to meet the challenges of today.

In practice, this means combining the traditions I learned in Texas and America, with the priorities and needs of my Polish hosts. It means exploring European systems of expression, and fusing them with New World sensibilities. And pursuing this exploration in a way that builds upon the fellow pursuits of the other people in the studio. It’s a team effort, for sure, and it’s all happening right here, right now.

Getting back to that metal metaphor. If the piece of metal that is the studio is now ready for us to hammer on, then now’s the time to get at it, before it cools any further. Of course hammering can be a lot of work, but if you love what you do, work becomes play. The best thing about play is that is combines learning and fun.

We’re going to have a whole lotta fun next semester at Kraków Dance Works!

A Balfolk Introduction

Greg Austin here. One of the delightful gems that I have discovered since moving to Europe is the dance known as Balfolk. I find that most people have never heard of it, so I’m shining a little light on this vibrant and growing dance community. I spoke with Agnieszka Dworzańska, Kraków’s resident expert on Balfolk. Let’s listen in…

Greg Austin We are here in Kraków, I am sitting with Agnieszka Dworzańska. How are you today?

Agnieszka Dworzańska Sleepy. Really sleepy.

Greg Sleepy? Why is that?

Agnieszka Because of our wonderful autumn sleepy weather outside. Typical for Kraków.

Greg It definitely is autumn, isn’t it? Nothing like an autumn day interview with coffee in hand. As we begin, if you could tell us a little bit about who you are, and why do you dance?

Agnieszka Ok, who am I? I’m Agnieszka and I’m from Kraków, since always. And I’m dancing also, since always. Since I was a small girl.

First I started with gymnastic acrobatics, and then after a few years I started with Irish and Scottish dances, which I danced for 8 years. Somewhere in the middle there was some historical dances from the Renaissance, from France. And finally, through Irish and Scottish dances, I got to Balfolk.

Greg And for people who might not know what Balfolk is, can you describe how Balfolk came to exist today?

Agnieszka Yes. Balfolk is a movement that started in 1960s and ’70s in France. A group of ethnographers started digging about the roots of, and reconstructing the traditional dances from different regions in France. This movement grew from that, spreading to other countries, so that today there are traditional dances from all over Europe within the Balfolk dance movement.

Greg So almost half a century now?

Agnieszka Around. But also there are some new dances being added. They are still growing, they are still inventing, evolving, and changing.

Greg Why do you think Balfolk is still interesting and attractive to people in Europe today?

Agnieszka Because first of all, it is a dance that brings only joy. You don’t have competitions. You don’t have performances on stages. Of course, some people are experimenting on the stages or dancing in traditional groups in costumes, but that is something a little bit different from the main Balfolk movement.

In Balfolk the most interesting thing is that you have a lot of different types of dances. You have more “jumpy” dances, you have slower dances, you have dances in chains, in circles, but also you have really romantic dances in couples.

Greg So one thing that is unique in Balfolk, is that it is not just couple dancing? It is a whole collection of different ways you dance with the people in the community?

Agnieszka Exactly. For example, at a Balfolk ball, after you dance a really nice couple dance, you can go and dance a mixer… a dance where you change your partner during the tune. From this you can meet new people and new partners, and you have the opportunity to meet more people. Also, you can have dances that you do not need a partner at all, you can just join the chain or circle dance and have fun with the whole group.

Greg Would you say Balfolk is one of the most welcoming dances for people who don’t dance?

Agnieszka I think so, yes.

Greg I’d like to pivot to another topic that I find fascinating in Balfolk. The line dance trance that can happen sometimes at balls. My experience with Balfolk is that I’ve seen times at the dance, usually at the very end of the night, where everyone will be together in a chain dance, and the musicians will come to the end of their song, but the dancers will keep dancing in silence. Can you describe your own experience with this phenomenon? How does this trance happen?

Agnieszka Sure, it’s something that is happening a lot, specially at the festivals, where you have this amazing festival atmosphere, and you can feel the festival spirit… and often the musicians are playing a Hanterdro, which is an easy dance, a dance in a chain, and then the tune is over, but people are still moving, still in the rhythm of the dance, or they even start singing, all together the same melody. So it’s a really magical moment, you can just close your eyes and feel the movement of people around you. And feel like one, common energy from one dance and one song. One big trance.

Greg It’s like a dancer’s encore, right? Asking the musicians to play to keep playing?

Agnieszka Yes. Sometimes they come back onto the stage, or sometimes, and this is the most magical moment, they go out from the stage with their instruments and join the dancers. They then start playing again in between the dancers, so that everybody is on the same floor, in the same dance, in the same moment. It truly is magical.

Greg Are there any historical reasons that can help explain where this magical trance feeling comes from?

Agnieszka I’m not sure if the dances were created especially for trance. I do know, however, that some dances had completely different meanings. For example, there is a Breton dance called the Plinn. This chain dance was invented to help a young couple with preparing the ground for their new house. The community would come together, they would cook a big pot of soup and dance the Plinn for all of the night. In the morning, the soil would be compacted and ready to build the house on.

Those dances are really easy, they have a simple movement going on and on. They were created by simple people living on the countryside…

Today, of course, the main purpose of dancing is just the joy of dancing with people, and to appreciate movement together. So I guess the trance is a side effect, but a really welcome one.

Greg That’s a fantastic example of a Balfolk dance. But not every dance is a simple, chain dance like that, right?

Agnieszka Not every dance, of course. You also have very advanced dances, that you have to have some knowledge of. Also you must have a specific way of movement, to have joy with these more advanced dances.

Greg Excellent. I guess let’s move on to something different. Do you see any challenges for Balfolk in the future? Is there something that the Balfolk community needs to be working on?

Agnieszka From my point of view, the really important thing is to go deeper. Since many of the dances are easy, many people think that they can learn Balfolk only at the ball. I think it is important for them to go for workshops and to learn those easy dances again from the beginning. Because then they can have the entire spectrum of dances that make up Balfolk. So this is something that we should work on a lot more.

Greg Do you find that if people only join the balls and don’t do workshops, they stay in the Balfolk community? Or do they go off to other dances?

Agnieszka You have different examples. You have people who are coming to the balls and having fun just with Balfolk with the easy dances they can learn at the parties. But also Balfolk people are usually dancing other dances too, like Forró, Blues, Tango, Swing etc… So it’s hard to say if people actually are not staying just in Balfolk.

Greg But is the reason it is a challenge is to increase the level and quality of the dances, or is it to help build the community?

Agnieszka It is about making better the quality the dances.

Greg And that is important because…?

Agnieszka That’s important, because if you want to really enjoy the traditional dances, you need to know the right movement and where is it come from, where is the accent and how and where you should use more energy or less.

Also to appreciate a dance all together, we should all know the movement. If you have people who are going for workshops and getting to know the right movements, accents and energy, but then other people who are learning only during the balls and not being sure about their way, you will never have a common energy in the dance. Accents will be in different places, energy, instead of going up, will be going down. That makes a lot of frustrations. And we all want to dance together.

Greg And the importance of having this one, common energy, how important is that to getting this trance quality in some of the line dances?

Agnieszka Very important. You can’t have it if your neighbor in dance is doing something completely different, something not fitting the music.

Greg So at the end of the night, to reach that magical trance stage in Balfolk, you need to have a community that’s all feeling the same energy?

Agnieszka Yes.

Greg Excellent. Let’s talk about that. Do you have a dream about where you want to be in the Balfolk world in 5 years? How will the community in Kraków go deeper?

Agnieszka First off, I would really love to work with people. To show them how magical the dance world might be. And how easy it is to start and find the joy in movement, with contact with your partner. How amazing is dancing to the live music, how to play with musicians and other dancers. Of course, I would love to organize and grow my little festival and show people specially in Kraków that life might be much more colorful when you have contact with your body and movement.

Greg Tell us more about this little festival that you organize.

Agnieszka I organize a small festival in Kraków, it’s called Balfolk May Weekend. The first edition, I organized just by myself with some small help of Justyna, and it was two days of parties, one day with concerts, one day with digital music. Really not an official thing, partly in my mom’s garden.

The second time I organized it with two other people, with Dorota and Justyna and a group of volunteers. We organized it as a three day event, two days with live music and workshops, and one day with digital music. We had teachers and musicians from all over the Europe. It was a really small festival, but be had people from all over Europe; Italy, France, Russia, Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands. Organizing the festival, even though it is a lot of work, brings me joy. You know, when you can see people from all over the Europe dancing together, making friendships, getting to know each other across the borders… That gives you the biggest satisfaction in the world and the feeling that everything is possible!

Greg Wonderful! What is possible right now for people interested in Balfolk? How can people dance Balfolk in Kraków right now?

Agnieszka Here in Kraków, I’m teaching the Balfolk dances right now from beginning, in Kraków Dance Works studio. Also, from time to time, I’m giving deeper workshops about body awareness, how to feel good in your body and in your movement.

I’m inviting teachers from Poland and from abroad to come and teach us something new, something more. And of course, concerts! Last weekend we had a concert with OMG Dude! From Warsaw. And of course, the small-big festival in May.

Greg Great, and if someone wants to get involved with the Balfolks organization, they can reach out to you?

Agnieszka Of course! We’ll appreciate any new input from people in our organization. We’re always open.

Greg Any final words as we wrap up?

Agnieszka I just hope that we will all learn together and grow, not only in Kraków but also in the whole of Poland.

Greg Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time.

Agnieszka Thank you.

Learn more about Balfolk and what Agnieszka is up to through the Balfolks organization page.

 

The Studio’s Vision

Being a Texan in Europe, I have observed some things. In Texas, you see, we have wide open spaces, and you get used to thinking big. If you can dream it, you can make it happen. I grew up with this sense of opportunity surrounding me, and I think I carried some of this over with me when I crossed the ocean.

Now that I’ve hung my hat in Europe for a bit, I think I’ve got an idea on how Europeans see opportunities. Well, of course not each and every one of them… that would 450 million people that I haven’t met yet. But enough to make generalizations. For example, share an idea with a German, and they’ll tell you the correct way to do it. Tell the same idea to a Pole, however, and they’ll tell you why it won’t work.

Whenever I share this observation with a Polish person, they always explain to me why this is so. They tell me that it’s because of historical circumstances. That this skepticism has its roots in the story of the Polish nation, and the centuries when it was ruled by some foreign power. This skepticism was a useful way of protecting yourself from making dangerous mistakes in the rough neighborhood that is the North European Plain.

Now look, I get this. I see where they’re coming from. In fact, it is one of the reason’s I love living in Poland so much. The people in my life are grounded in reality, with clear eyes and full hearts.

This all being said, the Poland of today is in control of it’s own destiny like it hasn’t been in a long time. The young people I’ve met are hungry to get out and make their marks on the world. If there has ever been a time in Poland’s history where things work, now would be the time. I feel blessed that they’re letting this Texan tag along for the ride.

So what do I see when I look at the opportunities at my studio? I see a studio where people who want to create interesting things in the dance world can find a home. A place where if you have an idea, you will find support from a community of dancers, teachers, organizers, and like minded entrepreneurs. I know that I am not the expert in everything. I know that I cannot offer the solution to every problem. But I also know for sure that I can create an environment that is open, fair, and honest.

In practice, this means that the studio will operate closer to a cooperative venture, rather than a top-down, traditional model. Of course, I’ll take ultimate responsibility for keeping the lights on and maintaining order, but if your idea supports the studio’s vision, you’ll find much freedom for pursuing it.

We might fail. We might succeed. But I firmly believe that this studio is an experiment worth doing. My personal judgement for success will be measured in how many dancers pass through the studio on their way to great things in their lives. I want to hear them tell other people that, “Yes, Kraków dance works!”

With much cheer,

Greg Austin

Christine & The Blue Drags Album Release Party

This first big Blues dance party at Kraków Dance Works will be a special one. Warsaw’s finest Blues band, Christine & The Blue Drags will be unveiling their very first album… produced by and for dancers.

If you love authentic Blues music, and especially if love dancing to authentic Blues music, you won’t want to miss this occasion. Christine first found the Blues through learning how to dance. Through the dancing community she found the other band mates and together they put on a performance that connects with the dancers on the floor. Magic not to be missed!

Doors open at 21:00. Ticket price 30zł. Bring your own alcohol. The dancing won’t stop until you do.