News

Fundraiser complete – SUCCESS!

Wow, what an amazing success! Our Studio REBOOT crowdfunding campaign has finished, and we raised the funds we needed to meet our goals.

From the beginning, we needed help moving the studio to a new location. Over the new year, specifically we needed to

  • refinish the wood dance floor
  • install new mirrors
  • improve sound & lighting equipment
  • …all remaining funds going towards organizing a Fusion dance festival!

In the end, through the support of the community, we raised 7,640zł in donations! This amount will allow us to pay for all of the new studio work, and still have a good amount left over to go towards a Fusion Fest this Summer in Kraków.

If you supported us in this fundraiser, please be on the lookout for communications about your prizes. We’ll need to get t-shirt sizes from everyone. Also, now its time to start planning the studio private event bookings – let’s get together and organize!

Thank you so, so very much to everyone who contributed. When this started, I was a little apprehensive if people would show their support or not. The response has been staggering and I am humbled by it. It makes me both optimistic and excited for the future of Kraków Dance Works.

Let’s get working!

Greg Austin

The Year in Review

Hi there,

Greg Austin here. I want to take this opportunity to look back on the year 2020. It’s been quite the journey.

The first full year of KDW’s existence was quite the unusual one, to put it mildly. We always knew that the first year would be a year of discovery, a year of learning who we were as a studio. However, never could we have imagined that we would face not one, but two lockdowns… and the cancellations, reschedules, and changes that came along with adapting to the constantly evolving situation.

This all being said, as I sorted through the memories of the past 12 months, my spirits were lifted by the activities and people who brought their energy into the studio. We did some super cool stuff this past year!

So let’s take a quick look at just some of what happened in 2020 –

  • We began 2020 with new semesters of Blues, Balfolk, & Zouk dance classes. Our instructors for the semester were Greg Austin, Agnieszka Dworzańska, and Kasia Pawlik.
  • The wonderful dancers of Comhlan held several Scottish folk dances at the studio. Who knew that Scottish Tea Dances could be so much fun?
  • Balfolks continued to organize amazing dances, including an Epic… Sax… Balfolk dance in the theme of Eurovision. The Balfolks people have been some of the most supportive members of the KDW family. They deserve much appreciation for sticking with the studio throughout all of the ups and downs of 2020.
  • Warsztaty Teatralne continued to come down from Warsaw to give theater workshops. Thank you so much Piotr for bringing theatrical vibes into the studio. This provided much inspiration for studio activities later on in the year.
  • The first lockdown arrived in March. Our classes, workshops, and events were thrown into disarray.
  • In response to the lockdown, we created a video news service, Blues Action News, to keep the Blues community in Poland updated on cancellations and reschedules. In addition providing timely information, this service also helped the studio understand what it was that was important to preserve through all the craziness of the lockdowns. We learned that it was our relationships with our community members that were the most important!
  • As the summer arrived, and things opened up again, we held a flurry of events to get the dance juices flowing again following the first lockdown.
  • We hosted a long-delayed Blues dance workshop weekend – Chicago Juke Joint Party – The talented teachers Krystyna & Filip came down from Warsaw to share a workshop on Chicago style Blues dance. That evening, they joined their band, Christine & The Blue Drags for a rocking dance!

  • Building upon the work that Mark Oliver had begun with the Fusion dance scene in town, we pulled our teams together to organize a last minute, mini-fusion festival – Ice Cream Fusion. This event provided the inspiration for a 2nd, much larger Fusion Festival to be organized in Summer 2021. We really hope all will go to plan in the future.
  • Agnieszka was back at it again with a Balfolk workshop and concert featuring Remi Kesteman, all the way from Lyon, France. Remi stuck around for a bit afterwards, and made good use of his time by partnering up with Agnieszka to dance a stunning music video for Remi’s Balfolk band Fahrenheit.
  • As the past summer wound down, we also managed to sneak a 1950’s style party in at the studio. Klaudia Bałazy was an amazing hostess!
  • The surprise hit development at the studio this year was the creation of Karaoke singing nights at the studio. What started as a few friends coming together to practice singing with a microphone turned into joyful regular gathering of Karaoke fans. We’ll be getting a second microphone in 2021, so that we can continue with the good times.
  • Another new evolution at the studio was the introduction of theater evenings, in the form of Murder Mystery Dinner Parties. These were written, produced, and developed all in house, using all of the talent that floats around the studio.
  • Throughout it all, we enjoyed having Swing & Sway at the studio on Monday evenings. They are a pleasure to work with and we look forward to having them continue on Mondays in the new studio. Best Swing school in Kraków in our opinion.
  • With the second lockdown arriving, we turned our attention to getting ready for our move to the new studio space. The moment of quiet has given us the time to reflect on what has been a busy, busy year. It did lead to some great times in December.
  • A Christmas practice of old Zouk friends brought much cheer and nostalgia. Here’s hoping for many more memories in the future.
  • Looking forward to 2021, the most important change to be made will be a move to a new studio location. It will still be in the same building, and we’ll be keeping everything that makes KDW so special. To support this move, we launched an end of year fundraising campaign. It is still live, so head on over and help today! Studio REBOOT in January!!!

  • In addition to the above highlights, there have been so many more events, classes, trainings, birthdays, reunions, and morale boosters throughout the year than we can’t fit onto this Year in Review. Each one of them were special in their own unique way.

Greg Austin back here again. Wow, what a happy trip down memory lane. I know that for me personally, I have grown and developed tremendously. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without the studio. I can say this honestly, I am looking forward to 2021, even if it is just as crazy as 2020. Big hugs and cheers!

Greg

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!

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.