A Starter's Guide to Balfolk: Do You Know Your Bourrée From Your An Dro? Part 2
Updated: Jul 23
In this second half of the Starter's Guide to Balfolk, let's take a look at the group dances. Some are danced in the round, others in lines, we sometimes hold hands but in quite a few of the dances from Brittany, we link our little fingers. Here's when you discover if you have pinky power! The wonderful thing about the Breton dances we cover here is that you can join in without a partner. I think this makes a bal feel really accessible and inclusive.
The dances introduced below are the Chapelloise, Cercle Circassien, and 3 Breton dances An Dro, Rond de Saint Vincent and Hanter Dro. This is just a sample of the most popular group dances. I hope it will give you enough to get on the dance floor to join hands or pinkies.
You will find couple dances introduced in Part 1 of the guide, covering Schottische, Polka, Bourrée, Waltz and Mazurka posted earlier.
Ready to dive in now? I've included links to sites where you can find a balfolk event near you at the end of this guide.
You can also join our mailing list to find out when our next balfolk event will be.
Introduction to balfolk circle and line dances
A couple of fun, mixer dances where you change partners throughout the dance. If you don’t know the steps at the start, you will by the end!
Here is a quick tutorial, but it's really easy to pick up at a bal. Just grab a partner and join in.
In this demonstration, you can see how the dancers change partners
If you go to ceilidhs, this will be familiar territory.
Here is a lovely little demonstration video.
You really need a gang to practice these dances. If you do, here's a great set of jigs from Topette!! It's up to you whether you do a Cercle Circassien or a Chapelloise to this.
These next three dances are Breton dances. They have a very hypnotic vibe, dances you can almost meditate to.
A very short tutorial - it's really that simple!
Mesmerising music from Blowzabella. This really is a wicked tune!
Rond de Saint Vincent
A regional variation - here is an explainer with a video demonstration.
Another quick tutorial video - it's even simpler than the An Dro.
We really got into the Rond de Saint Vincent groove with this cracking tune from Topette!!
Danced in a long snaking line. The person at the front leads all the dancers around the dance floor (like a conga but much more Zen). Make sure you join the back of the line though!
Here is a demonstration video - watch the feet of the teacher in the middle in the white shirt
You need some lovely mood music for a Hanter Dro and Naragonia Quartet creates the perfect vibe with this tune.
Want to dig deeper?
Find out about Balfolk events in the UK
Search for balfolk on Facebook to find your local group.
There is a handy list on balfolk.org (you can also filter by your country)
Interested in Breton dances? These are lots more to discover on YouTube: Breton dance tutorial videos playlist
There are lots of variations and improvisations that are possible with the dances. Dance steps and styles can vary from country to country and region to region. If the music moves you, there is every opportunity to freestyle it too!
Not sure which dance to do? The musicians will usually announce the type of dance at the start of each set of tunes.
There are lots of wonderful musicians playing for balfolk events all across Europe. I’ve mainly featured bands with a UK base including my favourite balfolk band Topette!! Most of the videos I've chosen were recordings from bals and balfolk festivals in the UK and Europe because I wanted to give you a sense of the atmosphere at a bal. Follow the featured bands’ links below to find out where they are touring and to buy their music.
Bands featured in this guide