Belgian Folkdancers of Winnipeg – Storytelling Through Movement
When people think of Belgium, they envision sweet waffles, authentic chocolates, craft beers, and beautiful lace draped across cultural attire. There’s more to Belgium’s heritage, of course; beyond the renowned desserts is the rich cultural history and traditional dances that showcase different aspects of Belgium through movement and storytelling.
The Belgian Folkdancers of Winnipeg are a local group whose authentic dances portray the many diverse regions of Belgium. The group strives to bring the history of Belgium alive by showcasing different dances throughout the ages.
“Our costumes are all made by local volunteers and exhibit traditional wear from the different regions and time periods,” states Suzanne Armstrong. “Along with authentic costumes and dances, we perform with traditional live music that is played on accordion.”
The Belgian Folkdancers of Winnipeg currently have three dance groups: The Waaltjes, which is the children’s dance group with ages ranging from three to eight years old, the Junior Dance Group (intermediate), learning many basic steps, and the Senior Dance Group, which performs more intricate and complex steps.
Back in 1987, the Belgian Community hosted its first Folklorama. That first year, a Belgian-American folkdance group from San Antonio, Texas was hired to perform. In the fall of that same year, The Belgian Folkdancers of Winnipeg was formed to showcase the local culture at the next year’s pavilion.
“Our dance group wanted to become a part of Folklorama to contribute to the multicultural diversity of Winnipeg and Manitoba by adding to the already diverse array of cultures that make up the community that is Folklorama.”
Since 1988, Folklorama has been the dance group’s main performance, but they have also performed in many festivals across southern Manitoba and Minnesota.
“We have been a part of Folklorama since 1988 and we have met many wonderful people from all over the world. We have enjoyed showcasing Belgium and learning about many other cultures. Folklorama has brought our tiny community closer and has given us a sense of belonging to a larger family.”
The pandemic has made it challenging for dance groups to do what they love. The nature of dance and togetherness during routine practices has limited the ability for groups like The Belgian Folkdancers of Winnipeg to be in studio. The group is eagerly awaiting the day they can practice and perform together again.