Parmenter offers a fine farewell

 Dancers take part in a previous Balfolk mini-bal in the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum Josephine...
Dancers take part in a previous Balfolk mini-bal in the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum Josephine Foyer with Caroline Plummer Dance Fellow Michael Parmenter. Photo: ODT files
A special weekend of social dance and music, with workshops and performances, heralds the arrival of spring and the completion of leading dancer Michael Parmenter’s six month Caroline Plummer Dance Fellowship.

It has been a fond return for Parmenter, who once called Dunedin home, as he has immersed himself in the city’s vibrant community dance scene, taking in everything from French and Irish dance and American contra dance to jazz dance, salsa and tango.

As a farewell, Parmenter offers the dancers of Balfolk Dunedin and the wider community a curated Spring Equinox Folk Ball and Festival this weekend, September 23-25.

The festival will feature two folk balls, three workshops in dance genres not normally included in the Balfolk repertoire, and an evening of live music and dancing, providing an opportunity to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Parmenter said it was a joyful thing for people to be able to come together and enjoy dancing together, after a difficult and isolating two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘‘In a way, it’s the perfect antidote,’’ he said.

Dunedin dancer and Irish Beat Dance School director Kathryn Olcott and Caroline PIummer Dance...
Dunedin dancer and Irish Beat Dance School director Kathryn Olcott and Caroline PIummer Dance Fellowship holder Michael Parmenter run through some Irish dance steps ahead of Saturday’s gathering at Maggies (Morning Magpie), where they plan to give a demonstration. Photo: Brenda Harwood
As the University of Otago Caroline Plummer Dance fellow, Parmenter has been on a journey of discovery, becoming involved in a broad array of dance groups in the city.

He has worked with Irish Beats Dance School principal Kathryn Olcott on creating Irish dance displays, and has instituted regular Bal-folk dance sessions, which will be continued after his departure by Kate Grace.

He has also studied American contra dance with Bernadette Berry, and blues dance with Siobhan Moroney.

‘‘It has been wonderful to be part of all these things. I feel enriched by the experience, he said.

‘‘It will take a while to process everything after I return to Auckland.’’

The events in the Spring Equinox Folk Ball and Festival will be hosted in historic central Dunedin, including in Burns Hall (First Church), the old Bus Station social room at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, and Morning Magpie.

The main folk ball, this Friday night at Burns Hall, will feature live music by folk ensemble Folkalyptica, with Parmenter as dance caller, and will combine mazurka, scottish, waltz and polka dances with group bourres, contra dances, rounds and reels.

On Saturday and Sunday, there will be workshops at the settlers museum on American contra dance, Swedish Polska dance and jazz dance, accompanied by live music.

On Saturday night, Mazurkas at Maggies will be a chance for conviviality, music and dancing, accompanied by Folkalyptica.

The festival concludes with a final Josephine Mini-Bal, accompanied with live music by Catgut and Steel, from 2pm-4pm on Sunday.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my six months rediscovering Dunedin and its rich dance heritage,’’ Parmenter said.

‘‘I have been delighted with the enthusiasm expressed by the public for our weekly Balfolk Dunedin classes and I am leaving renewed and energised by the incredible learning opportunities I have experienced during my time in Dunedin.

‘‘This festival is my parting gift to all the dancers of this wonderful city who have welcomed me back with open arms and warm hearts.’’