Manchester’s secret Polish dance group since 1949
ONE OF UK’S OLDEST POLISH DANCE GROUPS LOOKING FOR NEW BLOOD
Polonez Manchester has been going for 73 years and is on the hunt for new recruits to keep Polish culture alive and kicking
One of the UK’s longest standing Polish folk dance groups is appealing for new members ahead of its performance at Manchester’s Góbéfest later this month.
Asia Cullinan runs Polonez Manchester, a folk dance group that has been active since 1949.
In 1953, Polonez performed at a series of events to mark the Queen’s coronation, including at the Free Trade Hall and in Alexander Park in Whalley Range. In the same decade, the group appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Based in Moss Side, the troupe performs at events all over the country, and around the world. In the 1950s, it boasted around 40 members but now only has around 25 dancers at its weekly sessions – almost a 40 percent drop in numbers.
Asia puts this decline down to the fact that folklore is not seen as fashionable and traditional dancing is perceived to be outdated.
And though Manchester’s Polish population has burgeoned since the country joined the EU in 2004, Kasia says recruiting members in the 2020s is much harder than in previous years.
She says that the majority of members are from Greater Manchester, but that a few dedicated dancers travel from the south to attend weekend workshops as well as festivals and performances.
Polonez is currently rehearsing for performances and workshops at Góbéfest, the UK’s only free weekend-long festival to celebrate the legendary region of Transylvania and the Carpathian Basin. The free festival, which also features music, dance and food from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Croatia, takes place in Cathedral Gardens and Exchange Square 24-26 June.
Asia says: “It does seem like it was easier to recruit people in the 20th century rather than 21st.
“I feel like people do not perceive folklore as a fashionable hobby, thus the number of members is a little bit lower nowadays.
“The age range is from around 24 to 50+ and we currently have two generations of the same family dancing with us, which is beautiful to see.
“Our members are a mix of Polish expats, children and grandchildren of Polish nationals, people of Polish heritage who were born in the UK, and those who have married into Polish families.
“Polish folklore and culture are so vibrant, colourful and welcoming so we’d invite anyone who is interested in joining, to come and see us at Góbéfest and speak to us afterwards. You don’t need to be from a Polish background, and you don’t need any dance training. All our dancers are very supportive and will have you spinning, kicking and dancing to traditional Polish music in no time!”
Committee member Kasia Jasicka said: “We know there are people out there who are interested in Polish traditions and folk dance because they want to cultivate the beautiful traditions Poland has to showcase to the world.
“Polish folk dances are great fun to learn and even better exercise! They really get your heart rate going, use all of your muscle groups, and give you a real buzz as the music is so uplifting. From the elegant Polonaise to the energetic Krakowiak, there’s something for everyone, and once you hear the music and see the colourful costumes, all you want to do is dance!”
Ottilia Ordog, founder of Góbéfest, invited the group to perform at the free, family friendly event, alongside folk dance groups from Transylvania, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Ukraine.
She said: “Festival Sunday is dance day and I am so excited to be able to showcase folk dancing from all around the Carpathian Basin region of Eastern Europe.
“Polonez’s long standing history in Manchester is impressive and I hope performing at Góbéfest brings them new audiences and even new members so the group can continue to meet, rehearse and perform for another 73 years.”
Polonez Manchester was founded by a group of Polish expats, including Waclaw Kolekowski, who were unable to return to Poland after WWII due to the communist regime.
The group’s founders were keen to keep alive the culture and traditions of their homeland through sharing song and dance with fellow Poles and the wider Greater Manchester communities. The group’s extensive wardrobe features over 400 brightly coloured traditional costumes from different regions of Poland.