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BalletFolk is committed to creating authentic works that are positioned in the rich tapestry of folklore, and traditional folk music. Whilst creating contemporary ballet theatre works we believe it is important to demonstrate an understanding and inclusive learning environment for audiences and workshop participants to experience the historic and current placement of folk music within contemporary performance. The value of the collaborative partnerships between musicians and dance artists is at the core of Ballet Folk's ethos and by sharing the creative processes through research and academic platforms will elevate the interdisciplinary productions.

'A Waulking Song' Exploring the Trad in Narrative Ballet

A Knowledge Exchange Talk for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

15 May 2020 Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

In February 2020 Deborah Norris was invited to present a new choreographic work at CounterPointe in New York. Curated by Julia Gleich of Norte Maar (Brooklyn) CounterPointe offers women choreographers an opportunity to collaborate with a visual artist to create contemporary ballets that focus on the experimental use of pointe work. A Waulking Song was created as a duet between Melissa Braithwaite (Dancer) and Anna Esselmont (Fiddle) and explores the varying tempos of ‘waulking tunes’, originally written to accompany the work of women when preparing the cloth in the Scottish Highlands. Choreographically, traditional folk dance stepping patterns are actualized in ballet vocabulary, while the costume design is a modern interpretation of Tartan patterns associated with Scottish culture and interwoven with a Japanese influence created by artist Anna Hymas.  

In this talk choreographer, Deborah Norris presents a recording of the ballet ‘A Waulking Song’ and discuss the collaborative process with Anna Esselmont (Composer) and their research into the artistic relationship between traditional folk music and narrative ballet. 

'The Two Princesses' A lecture demonstration

Locating Women in 'The Folk' – An interdisciplinary conference

Perspectives on women’s contributions to folk song, folklore, and cultural traditions.
9 June 2018 University of Sussex

In 2018 Deborah Norris and Lucy Ward were invited to present a lecture demonstration as part of a panel 'On DANCE: Gender on the Move' with Chloe Elizabeth Middleton-Metcalfe and Dr Lucy Wright. This was the first sharing of the early research and development for 'The Sisters of Elva Hill' with a working title 'The Two Sisters'. 


The voice of female role models is often underrepresented in the folk tradition. The Two Princesses, provided an exciting narrative to explore the archives for songs of female strength, courage and bravery that extended beyond the well-loved ‘Sovay’, ‘The Female Drummer’ etc, thus developing the understanding of the female voice in traditional song. The classical ballet world, that hails from male strength and female beauty, frequently misses the power and strength of woman, and is also engulfed in a long-term debate surrounding the lack of exposure of female choreographers.

The Two Princesses, is a folklore tale that offers an engaging narrative from which to explore key themes of family, love and triumph. Delving into the rich past of folklore for a strong narrative was the creative inspiration for this project. The natural essence of story-telling through folk music, and the fairytale/surrealist origins of ballet made the collaborative process between folk songwriter and contemporary ballet choreographer ideal to create a new ‘Folk Ballet’ for both folk music and dance audiences.

A ballet in two acts, the work was devised with the aim to break down the barriers between the two disciplines. The score informs the dancing with key established themes from within the tradition for each of the key characters, keeping the work conceptually secure and rooted, for example: arranging parts of ‘King Willie’s Lady’ to express the step mother’s magic. Framing the narrative of the tale using traditional song and music a full length score using traditional folk music and has been created using the tradition as a spring board for original new music.

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