We caught up with Ylenia Pignari, our current Artist in residence at the vault to find out a little more about her passion for bafolk.

Ylenia was born in Italy in the small but pretty city of Udine. She has theatrical training and experience from age 13, from the theatre academy city of Trieste, and has participated in theatre and local arts events with many different groups.

How would you describe yourself and your work to someone unfamiliar?

Balfolk is a dance event for folk dance and folk music in a number of European countries, mainly in France, Italy, Portugal, Turkey or hungary or Spain.

It is a wonderful social experience due to its non-competitive nature and focus on sharing and fun. Balfolk gives you the freedom to dance in a way that’s connects you to your inner rhythm, and explores the possibilities of your own unique body. I love the opportunities that Balfolk provides in dancing within a group and with a partner.  I love how the experience of a group breathing together brings us in unison with the folks instrument’s notes. It’s not just the technique of the steps that captivates me but the compelling energetic experience of dancing in a group.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your practice?

My background is in Theatre I have been in training since I was 13 years of age. I studied at the theatre academy in the city of Trieste in Italy.  While there I had the opportunity to get involved in theatre and local arts events with many different groups and this continued as I got older and began to travel. I found dance to be an organic way for people to come together and express themselves, I have always found this very natural and I have made many friends in so many places this way.

Originally I started dancing out of curiosity and a way to meet new people, the further I travelled the more I become aware of how little is known about Balfolk, I feel myself 

nourished and enriched when I practice my type of traditional dance, it brings me closer to myself and to my home. When I come to a new place I feel the need to talk about my heritage and to explain to others how I feel and who I am, I can do this through my folk dance. I find that it helps with human connectivity without social structures and limitations of language. 

What are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into your work?

I’m interested in travel and indigenous forms of expression in music and dance, I gather baggage as I travel so to speak. I share my dances and music, I am fascinated with each cities individualism through its folk art, the past the present and the future present themselves in beautiful forms. Folk dance  has the power to transform and reflect the world we live in, empowering the dancers who engage in the traditions. I’m very excited to be in Ireland and to discover all the traditions of this mystic country, its dance, music and its arts secrets!

What hobbies or interests do you have that might surprise people?

People are always surprised to hear that I play percussion and diatonic (Italian folk) accordion, I also co-founded the Udinfolk Balfolk group in Italy, and I have also DJ at Balfolk nights in Portugal.

What would you like to accomplish in the near future?

I would love to develop Balfolk in to a therapeutic art form for those living with disabilities

I have studied in the social sector in Italy and worked with people who have disabilities this was the most gratifying experience of my life. I believe in the therapeutic power of theatre and dance in sharing the experiences and value that every person brings to society.

I believe that there is no normal, normal is just what we in society decide, there are many shapes and forms of body and expression and we should embrace them all.

Ylenia will be running a bafolk dance workshop at the Vault on Thursday 18th July. More detils can be found here