North East Connected

The OZ Couple Arrive in Billingham after 10,500 Miles Globetrotting

A couple from New South Wales (NSW) in Australia have landed in Stockton-on-Tees after travelling over 10,500 miles to attend the 52ndBillingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance.
 Steve and Galina Wardrop from Port Macquarie, a small coastal town, 450km north of Sydney – set off on their globetrotting travels on July 4th and the journey has taken in Thailand, Turkey, Edinburgh and Billingham.
The adventure has been full of excitement and incident in Thailand they absorbed the spiritual culture by visiting some of the majestic temples and in Turkey whilst staying with Galina’s daughter, Altenai, the couple experienced first-hand the tensions of the failed military coup.

Steve and Galina, both avid dancers, contacted the Folklore Festival for details of the event as they wanted to add the showcase to their journey.

The Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance has welcomed performers and dance companies from as far afield as Chile, Martinique, Mexico, North Cyprus, Russia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance is made possible by support from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and Arts Council England through its National Lottery funded Grants for the Arts programme.

Sydney-born Steve, aged 65, is a licensed real estate agent, a job he’s done for over thirty years. Galina, aged 55, was born in London and before moving out to NSW, fourteen-years ago – worked as a librarian.

Steve and Galina have been married for seven years. Steve has three grown-up children and six grandchildren; and Galina has one daughter, Altenai – who is teaching English in Fethiye on the coast of Turkey.

Galina particularly loves Salsa, Raqs Sharqi (Belly Dance) and Balkan Folk Dance. She has danced since the age of four, when she was frequently entered into competitions by her mother, Kathy, who is also a passionate dancer, and still teaches dance at the age of 82 in Eastbourne where she lives.

“Billingham has been fantastic! I didn’t know what to expect from the Folklore Festival but it has been nice to see so many talented dancers and groups in the one place. You don’t get this kind of event back home in Australia. It was well worth all of the travelling to get here!” said Steve.

He added: “The shows have been absolutely first class with the variety of performances, stunning costumes and the live music making it extra special. I just love the history of England and everything associated with the whole heritage experience.”

Galina said: “It has been delightful to witness all of international groups as they bring their different cultures and customs to the stage.  As a spectator interested in dance it was refreshing to see the crowds in attendance who are enjoying the performances – it shows that after fifty years it still has an appeal and attraction to the local people.”

Galina has taught Raqs Sharqi since 1985, and studied with the Suraya Hilal School of Dance. She has taught Bulgarian Folk Dance since her scholarship there in 1986; and since coming to Australia, she has taught various types of Street Latin including Cuban Salsa, Rueda, Son, Bachata, Merengue, and Chacha.

Galina continues: “We have been very lucky on our travels to experience so many different amazing places which are rich in heritage and tradition from Buddhism in Thailand through to International dance in Billingham.”

The couple have watched a number of shows since arriving in Billingham with their particular favourite being the International Concert featuring the astonishing skills of the Ensemble ‘Miras’ of Bashkortostan in Russia.

Russia has extra significance, as Kathy, Galina’s mother – who has joined them in Billingham for the Folklore Festival – visited the 6th World Youth Dance Festival in Moscow back in August 1957; and was moved and influenced by the magical dance techniques. Kathy used her knowledge of the Russian language to chat with the performers from Bashkortostan.

Kathy, a keen dancer herself has always encouraged Galina will her passion and desire for dance.   

Steve and Galina will be setting off on their return journey to Australia after their 10-week adventure…courtesy of stop-overs in Turkey and Koh Samui (Thailand) on the way home.

The Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance continues until Saturday [August 20th] with a host of shows, galas, concerts and workshops for people to enjoy.

If you want to learn more about the other shows taking place at BIFF 2016 please visit or on social media via Facebook and on Twitter @BillFest.

The website also includes a box office section, where people can buy tickets online at or by calling 01642 553 220.

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