The ensemble was established at Poznan University of Technology in 1973 upon Zbigniew Solak’s initiative and was originally called the Folk Dance Ensemble of the University Council of the Polish Students’ Association at Poznan University of Technology. However, the history of the ensemble dates back to 1953 when Kazimierz Michalik, the only student of the Engineering School in Poznan from Podhale, was prompted by his colleagues to set up a highlander folk ensemble. It was probably the only ensemble of this kind in the Polish lowlands. It enjoyed popularity both in Poland and abroad.
In 1970, after a few years’ break, eight students from the Faculty of Civil Engineering formed a folk music ensemble. It was composed of Tadeusz “Duży Tadzio” Cudziłło – manager, Ewa Wojciechowska, Wiesław Duszeńczuk, Ryszard Grajewski, Janusz Grześkowiak, Marian Kałmucki, Henryk Maćkowiak and Kazimierz Misztal. The ensemble’s repertoire included folk songs from all regions of Poland. It gave performances during student rallies and dance evenings at the “Sęk” club.
Shortly afterwards, the ensemble was joined by Zbigniew Solak, whose ambitions went beyond a strictly music-type group. In 1973, he founded a folk dance ensemble with a folk music band. The ensemble performed in Poland and abroad, in Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, East Germany and West Germany. In 1979, artistic management was taken over by Sławomir Pawliński. The first instructors were Barbara Kurek – music director, Zbigniew Wawrzyniak – organizational manager and Jacek Marek – choreographer. Musical arrangements were supervised by Kazimierz Budzik. In 1982, the ensemble was awarded the Golden Collective Badge of the Polish Students’ Association.
Since 1984, the year when Marzenna Biegała-Howorska became director, the ensemble has been called the Folk Dance Ensemble “Poligrodzianie”. The ensemble has had the following music managers: Bogdan Bard and Magdalena Wasińska; vocal instructors: Marian Wiśniewski and Paweł Łuczak; dance instructor: Renata Banaszewska.
Being the oldest folk ensemble of the student community in Poznan, it has raised over 500 young dancers and musicians. Currently, the ensemble numbers over 60 dancers and a 14-person music band. They present national dances, rituals, customs and songs from all over Poland. The choreographies are based on consultations with eminent regionalists: Mirosław Bobrowska, Janina Foltyn, Alicja Haszczak, Janina Kalicińska, Janina Marcinkowa, Maria Romanowicz, Danuta Sury, Jan Brodka, Kazimierz Budzik, Bogusław Linette. The dancers perform in original costumes, and the music is arranged in compliance with the set of instruments appropriate for a given region.
For many years, the ensemble has been one of the most active ambassadors of Polish culture, having visited 68 countries and travelled over two million kilometres. It often paved the way for Polish artists. “Poligrodzianie” has given concerts for UNESCO four times, and on two occasions it was Pope John Paul II’s guest. It was invited to concerts by the mayor of New York, the King of the Kota Kinabalu region, the president of Malta and Nepal, ministers of culture and tourism in Ireland, South Korea, China, Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey and Israel and many others.
It was the first ensemble to represent Poland at the annual congress of the representation of European Community regions in Rennes in 1998. It has won a number of awards at home and abroad, including the most important ones: the 1st Prize at the Theatre Olympics in the folk category in India in 2012 and the Folklore World Championship in 2015. The ensemble has performed for prisoners in the USA, on the Mongolian steppe, in the mountains of Nepal, Chile and Mexico, being sometimes not only the first Polish artists but the first Polish people in these lands, on the prestigious stages of Milan or Nashville, in Disneyland, or for more than 30,000 audience in China.
“Poligrodzianie” has recorded programmes for national television, e.g. in Sweden, Italy, Canada, Mexico, China and Serbia. It has participated in a variety of events such as EXPO in South Korea, Europada and Christmas Fair in Frankfurt. The ensemble was awarded with the “Ambassador of Polish Culture” distinction by the Minister of Culture and honoured with a diploma for merits by the Marshal of the Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) Region. In 2013 and 2018, the ensemble received a commemorative award for its services from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.
In 2013, it received the “The Best Creative and Artistic Folk Art Performance in Europe 2013” award for organizing the jubilee concert. In 2014, it received the “Best in Poland” certificate from the president of Hipolit Cegielski Society. From this year, it has also been the “Ambassador of Greater Poland Culture”.
“Poligrodzianie” is not only an ensemble that promotes Polish folklore on stage, but also conducts extensive educational activities. The ensemble has made over 1,000 programmes for children and school youth of Greater Poland. It has recorded a series of talks for primary and lower-secondary schools in the Mazowsze (Mazovia) Region. It runs children’s and youth groups and the Folklore Academy. The ensemble also supports the local community by giving and producing charity concerts for children and youth, including the disabled, and supports non-commercial events of other social organizations.