Articles and comments contributed by
Skandia Folkdance members
The last of the Skandia Pioneers
|Photo courtesy of Birgit Ages|
Art was the recipient of the Gordon E. Tracie award from the Ethnic Heritage Council in 2005. It is given
|The original Pioneer Trio (Art Nation, Gordon Tracie and Fiddlin' John Sears) in 1982|
annually to an ethnic performing artist who has made significant
contributions in the development and presentation of the traditional arts in our community. This was a big honor for him.
Art was Gordon’s right hand for many years, traveling to Scandinavia with him several times and participating in Gordon’s research in music and dance. On one of the trips they rode mopeds through the villages. Art carried a huge Ampex reel to reel tape recorder on the back, along with clothes and other paraphernalia. He was not known to be a light traveler. However, it paid off, as Art helped Gordon bring back many field recordings, never done by anyone else, of many tradition bearers, some of whom had never been recorded before.
Art was the soundman for Skandia in the dance hall, on the road, and at Midsommerfest for years. Whenever Gordon needed help, he called on Art. When I went on one of Gordon’s tours to Scandinavia, he kept talking about an “Art.” It was, “Art this…” and “Art that…” I was curious to know who this strange person was. When I moved from California to Seattle in 1967, I finally met Art Nation. I was taken on as an “apprentice fiddler” by John and Art. Art was known for his inability to have a feeling for time, and thus was late for many an activity. He was also known for his love of electronics and collected many recorders, radios, televisions, motors, etc, and parts of things that he would have on hand when needed. This was also a Gordon Tracie practice.
Art was more than a Skandia pioneer. He had a master’s degree in electrical engineering and was an expert in whatever he did. He ended up as a bioengineer in medical research and became a pioneer in helping to develop the
Doppler scanner, which uses ultrasound to scan arteries, especially carotid arteries, to detect clots. He was written up in several medical reports. Now ultrasound is widely used in many areas of medicine, for detection, diagnosis, and treatment. He could repair anything, given enough time. Friends frequently brought over their broken items for him to repair.
One of a kind. Will never be forgotten
He played viola in many groups. When Gordon got a bass for Skandia, Art was the only one who had a vehicle to transport it, so he taught himself to play it, since he was the caretaker! He played with some Swiss groups as well. He was in great demand as a bass player.
When I came to Skandia in 1967, Art was organizing Skandia ski parties to go to the Mountaineers Meany Lodge at Stampede Pass. There were lively dances that he taught and played for in the evenings after a day of skiing. Wherever he went, he brought music! His motto was to always bring your fiddle. You never know when you might need it. He also had a love of classical music and played in the early Seattle Youth Symphony, then in Thalia Symphony for many years. Mountaineering was another love of his, both climbing and ski mountaineering. He climbed Mt. Rainier three times!
Art was a unique, quirky, kind, gentle person and never spoke ill of anyone. He had many health problems and surgeries over the years, but that never discouraged him. He drove his friends, including Gordon, crazy at times. He truly marched to the beat of a different drummer. We were married for 26 crazy years before we went our separate ways, but we became closer than ever after that. He belonged to everyone, and our children and I will miss him the most. I cannot imagine life with him gone. He left us peacefully on Nov. 11, 2012. The children and I were all at his side when he drew his last breath.
(For those who knew Art, we would love to have any memories, stories, or photos you may have.) There will be a celebration of his life, when and where is still unknown.
“When I was in the first grade, “ says young fiddler Anika Anderson, “I decided I wanted to play the violin.” And so she has, expanding her reach this year to include the Norwegian hardanger fiddle. Anika is the first recipient of the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America’s Young Student Hardingfele Loan Program, which has provided her with an instrument for this year.
How did it happen? Last autumn Anika was studying with Martha Levenson, playing regular fiddle and developing a repertoire of close to 80 tunes. Having heard about the loan program, Anika thought it would be fun to try something different, so she applied.
One qualification for the application was that the student find a mentor in their community who was willing to teach. Peter Michaelsen agreed that he would do this, and his letter, a letter from Anika’s parents, plus Anika’s own writing about her goals, were submitted. On a cold and rainy day in early December the word was out—Anika had won the instrument! A few days before Christmas, Lynn Berg, the maker of the loaned instrument, delivered it personally to Anika’s home.
Lynn, who lives in Eugene, Oregon, built this instrument with children in mind. It is somewhat unique; there are very few small instruments available for children who wish to learn to play hardingfele. Anika’s instrument has everything a full-sized instrument has: mother-of-pearl inlay, beautiful decorations, and a dragon’s head on the top. Anika points out one difference with a chuckle, “Most of the other instruments have a wood-colored tongue on the dragon, but mine has a black tongue!”
At age ten, Anika is hooked. She has performed with her ’fele at Skandia dances, in public schools, at Midsommar in Astoria, and at the HFAA’s summer camp in Wisconsin, for which she also won a scholarship. She has played for students at Pacific Lutheran University, pancake breakfasts at the Swedish Club, and Yulefest and Children’s Christmas in Scandinavia at the Nordic Heritage Museum.
Peter Michaelsen smiles when asked about his time with Anika, saying, “ Since most of my students are adults, I wasn’t sure what to expect with 10-year-old Anika. We’ve met most weeks since last January, when she got the Berg half-size fiddle, and I can safely say now that I wish I’d
begun at 10.” Peter continues with the comment, “You show her a technique and she gets it immediately. Talk about sponges. Same with new tunes: as we embark on a new springar, she gets this ferocious scowl of concentration on her face. Each vek is stored away in turn, until—even before lesson’s end—she has it all. Then, a smile.”
It has been a learning experience for Anika’s family too. Her mom, Debbie, had to get a replacement string, as she broke one helping Anika tune her instrument. Debbie learned that strings for the hardingfele are not just something you can buy locally; they have to be ordered from the HFAA. That was a surprise. “This is because the hardingfele takes special wound strings,” says Anika, “They’re made of sheep’s gut!”
Anika also explained that the hardingfele is different from the regular violin for several reasons. It is widely known that the hardanger fiddle has sympathetic strings, but Anika explained that it is tuned differently as well. While the regular violin is tuned in fifths, G-D-A-E, the hardingfele is tuned B-E-B-F#. But she says, “It’s not confusing because it’s really just a note higher than the regular violin.”
When asked why she likes playing the hardingfele, Anika giggled and said, “I like to play the hardingfele because it’s fun. There are lots of double stops, and those are hard, and I like them. They are hard because they go quick and you have to get your fingers going or it doesn’t sound right.” She also noted that “the bow takes more lightness than the regular violin, or it squeaks.”
Anika has enjoyed having the instrument immensely. She hopes that her experience will encourage other young fiddlers to give it a try. Peter echoes this, saying, “It sometimes seems that kids pay more attention to their peers than to their parents or teachers. I think Lynn’s fiddle and the HFAA scholarship program may start ripples of interest among young people in playing this instrument wherever it lands for a year.”
Anika plans to continue playing the hardingfele when she is big enough to play a full-sized instrument. Her last performance with this instrument is at Jullekstuga, performing with her teacher, Peter Michaelsen.
A Danish dance card that has traveled the world
While in one of the Context International courses recently, a student heard I was involved in Scandinavian folkdance. She, Kathleen, wondered if I could understand her grandfather’s old dance cards. After I had a quick look, she offered to let me scan them and write up this article.
It wasn’t difficult to write. I sent the scans to my Danish friend Frits Lilbæk; keeper of the Danish folk dance Web page http://vofl3450.homeunix.net/danishfolk/dance.html#ENGTEXT, and also the person who put me up to teaching Totur fra Vejle in Denmark in Danish. (Danish is a language where my vocabulary ends at about the
number three, and Totur fra Vejle is a dance where that is about enough words!)
Frits found the card interesting and quickly sent me
The handwriting says “Johannes Hansen.” Kathleen’s grandfather’s full name was Johannes Mørch-Hansen, born 27 January, 1898, in Nykøbing, Sjælland, Denmark. He traveled as a young man to China to help a friend, found
employment with Texaco, and later married the sister of exiled Czarist army officers. His children, born in China, but Danish citizens, were sent to live in Portland, Oregon, during WW II. After the war, the family became U.S. citizens. There were many more moves than there is space for here, caused by U.S. laws that discriminated against Chinese-born.
Frits related: “That kind of handwriting is called ‘skråskrift’ slanted writing. It became mandatory in the schools from 1875. Before that, gothic handwriting was used. When I went to school (1954 to 1963) I learned the ‘skråskrift’.
To-days children hardly can read their grandparents’ ‘skråskrift’ handwriting.”
Fritz continued; “Afdansningsballet means End-of-the-Season Dance” date: 29. April 1905. “Until around 1960, dance was considered to be amusement and not culture. Therefore, to learn dances you needed to attend a private dance school. Often owned by the teacher (and his wife) and with a hired pianist—often an unmarried woman. The dance school had several classes: young children, children, juniors, youngsters, adult beginners, adult skilled, competition dancers, etc. When the teaching season ended, the school arranged one joint ‘Afdansningsbal’ where the classes showed each other, plus their families and old students, what they learned. This card is from such an event.”
Usually the pianist would be replaced by an orchestra for this event. The dance school was in Nykøbing.
Fritz commented on the Art Nouveau vignettes on the front. “Art Nouveau came to Denmark a bit late. 1900 to 1915. First named Jugend; later, the constructed word ‘skønvirke’ meaning fair-work. You will find only a few Danish Jugend style buildings.”
On the back of the card is the dance program.
The Polonaise is not commonly done at Skandia. Johannes apparently saved this dance for Ellen Friis. Johannes also danced the Polka with Ellen.
The Française is a dance with 4 figures. Johannes booked it with Inger Larsen.
The Prinsesse Alexandrine Kvadrille was choreographed by a ballet-dancer at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen. His world was the theater and not the party-dancers. That is probably why the Alexandrine is quite different and perceived as very difficult by both dancers and musicians. Alexandrine was the crown-princess married to the later Danish King Christian X. She is the present Queen Margrethe’s paternal grandmother.
Frits noted that on 5 February 2011, he and his wife Vibeke danced both the Française and Prinsesse Alexandrine Kvadrille, dressed in appropriate formal costume. Frits also sent the dance directions, in Danish, and a short description of the figures in multiple languages—contact me to get a copy.
The Vals—obvious to most Skandia members.
Frits guesses Trinskolen A og B were performances by two children’s groups.
Firtur means four figures. A set dance.
Ottedalsdansen is a spelling error. Should be Ottetalsdansen, an eight-figure dance. There are several different Danish dances with this name. Johannes danced this one with Elsie Ring.
Bitte Mand i Knibe is danced in Denmark and at Skandia.
From: Tabbutt, Kenneth
Sent: Fri 6/4/2010 8:27 AM
To: All Staff & Faculty DL
Subject: Al Wiedemann, Faculty Emeritus
It is with sadness that I share with the community that Al Wiedemann, one of Evergreen’s founding faculty, passed away on June 2. Al was a member of the faculty for 35 years, until receiving Faculty Emeritus status upon his retirement in 2005.
Al came to Evergreen in 1970 as one of 17 planning faculty. He was a plant ecologist by training and was the first to develop Evergreen’s academic programs in ecology, field natural history and field plant ecology and taxonomy. He is deeply respected by his colleagues as well as the hundreds of students he taught over his long career.
Al expressed his creativity from the beginning, as the brainchild behind both the Geoduck as Evergreen’s mascot and Omnia Extares as our motto. Al also found ways to embed his love of dance and theater into academic programs, including directing productions of Inherit the Wind during two programs, casting students in the roles of the principal characters in a battle over the teaching of evolution.
I extend my condolences to Al’s family, friends and colleagues. We will share additional details about plans to remember Al once we receive
Ken Tabbutt, Interim Academic Vice President & Provost
The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington 98505
From: Tabbutt, Kenneth
Sent: Mon 6/7/2010 2:09 PM
To: All Staff & Faculty DL
Subject: Al Wiedemann Memorial
A memorial service for Al Wiedemann is being planned for Saturday, June 12, 2:00 p.m. at Evergreen’s Longhouse Education and Cultural Center.
Ken Tabbutt, Interim Academic Vice President & Provost
"Dancing up" in Sweden
Did you do any traveling this summer? Skandia dancers Elaine Mathies and Tom Berglund went to Trångsviken, in Jämtland, Sweden, to take part in an annual celebration of Swedish polska dancing, Polskmärkesuppdansning, sometimes called "Medal Testing" in English.
The Uppdansning, or Medal Testing, gives dancers an opportunity to demonstrate their ability in dancing both polska dances and selected regional variations of gammaldans in front of judges and an audience of devoted polska fans. Elaine and Tom practiced their twelve dances throughout the winter and spring in Seattle, with generous coaching help from Jerry Walsh and Judy Patterson.
In July, Tom and Elaine traveled to a training camp in Dalarna to practice with Swedish dancers also preparing for the Uppdansning. Swedish dance experts Leif and Margareta Virtanen kept the energy high with tightly-planned sessions running nine hours each day, ensuring that all 41 dancers at the camp had sufficient practice and review time. After an intense week during which Tom and Elaine felt that they had made improvements to each of their dances, they were happy to have a two-day break before the Uppdansning was to begin in Trångsviken.
This year Tom danced for the third (final) level of the Big Silver Medal. He selected six dances, different from the 18 others he had trained for in the previous four years of medal testing. These dances were: Polskdans-Springdans från Hogdal-Lommeland; Gammalvänster från Oviken; Polsk från Finnskoga; Enbenspolska—Bodavariant; Bakmes och polska från Transtrand; and Slängpolska från Svanskog. Tom chose to dance both the polska from Hogdal-Lommeland and the polska from Finnskoga with reverse turns as well as forward turns. The reverse turns for the Finnskoga dance are not done very often, so many dancers were interested in seeing the performance.
Elaine was judged separately; she danced the six dances assigned to all diplom-level dancers (those who have already achieved the Big Silver medal). This year the diplom dances were from Vemdalen and Åsarna: Storpolska från Vemdalen, Realänder från Vemdalen, Polkett med bakmes från Vemdalen, Vals från Vemdalen, Mazurka från Jämtland (Åsarna), and Bosk.
The atmosphere at the Uppdansning, while often serious, is friendly and supportive. Dancers dance against a standard; it isn't a competition. There were only four Americans
entered this year (some years have seen as many as fifteen American participants), along with a couple from the Netherlands and one French dancer. Non-Swedes are welcomed along with everyone else; it is clear that all participants come because of their love for Swedish polska dancing.
Elaine and Tom were entered twice: as couple #100 for Elaine's dances and as couple #108 for Tom's dances (out of 130 entries). Since the diplom dances are done in groups of four couples, there were only about 40 minutes between the two performances. Each person has his or her own pre-performance rituals, and this brief rest fortunately gave Tom the time to wolf down a cheese sandwich to fortify himself for the reverse turns coming up.
The normally-subdued Swedish dancers in the audience clapped along with some of the fast-paced and joyous music played for Tom's dances. It's always a good sign when the audience is so happy and excited that they clap with the music. The reverse turns went smoothly, and Leif and Margareta were smiling after the performances.
Awards for all of the participants are announced at the closing ceremonies on Sunday. Elaine passed her diplom dances; Tom was one of 18 dancers awarded the Big Silver in 2006.
Watch for some of these dances to be covered at Skandia teaching sessions throughout the coming year.
If you want to learn more about the Polskmärkesuppdansning, you may want to speak with Skandia members who have participated in previous years, including locals Don Meyers, Kathi Ploeger, Jerry Walsh, Judy Patterson, Paul Jordan-Smith, Jan Jensen, Larry Reinert, Milt Anderson, Bev Anderson, Bob Hamilton, Linda Roubik, and of course Tom Berglund and Elaine Mathies. Skandia classes and special events offer opportunities to dance polska here at home, and you can take those skills as far as you want.
In memoriam: Grace Andrews
On Tuesday, 27 June, a memorial service at University Unitarian Church in Seattle marked the passing of our dear friend, Grace Andrews, on 20 June, and celebrated her life—one richly endowed with spirit, strength, humor, and heart.
Grace was the daughter of Rev. Newton Moats and Essie Moats. She grew up with two sisters—Mary Margaret and Cathleen. Grace married Art Andrews in 1948, became mother of three—Laurel, Betsy, and Janet—and later grandmother of six—Jim, Julie, Lisa, Stacy, Steve, and Meiling. On 1 March of this year, Grace celebrated her 78th birthday. Her characteristic sparkle and love were clearly present in the photos displayed that memorial evening and reflected in the words of those gathered.
We were fortunate to have Grace and Art bring that same sparkle and generous dedication to Skandia when they came in the early ‘80s. Over the years, they became our esteemed elders—mast and rudder in our shared voyage. And there could be no stronger cheering voice for all—aspiring and accomplished alike—who have brought their talents and enthusiasm to Skandia, including volunteers, musicians, dancers, and visiting tradition bearers.
“How are ya, darlin’?” followed by a big hug and peals of laughter, was a typical welcome served up by Grace as you came through the door at a dance. Grace had a way of entering a hall herself, whooping and singing along with the band in a resolutely off-key way. Not long after Art passed away in 2004, Grace was invited to switch from honorary to active membership in Sus, and we discovered she actually could sing!
Grace charmed visiting music and dance instructors, young and old. One indelible image is from a send-off at SeaTac for Rösåg och Hängbjörk (a.k.a. Lars, Lars, Lars, Lars, and Hans), in 1995 with lots of top hats, placards, cameras, and lively serenading by Grace. That zesty spirit was Grace’s lifelong trademark. At a dinner event within the past year she reveled at having a boyfriend seated on either side of her!
Grace and Art first became Skandia members in 1983, and from the beginning, they served Skandia steadily in many ways. They were on the mail-out committee for the newsletter for years, quietly doing the job every month. Grace also served on the Events Committee during much of the 1990s. She and Art organized the Third Friday dances for many years, lining up music groups and dance instructors every month. It took several people to replace them when they turned the task over to others.
Grace was president of Skandia 1989/90, serving in typical down-to-earth style seasoned with humor and good will. Her belief was that everyone had a contribution to make and her policy at board meetings was to allow anyone with something to say, to say it. This sometimes resulted in lengthy meetings but all were heard! Grace was very supportive of what each person was willing to do.
For their unflagging dedication to Skandia, Grace and Art were named life members at Jullekstuga 1993. When it came time for Art and Grace's 50th wedding anniversary in 1998, how appropriate that the celebration took place at a Skandia dance, where they were embraced by a large crowd of friends and admirers.
About 15 years ago, Grace became the natural choice for the role of parade marshal for our Midsommarfest parade. In this capacity, whether on her feet or, in later years, seated, Grace provided the necessary zip to get the event off the ground. This year, a chair set up and greened for her marked her special place in the Midsommar circle.
On 20 June, when the request came for some music, signaling Grace’s last hours, a throng joined generations of family in her hospital room and surrounded her with love and song.
Grace was truly amazing and the pleasure and privilege of knowing her was beyond measure.
—Irene Myers (Photos by Mary Lambert)
(Reprinted from the Skandia NewsLetter August 2006)
Speldosan over the years
Speldosan's 30th anniversary reunion at Skandia's dance on 7 April was a huge success. It attracted former members from the early days up to the present day. Irene Myers did a wonderful job of planning, organizing, and narrating. She told about the early beginnings and named most of the folks who have been in the group over the years. Tunes that the group played in earlier years were played that evening. A wonderful duet by Irene and Karin Osborn, Polska from Skog, was played just as beautifully as they did for the recording many years ago.
The highlight of the evening was Midnight on the Water, the last waltz. This tune was picked by the group for their trip to Sweden about 1980. The members that went wanted to have an American tune to play there, so they played it at midnight in Dalarna. It was then played for many years as one of Speldosan's sign-off signature. Irene and Mary Nelson started the tune with their haunting harmony-melody duet, joined by the rest of the group the second time around. The group honored Irene at the end by breaking into Irene Goodnight, another old Speldosan spontaneous ending over the years. Hopefully, Midnight on the Water will be on Skandia's Web site for you to re-live and remember Speldosan over the years. Three of Speldosan's leaders were represented that evening.
Thanks to all who attended and helped to make it a memorable event.
Listen to Midnight on the Water MP3
Springdans—the event of the quarter
Why is it that we never get bored with Springdans Northwest? Are we so numb as to find enjoyment in repeating and repeating, every spring, the same routine? After all, it’s just a bunch of the same old faces (and feet) doing the same old dances to the same old tunes by the same old musicians in the same old dance hall, year after year, right?
What makes Springdans Northwest such a pleasure is that none of the above is true. Yes, there’s a stable structure to the weekend: it starts on a Friday afternoon in April and goes through to the following Sunday afternoon; it’s now held every year at the Christian Conference Center in Seabeck, overlooking the Olympic mountains; the Center provides meals and pleasant, clean quarters with linen service; we have dance and music classes during the day and dance parties in the evening (sometimes going on well past midnight); and we have a concert and Happy Hour on Saturday night. All those things make for predictability. Yet every year, Springdans offers something new, and then something else new, and something else….
It started with the T-shirts, designed this year by Don Meyers, one of the “Fearsome Foursome” who organizes Springdans every year (the others are Kathi Ploeger, Jerry Walsh, and Judy Patterson; to this list, add a Fearsome Fifth in the person of Peter Michaelsen, who handles things musical). This year’s T-shirt has a dramatic black background, with lettering and a representation of a nyckelharpa in bronze; you’ll see them at Skandia classes and dances.
The nyckelharpa celebrated the presence of Cajsa Eckstav, who provided music for classes and also held workshops for fledgling and experienced players. Cajsa’s easy-going and cheery manner belied her give-no-quarter, take-no-prisoners playing, not only for the classes, but also for the evening dances. She shared the billing with fiddler and fellow riksspelman Bo Larsson. The friendly rivalry between these Uppland comrades was underscored by a special T-shirt awarded to Bo; it had the same design, but the nyckelharpa was in flames (fiddlers often tease ’harpa players). Don reports that when he suggested the special one-off design, the printer said, “Cool! I’ll do it for free!” I think he must have had another career painting hot-rods…
Dance instruction was under the capable guidance of Stig and Helen Eriksson, who not only hold “Big Silver” medals in polska dancing but also are winners of the Hälsinge Hambo contest. Their careful teaching not only introduced some new dances to the general Skandia repertoire, such as Schottis från Årsunda, Stigvals från Årsunda, and the delightful and deceptively simple Gammalkilspolska, but also gave proof to the fact that a cool dance is not just a collection of bad dance habits. Quite the contrary; it’s the fixing of bad habits that makes for dance excellence, and good dancers are recognizable by their conquest of those habits. The Erikssons also taught Bondpolska från Viksta, two variations of Hamburska, and a lively two-couple dance, Slängpolska från Vikbolandet.
Every year, I’m curious about how Springdans teachers introduce the very useful warm-up exercises that occupy about the first quarter of an hour of instruction each day. This year, Helen’s gentle but continuous warm-ups allowed for plenty of innovation on the part of dancers. Cajsa’s responsive playing kept us all interested and amused, as when she played “Små grodorna” for one particularly helpful squatting-down stretch.
Finally, a comment on the new floor that the Conference Center installed. It’s fabulous! Gone are the holes we all had to dance around, just to the right and front of the stage. Gone are the rough, slick, or soft spots in the old, dark fir that was there before. The new 3-inch red oak planks are a dream to dance on. The room has been repainted, and the windows replaced. And information from the highest quarters reveals that Skandia and its membership were responsible for a goodly chunk of the funding (but don’t let that stop anyone from donating more—they still need funds to pay for it all).
The weekend was a joy, as usual. And let’s face it, if three quarters of your time is spent dancing, how could anyone be bored?
Medal testing 2001: a report from Orsa
The annual Swedish bygdedans rite called Uppdansning (“dancing up”), known in America as “medal testing,” took place in Orsa, in Dalarna, this year. (See the story below for a guide to how Uppdansning works.) Some of the venues for this event have slow floors, and some are much faster. The one in the Orsa bygdegård was a dream: flat, just fast enough, and with plenty of room. The only risky moment came when the long pom-poms on Britt-Mari Westholm’s folkdräkt got entangled in her partner’s legs. They recovered quickly and lost no points. Over 150 couples danced up this year, most of them achieving their goals, though there were some disappointments.
Americans fared very well at this year’s testing. Several familiar faces were there, though only two from the Seattle core of Skandia: Jan Jensen successfully earned her silver medal, dancing with partner Paul Jordan-Smith (who earned his silver last year and was not dancing for points this time). They performed Bakmes från Hede (Perssons variant), Bakmes och Pols från Idre (without the figures), and Orsapolska.
Skandia members from other areas included three who danced for bronze: Cameron Flanders, and Chris and Diane Gruber. Chris did double duty, partnering Cameron as well as Diane. Shirley Hansen earned her silver medal, dancing with husband Alan Hansen. All five dancers are from southern California, and attended Springdans Northwest 2001. (Liberty Elyash, known to many of us as the man behind the camcorder at Springdans Northwest and Mendocino, was also on hand, but not dancing.) In a separate performance, Alan earned stortsilver (see the next story for what this means), as did occasional Skandia member Tom Sears. Tom also did double duty, dancing with fellow Bay Area denizen (and current Skandia member), Brooke Babcock, who earned a diplom in dances from Särna, Idre, and Älvdalen. Four other Americans passed major milestones: stortsilver holder Harry Khamis of Ohio earned a diplom; Ross Schipper and wife Linda Brooks, from Washington, D.C., danced for the first stage of stortsilver. Roo Lester—well-known to regular participants at the Mendocino camp—earned her silver medal literally with flying colors, as a lively partnership with Tommy Englund sent her soaring, especially in Bondpolska från Viksta (which is, coincidentally, the dance of the fall quarter for Skandia’s Village Dance classes).
Despite the usual personal anxieties about “doing well,” everyone at the Orsa event appeared to be having a lot of fun. There’s certainly a “rush” that comes from dressing up in traditional folkdräkt and performing well-prepared dances in front of an encouraging and supportive crowd, even though most of the people there don’t know you from Adam (or Eve). Next year’s event will take place in a completely new venue in the tiny town of Trångsviken, near Mattmar, Jämtland. Will we see some of you there?
—Paul Jordan-Smith (Skandia NewsLetter, September 2001)
Uppdansning: a guide
Uppdansing, or medal-testing, as it’s commonly called here, was started a little over thirty years ago. The organizers identified four levels of expertise in bygdedans for which medals could be awarded, and also identified a set of about 100 dances drawn from several of Sweden’s cultural districts from which candidates could choose to prepare for testing. Each dance is assigned a value between 5 and 10 points based on its level of difficulty, according to the judgment of the organizers. Candidates for the first three levels prepare dances and perform them in traditional folkdräkt before a panel of judges. The overall procedure for earning the first three medals—bronze, silver, and “big silver” (stortsilver)—takes a minimum of five years. (A fourth medal—gold—is described below.)
Some time later, a fifth level, diplom, was added. Only holders of stortsilver may earn the diplom, though good dancers who hold lesser medals can and do dance as partners for diplom dancers. Each year, the organizers choose from a particular district a suite of ten or more dances that all diplom candidates are expected to know. These dances are performed by a “ring” of four or more couples (occasionally three), all in costume, who dance four dances chosen at random. The suite is taught a year in advance of being tested, in a special one-day course held the day before the current year’s testing. While dances for the first three medals are all bygdedanser, diplom dances typically also include schottis, vals, or other dances often considered part of the gammaldans repertoire.
Those dancing for bronze choose three dances whose combined point value is not less than 21 nor greater than 24, while the three chosen for silver must have a total point value of 27 or more. Dancers must earn medals in order, and can earn only one medal each year. The stortsilver process comprises three separate stages, or anteckningar. For each, candidates must prepare three major dances (those of 8–10 points) for a total of no less than 27 points, plus three minor dances (those of fewer than 9 points; 8-point dances serve as either major or minor). At the time of testing for stortsilver, the judges announce which one of the three minor dances they want to see, after the candidate has danced the three major ones.
Candidates’ performances are evaluated on the basis of fundamental knowledge of the dances themselves, on style, and on partnership skills. Single mistakes do not disqualify a dancer, provided that he or she demonstrates that it was merely a passing error, not a consistent one that might indicate inadequate knowledge of the dance. Dancers who make a mistake are wise to open out into försteg or even start over. Some dancers may “get off on the wrong foot” several times and still pass if they can demonstrate that they know they’ve erred and are eventually able to perform correctly. If in the judges’ opinion a dancer has not performed adequately, he or she may return the following year and dance the same program, or a different one.
Uppdansning takes place at a different venue each year, and runs from Friday through Sunday morning of the first weekend in August. No one knows whether or not he or she has been successful until the closing ceremonies, which are held Sunday afternoon after everyone has performed. Those earning bronze and silver medals are announced first, each successful candidate being given a medal and a diploma. Next come those dancing for diplom, for the first or second anteckning of stortsilver, and also those who were not successful, each candidate being given only a diploma. (Diplomas for unsuccessful candidates state that they participated.) The successful stortsilver dancers come last and constitute, as it were, the “graduating” class. This system minimizes the embarass-ment of candidates who did not pass, as most of the audience will not remember who was dancing for what.
The gold medal, a life-achievement award, is given to those whose love of bygdedans and work over many years in dance research has earned them outstanding recognition among their peers. At this year’s ceremony, a gold medal was awarded to Ing- Britt Dahlström, whom some Skandia members will remember from one or another of her several visits to the U.S. as a teacher. At the award ceremony, her old partner, Bo Peterzon, asked her to dance a Bondpolska från Viksta (they had specialized in Uppland dances many years ago). The light and graceful quality of their dancing was a lesson for all who were there.
—Paul Jordan-Smith (Skandia NewsLetter, September 2001)
Celebrating fifty years of folk dancing
Editor’s note: Last summer, the Nordiska Dancers, one of Gordon Tracie’s several organizational legacies, went to Sweden and Norway, in celebration of the group’s fiftieth anniversary. Those who took part in the Uppdansning in Trångsviken were delightfully aware of the Nordiska presence, and grateful for their support. When Skandia Newsletter asked Vicki Nelson if she’d write up their trip, she modestly replied that she’d see what she could do. Space doesn’t permit the printing of the whole wonderful piece in one issue, so the following is a somewhat reduced version of her account. With great reluctance we’re omitting vivid descriptions of visits to Rättviksdansen at the start of their trip and the Norwegian portion of the excursion. However, we plan to present the omitted portions in later issues.
Milt and Bev Anderson, Tom Berglund, and Linda Roubik left the group in mid-week [24 July] in order to participate in an intensive week-long dance camp before Uppdansning (medal testing). During our remaining stay in Rättvik the rest of us had time to visit other villages, to go to the beach, to have jewelry and shoes made, to purchase new costumes, to research family history, and to dance our hearts out. On Saturday we had a lovely Nordiska reunion luncheon at Bengt Hag’s home in Siljansnäs, where we were joined by other former Nordiska dancers living in Sweden. The Rättvik portion of our trip ended watching the church boat arrive. It was a rough journey for the people in the boat, but its safe arrival seemed to be a signal that we would have a safe journey on to Norway.
[In Norway, the group stayed in Brekken and visited with Mary Barthelemy and her husband Olov Nyhus in Røros.]
The last portion of our trip together was to Trångsviken, Sweden to cheer on our fellow Nordiska members, Milt and Bev Anderson, Tom Berglund, and Linda Roubik, as they “danced up” for their bronze medals. We didn’t really know what to expect when we went into the hall where the testing was going on. It amazed us to see so many varieties of costumes present in one small place. One couple from the Netherlands had even installed a safe in their automobile due to the expense of the wife’s costume. (I wonder what would happen if their car was stolen?) I was amazed at the number of countries the dancers represented. Although Uppdansning is a gathering to judge proficiency in Swedish dancing, the dancing community was truly international. There were dancers from Norway, Finland, Denmark, America, the Netherlands, and Japan, just to mention a few of the countries.
We arrived the afternoon that Linda and Tom were to dance their program. It was a tense time for all of us, and especially for them. We watched several performances and then it was finally our turn to be the cheering section. Tom and Linda danced their program beautifully, including a “flying” dance [polska från Klarälvsdalen] in their performance where three of their four feet were sometimes off the floor at the same moment.
On the morning that we arrived, Milt and Bev had taken a side trip to Föllinge, where some of their favorite dances had originated. Föllinge is a tiny place. A girl working in the bakery there told them that her grandmother was baking bread. The grandmother let Bev and Milt come and bake bread with her. Word of this even got back to Trångsviken! Needless to say, that was one of the highlights of their trip (besides Uppdansning, that is).
Bev and Milt danced in the late morning of the day following Linda’s and Tom’s performance. Once again we were all bundles of nerves for them. They danced a beautiful program and received roars of applause. The American cheering section was back at it! Since we were there, we also were able to cheer on the other three Seattle couples. We really had a great time watching all of our friends dance. Seeing everyone receive their medals and diplomas made our hearts swell with pride!
After the dancing-up was completed each day, we were calmer and had more time to check things out in the area around Trångsviken. Storsjön, the lake near Trångsviken, supposedly has a serpent in it akin to the Loch Ness monster. It seemed to be hiding while we were there, though. In the small village of Glössa nearby, it’s possible to take a short hike to see ancient pictograms inscribed in the rocks. The pictograms show a very large grouping of animals that are quite impressive. Those ancient people were mighty astute in their moose and deer anatomy. They are an amazing sight.
Both evenings in Trångsviken we were able to dance at open dances to music by great musicians. Ørjan [Bengtsson, our host in Brekken] even drove over from Norway to dance with us and to listen to some of his musician friends who were providing music for Uppdansning and for the evening dances. The people there were very friendly and happy to see so many Americans “dancing up.” They were surprised to see such a great number of Americans present just to offer support to our dancers. I think we impressed the Swedes with our solidarity and the encouragement we gave each other.
After Uppdansning, we said our good-byes to one another and went our separate ways, returning home, engaging in genealogical research, visiting friends and relations, and seeing other parts of Sweden for the next five days. We had a great time and enjoyed each others’ company immensely. Being able to experience so many things together, I think, has made even stronger bonds among our dance group. It certainly has helped us to get to know one another better, and to have a greater understanding of each other. I honestly can’t think of a nicer group of people to travel with. During the trip, someone inquired how long it had taken to plan our tour. Carole Ramstad responded that such a trip has been in the making for as long as she’s been a Nordiska member, which has been 40 years. I hope we don’t have to wait another 40 years before we are able to make it happen again!
I’d like to conclude with some impressions of the tour that Linda Roubik shared with me.
“What struck me about this trip was how intensively people-oriented it all was. Usually my vacations are oriented around nature and athletics. Here, everything centered on traditions, built up by thousands of people over hundreds of years. Tom and I went to a folk festival near his parents’ hometown, where we were the only Americans among hundreds of locals gathered for music, dancing, and special foods. Imagine a Skandia Midsommarfest, but packed to the gills, with outdoor dancing until past midnight in the special north-country twilight. Every night at Rättviksdansen there was a dance in a different small town, again packed with locals dancing in tiny spaces. The three days of Uppdansning were a constant parade of dances and costumes representing layers and layers of invention over the centuries, kept alive through careful research, and presented only after years of intense effort by the dancers, teachers, and judges. All of this existed on the face of the earth only because of the people.”