Dance Descriptions

Foreward to Dance Directions
Liner Notes

This Viking Skandia CD contains 28 traditional dances on 35 tracks.  Some dances span multiple tracks to give folkdancers who lead or teach from recorded music additional dance options.

Set in an instrumental combination of classical and folk styles, as such, all agree that these renditions are not exactly "folk".  They are, however, appropriate.  True folkdances, throughout history, make social trips one way or the other, between the rich classes, who danced to hired groups of trained classical musicians, and the poorer classes, who danced often to their own voices or the music of a single self taught musician.

This recording developed from a friendship that began when Gunnar Hahn; an outstanding Swedish pianist, conductor and composer; was to play a concert at the University of Washington in 1950.  Gordon Tracie arranged to have Skandia Folkdancers perform as part of the concert.  After the performance Gordon and Gunnar talked far into the night.  A lasting bond was formed that led to new opportunities for both and this CD, one of the many recordings they made together.

These recordings were made by classical and folk musicians in sessions in 1961 and 1985 in Stockholm.  To make these recordings, rumor has, musicians overcame substantial style differences.  Snapshots of the sessions show musicians in concert tuxedos rehearsing with others whose daily dress had been out of fashion in the Swedish capital for the better part of a century.  Deeply rooted similarities in classical and folk melodies were rediscovered as musicians who followed only a written score learned ways of trading tune varients with those who learned only by ear.

  1. GÅNGLÅT / SNOA (Walking Tune)
    Named for a village near Rättvik, Dalarna, Sweden, Gärdeby Gånglåt is without a doubt the best known fiddler's air in Scandinavia. As functional music, it has been used for march or promenade for generations. In recent times such walking tunes have also served as music for the pivot dance, snoa. The five Dalaspelmän (country fiddlers from Dalarna: Nils Agenmark, Gösta Bäckström, Paul Bäckström, Anders Sparf, and Pål Olle) featured with Gunnar Hahn's orchestra impart the steady, compelling, yet relaxed rhythm characteristic of the native music of Sweden's "folklore province."

  2. ENKEL ENGELSKA (English Dance)
    This pleasant tune is suitable for a variety of circle and set dances which were originally introduced to the coastal lands of northern Europe by English sailors in the eighteenth century when Britannia ruled the waves. Perhaps reflecting characteristic Swedish reserve, the musical temperament is more restrained than that found in British and North American counterparts.

  3. FAMILIE SEKSTUR (Family 6/8 Dance)
    Here is the archetypical Danish folk dance mixer. Both the steps and figures are familiar to square dancers: "Into the center and back," "Grand right-and-left," and "Swing your partner." Nevertheless, there exists a distinctively happy-go-lucky quality so characteristic of the dances of Denmark.

  4. TOTUR II (Two-Figure Dance Number 2)
    The Danes seem to have a never-ending store of fun dances, all utilizing essentially the same steps and figures, but differing in arrangement so that each dance has a spirit and identity of its own. This good-natured big square from Sjælland, captivating in its very simplicity, is made to order for beginning dancers.

  5. TI-TI-TYY JENKKA ("Birdcall" Schottische)
    The song of the European titmouse was the inspiration for this tune, composed in typically Finnish minor mode by well-known old-time dance composer and orchestra leader, Orvokki Ramsi. Jenkka is the Finnish word for schottische. The dance itself, found in Sweden as well as in Finland, appears to be of relatively recent origin, and it is a lively, painless way to learn the schottische step!

  6. TROMMELVALSEN (The Drumming Waltz)
    The Danish propensity for whimsy comes through in this three-couple set dance incorporating arch-and-under action. The drum-like cadence in the lively figure portion is akin to the steps of the pre-Viennese period trippevals (running-waltz), while the more dignified individual partner dance is a Tyrolervals (Tyrolean Waltz), a common chorus figure in Danish folk dances.

  7. ISLENZKUR SKOTTIS (Icelandic Schottische)
    Much of Iceland's indigenous music and dance traditions virtually disappeared centuries ago in the wake of strict religious bans. What remains is predominantly of later Danish origin. This schottische was taught by a folk dance team from Reykjavik. The tune, an old folk song, was learned by Gunnar Hahn from an Icelandic couple in Stockholm.

  8. PARISARPOLKA (Parisian Polka)
    From Norway, land of the Western Vikings, come the stirring melodies for this late nineteenth century turdans (figure dance), found in numerous versions in America as well as Scandinavia. The featured artist, Søren Nomeland, plays with great verve on the Norwegian national instrument, the Hardingfele (Hardanger fiddle), to the inspired accompaniment of Gunnar Hahn's ensemble.

  9. FAMILJEVALSEN (The Family Waltz)
    With a genteel, almost classical melody and flowing rhythm, this pleasing tune, "Vapperstavalsen," is an old gentry waltz from the Sweden of yesteryear. It is a favorite among many Swedish folk dancers for the Family Waltz, a simple, but effective mixer dance known throughout all of Scandinavia. It was introduced to America through Skandia Folkdance Society at the first session in 1949.

  10. KRYSS-POLKA (Cross Polka)
    Frequently called the Wienerkreuz, alluding to its likely Austrian origin, this simple polka has cognates throughout Europe. In Gunnar Hahn's rendition three melodies are used: the first from Sweden (employing the arranger's own quartet intrumentation), the second from Denmark, and the third from Norway, making the selection nearly all-Nordic.

  11. SEKSMANNSRIL (Six Persons' Reel)
    An old fiddler's air from Britain, found throughout a good part of the world and known in North America as "Soldier's Joy," it is a favorite among the Norwegians for dancing the reel. This version for three couples probably came from Scotland some 200 years ago, but the distinctive tones of Søren Nomeland's Hardanger fiddling give it a real Norse flavor.

  12. TO TING (Two Things)
    A pair of contrasting rhythms, triple and duple, provide the music for two typically Danish dance patterns: a Tyrolervals (Tyrolean Waltz) and a svejtrit (step-lift pivot). The basic melody has the same ancestor as both Snurrbocken from Sweden and the well-known Varsouvianna, including the American Put Your Little Foot.

  13. TOSINGADANSEN (Good Humor Dance)
    From the province of Blekinge on Sweden's southeast coast (versions have also been found in Skåne on Sweden's southwest coast) comes this sprightly mixer dance in two contrasting rhythms. The first part has the characteristics of a typical Engelska (English Dance), while the second part consists of a flowing waltz, with a new partner each time around.

  14. GUSTAFS SKÅL or GUSTAVS SKÅL (Toast to King Gustav)
    The music for this old quadrille is attributed to Sweden's famed eighteenth century troubadour, Carl Michael Bellman. Gunnar Hahn has appropriately emulated the musical idiom of the original period through the use of harpsichord continuo and the incorporation of older variants of the melody. As for the dance, toasting a 1700's monarch suggests a satire on courtly mannerisms, which serves to evoke a dancing style quite different from that of the American children's version! Also, the proper Swedish turning step is other than a step-hop or buzz swing.

  15. HAMBOPOLSKA (Old Hambo-Polska)
    The most typical of all Swedish dance rhythms is the polska. In 3/4-meter, but much older than and unrelated to the waltz, it is not to be confused with the far more recent 2/4-meter polka. Some 80% of all Swedish folk tunes are in polska time, including the popular old-time dance hambo. Here the five country fiddlers from Dalarna (Nils Agenmark, Gösta Bäckström, Paul Bäckström, Anders Sparf, and Pål Olle) exemplify the subtle syncopation found in an old provincial form of that dance, called hambopolska. The tune is "Furuboms Polska."

  16. HOIJAKKA / TRINDPOLSKA (Ring Polska / Step Polska)
    Marriage rites, being ritualistic in nature and hence accorded a religious reverence, are often the repositories of traditions which have disappeared in secular society. An example is the ancient ring-polska which has survived in wedding celebrations in Finland. Called Hoijakka in Finnish because of a shouted "Hoi!" upon change of rotational direction, it is known as Trindpolska (step-polska) in the Swedish-speaking districts, where it serves as an efterdans (after-dance) for a minuet or quadrille.

  17. GAMMAL SCHOTTIS (Old-Style Schottische)
    Since the 1970's revival of old regional dance forms (bygdedans) in Sweden, after a decade which witnessed the near extinction of popular old-time dancing (gammaldans), many nearly forgotten dances of yesteryear have come to light. Here is a nineteenth-century ballroom version of the schottische, graceful and flowing, reflecting the legato character of the older music. The fine minor melody is "Schottis från Haverö," from Medelpad, in northern Sweden.

  18. SOLLERÖ LÅNGDANS (Long Dance from Sollerön)
    Before the advent of couple dances, people danced in a ring or line, often singing at the same time. This ancient long dance, collected by pioneer Swedish dance researcher, Johan Larsson, was gleaned from the memory of a 101-year-old woman born 1865 on the island of Sollerön in Lake Siljan, Dalarna. Although the words were not recalled, the haunting melody was rendered by trallning ("tra-la"). The triple-meter rhythm is the forerunner of the polska.

  19. POLS / RØROSPOLS (Pols Dance / Pols from Røros)
    The Norwegian form of the generic polska is known as pols. Found in myriad variations, the best-known version is that from the mining town of Røros in Østerdalen (The East Valley) bordering Sweden. Once limited to its home domain, this exciting bygdedans (regional dance) has in latter years gained widespead popularity throughout Scandinavia and even in North America, where it vies with the Hambo as a top favorite among folk dancers.

  20. JÄGAREMARSCH (Hunter's March)
    In this mixer, dancers are treated to a smörgåsbord of Nordic dance rhythms played on several Swedish folk instuments: a waltz featuring Eric Sahlström on the nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle), a schottische played on the träskofiol (wooden shoe fiddle) by Assar Bengtsson, and a polka on the regular fiddle. The final hambopolska is played by the spelmanslag (fiddlers team) from Dalarna -- Nils Agenmark, Gösta Bäckström, Paul Bäckström, Anders Sparf, and Pål Olle. In each case the tune is a variation of the initial march melody, which quite likely long ago wandered up through Europe from the Black Forest.

  21. POTKU MASURKKA (Kick Mazurka)
    Gunnar Hahn has captured the atmosphere of the last century's salon music in this rendition of "Kulkurin Masurkka " (Wanderer's Mazurka), a Finnish dance tune from that period. The dance name (sparkdans in Swedish) refers to the kicking action of the open mazurka step. The closed turn employs a form of polka-mazurka, essentially a polka step in 3/4-time, danced with a staccato bounce.

  22. GAMMAL REINLENDAR (Old Rheinlander)
    In Norway, the schottische goes by the name of reinlendar. This traditional tune, in a typical Norwegian minor mode, is the preferred melody for the formalized folk dance, Reinlendar med Turar (Rheinlander in Figures). It is of course also ideal for simpler reinlendar forms as well. Here, featuring the Hardanger fiddling of Søren Nomeland, it can hardly be anything but Norwegian!

  23. TREKANT FRA HORSENS (Three-Corner Dance from Horsens)
    Incorporating a familiar fellowship song tune in its music, this challenging Danish folk dance for three couples is an excellent proving ground for no less than five Scandinavian dance steps: walk, run, polka, pivot-spin, and polska (often called polonaise step or Jydsk paa Næsen in Denmark). All this should be more than enough to keep dancers on their toes.

  24. SOUMALAINEN POLKKA (Finnish polka)
    In Suomi (Finland), the polkka is by far the most popular old-time dance rhythm. "Karjalan poikia" (The Karelian Boys) from the country's easternmost district is among the best-known melodies. In this sprightly rendition, Gunnar Hahn features his chromatic button accordion, a popular folk instrument in Finland.

    This two-couple dance from Östergötland (East Gothia) is a survival of the original form of polska known in southern Sweden as slängpolska (swing polka) which dates back to about 1600. As in its single-couple equivalent, it is danced on the spot rather than progressing around the room. Scandinavian folk dancers will recognize a close similarity in both step and form to Fyrmannadans (Dance for Four) which has long been a part of the formal Swedish folk dance repertoire. The two tunes here are "Polska från Gusum" and "Polska efter Pelle Fors."

  26. SØNDERHONING (Sønderho Dance)
    This Danish couple dance is from the island of Fanø, where survive some of Scandinavia's oldest dance traditions. In its common form it is characterized by a three-against-two relationship in the turn: dancing a triple-meter step to duple-meter rhythm. Latter-day research has determined that the proper tempo (nicely rendered here by Gunnar Hahn's ensemble) is considerably slower than that on the originally released 78rpm recording,.

  27. ÅTTETUR FRA ASKER (Eightsome from Asker)
    Slow and dignified, in sharp contrast to the reel and polka, this circle waltz is from Asker in southern Norway. A product of the late rococo period, it is a highly stylized dance incorporating the deep bows and curtsies so essential to the social dances of that era. Although designed for eight persons (four couples), it may be danced by any number of couples in a small or moderately sized ring.

  28. HÄLSINGEPOLSKA (Polska from Hälsingland)
    Among the most stately of the many recently researched Swedish regional dances are certain polska variants from Hälsingland in north-central Sweden. That province's cultural contact with the Continent during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is evident in the decidedly baroque quality of these two melodies. This anthology of traditional Nordic rhythms finishes in an air of elegance mixed with the deep-woods mysticism of the legendary northlands.

Copyright © 1997 Skandia Music Foundation Dance Descriptions

You may freely distribute this page provided you agree to retain this copyright notice and mention that recordings for these dances are on the Viking Skandia CD, available from