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My ancestral heritage has always been a major part of my life. I grew up listening to stories of Uncle Sam – who emigrated to the United States from Norway in the mid-1800s – that my father would tell as he tucked us into bed every night. We enjoyed tea time at Grandma Virginia’s and learned to make kumle and lutefisk at Grandma Margaret’s. At Christmas, the Scandinavian traditions were most evident. Our cultural heritage has therefore always been a major part of our homeschool curriculum.
Over the past few months, our Barnesklubb (Scandinavian Youth Club) has been learning Norwegian Folk Dance. It has been a very fun endeavor and admittedly, a little challenging as well for I must admit that I have not had prior folk dance experience. This undertaking has, therefore, been a little scary for me. We have wanted to learn for years now – motivated to earn the cultural skills pin from our Sons of Norway lodge. To renew my teaching credential I needed 9 university credits and when I came upon a folk dance course, I knew this was the time to begin.
Our Barnesklubb meets once a month and in March, I introduced them to folk dancing. I had watched a few videos on YouTube, took copious notes, read a few books (Folk-dances and Singing Games), and many more are available for free on Google Play), and worked through the basic steps on my own. When Barnesklubb met at the library each month, I brought along the music and walked the kids through two dances, Klappdans and Seksmannsril.
Klappdans, or the Swedish Couple Dance, is danced in a double circle, with the partners side by side with the girl on the boy’s right, inside hands joined and the free hands on hips. It is sometimes referred to as the Parisian Polka and Children’s Clapping Dance.
Seksmannsril translates to 6-man Reel and is a bright, lively 3-couple set dance. As with several other folk dances of similar nature in Norway, it is generally considered to have been an import from Scotland centuries ago, but over the years has acquired a typically Norwegian character. The tune most frequently used for the dance is well known to both British and Americans: “Soldier’s Joy.”
As I researched the history of folk dance, I learned that folk dance is meant to be danced, not watched; it is performed for joy of participation, not the art of exhibition. We certainly had a lot of fun learning these two dances and performing them at our lodge’s Syttende Mai (17th of May) brunch. To our delight, we have already been invited to perform for the Swedish lodge and have thereby pledged to continue.
Eva is science educator and homeschool mom passionate about family life, traveling, and staying active. She has extensive experience in both formal and informal settings. In addition to homeschooling her two children, she teaches professional development courses through the Heritage Institute, and writes a middle level science curriculum called Science Logic.