Jammin' Swedish America.
Jam and dance session in Swedish America: Swedish fiddler Lena Jonsson with the Scandia Dancers of NY
The group calling itself Scandia New York began in the 1980s, when international folk dancer Frank Ribeiro became interested in the dance and music of Norway and Sweden. Frank introduced some of the enticing bygdedans (village dances) to the weekly sessions at Columbia University and these partner dances quickly became popular enough to merit a separate weekly session.
While the group depended mainly on recorded music during its early years, summer camps specializing in the dance and music helped musicians—especially fiddlers—become proficient in the music of different regions of (mostly) Sweden and Norway. Both dancers and musicians learned from teachers who came from particular areas to teach their own music and dance styles.
Today, Scandia New York has live music just about every week, by The New York Spelmanslag. We have a core group of musicians with many others stopping by when they are in town, whether from Sweden or Seattle. Almost everyone in the group has taken at least one course in Sweden or Norway, as well as in this country. In addition to the regular fiddle, people have become proficient on the nyckelharpa (Swedish keyed fiddle) and hardingfele (Norwegian hardangar fiddle). Some have taken courses at the Malung Folk Music School; others have learned from luminaries such as Hauk Buen (Telemark, Norway) and Björn Ståbi (Orsa, in Dalarna, Sweden). Dancers have benefited from instruction by Inger and Göran Karlhom, bearers of the Jämtland traditions, and many others. Musicans have come home with fiddles as well as tunes; dancers have had shoes and even entire costumes made while in Norway or Sweden and have learned the arts of cow-calling, finger weaving and other crafts. And guest fiddlers continue to provide some very special evenings.
Bringing a touch of Sweden to us, Joe’s Pub…
Many of us have known our most recent guest, Lena Jonsson, since she and her brother were children. Lena recently appeared at Joe’s Pub with the Swedish group “The Abalone Dots” as part of their U.S. tour. Her parents, fiddlers Bengt Jonsson and Kerstin Palm, noted tradition bearers from Hälsingland, have been frequent teachers at camps here in the U.S. as well as running their own camp, Norrlandia Camp (www.spelmanslaget.nu/norrlandia/), in Sweden.
Variety of levels, dances...
Scandia New York resumed its 2010-11 season on October 6, meeting every Wednesday night through mid-June with breaks for some holidays (please see www.scandiany.org for the full schedule. A sample list of music repertory may be found at www.scandiany.org/repertoire.php). The group is beginner-friendly, with basic instruction as needed and a variety of dances taught regularly. All are welcome. Our next special event, on October 20th, features guest fiddlers Bruce Sagan & Lidia Levins playing music from their new album, Northlands — new fiddle tunes in traditional Scandinavian styles.
For more information, please contact jweissny (at) gmail.com or visit www.scandiany.org