There is a lot of variety among the Scandinavian dances, although they are primarily partner dances. You need to learn how to listen to the music and feel the rhythm because that is how you know what dance to do.
Many of these dances are done in a three-step measure, but the each beat has a different weight and the spacing between beats is usually asymmetrical (a waltz, for example, has three symmetrical beats with the first beat heavy and the second two light while a Telespringar has three asymmetrical beats with the first and second heavy and the third light). You can find the Glossary of Scandinavian Dance Rhythms listed out here. However, reading that list won’t mean much to you unless you’ve been taking Scandinavian dance classes or learning by dancing at Scandinavian dances.
The Norwegians call this dance-specific rhythm svikt. Each town has it’s own svikt, so start with one or two of the commonly danced dances in your area first and don’t worry about knowing all of them (Arianna doesn’t know anyone who knows them all). Dances from some regions are more popular and better preserved than others. You should focus on the simple, popular dances first (vals, gangar, pols, polska, etc). Once you’ve got some experience you can work on the harder, popular dances (springar, snoa, springleik, etc).
In ballroom dancing, they teach you to have a strong, stiff, frame when you hold your partner. In Scandinavian dance, it is important to be strong, but you do not want to be stiff. If you are stiff, you won’t move with the svikt of the dance which makes it very difficult to stay with the music and nearly impossible to communicate figure changes to your partner.
Like most partner-dancing, Scandinavian dance has a lead and a follow. Traditionally, men lead and women follow, but this is not a rule. It’s quite common to find two women or two men dancing together. (You will also find triplets dancing together of any gender-mix, like this Hallingspringar from one of Frikar’s performances.) If you’re leading, you must firmly and gently guide your partner through the figures of the dance. If your hand holds are weak and limp, your partner won’t know what you are inviting her to do. However, you should NOT be dragging your partner around. The follower MUST do her part to get to the right place at the right time. Scandinavian dances can make it look like the lead is doing all the work, but the reality is that these dances require equal participation by both the lead and the follower.
Most Scandinavian Dances will have some dances where parters switch throughout the dance. These Mixers are called and taught to new dancers, so you will be able to participate when you attend a Scandinavian Dance no matter your skill level.
Arianna recommends learning Vals (waltz), Pols, and Gangar first because these are the simplest. With a basic understanding of these three dances you will be able to dance to most of the music played at a Scandinavian dance. The list below contains links to pages with directions, learning videos, and up-to-tempo example videos so that you can practice the dances which are most likely to be played at a Scandinavian Dance.
Dances that are commonly played at Scandinavian Dance Parties:
- Pols (Coming Soon!)
- Gangar (Coming Soon!)
- Polska (Coming Soon!)
- Hambo (Coming Soon!)
- Reinlender (Coming Soon!)