Some Background of
Norwegian and Swedish Folk Dance

There are four main families of dance in Sweden and Norway. The oldest documented dances are called bygdedans, meaning regional, country or village dances. Though all the dances in Sweden and Norway are thought to have originated in Europe, there arrival between 1600 to 1800 has allowed time for "naturalization." The similarity or use of the terms like polska and pols does not imply that they are alike in every way. They do have elements in common, yet it is important to note that each area is proud of the unique character, style, rhythm, and music associated with their dance. These dances were originally associated with the rural areas. The dances in this family are; springar, gangar, springleik, springdans, rudl/rull, pols, halling in Norway, and the various polskor (polskas in English) in Sweden.

Gammaldans/runddans (translates as old dance/round dance) are what we might call the ballroom dances of Scandinavia. Included are the waltz, schottische, polka, and mazurka. Newer dances such as the tango, fox-trot and others are sometimes incorporated into this category. Some people include the hambo and pols in this family of dance as they are often played and danced at gammaldans/runddans events. As with the bygdedans, the gammaldans have become "naturalized" and taken on a character of their own. These dances are associated with both the rural and urban areas.

Turdanser or folkdances are choreographed figure dances. They are often the contras and squares that have migrated from the courts of western Europe to the urban centers in Scandinavia.

The songdans or song dance(s) and sangleik/sanglek or song games are dances without musical accompaniment. Usually they are danced to the singing of the participants. One may find the song dances and song games in both the rural and urban communities.

This is a brief overview of the how I refer to the folk dance repertoire in Norway and Sweden. It is not intended to be a definitive explanation.

Roo Lester