Many years ago, our local Revels North mounted a Scandinavian-themed show that featured Norwegian dancing. In one particularly lovely moment, a male dancer led two women, one in each hand, through a Telespringar. I watched, entranced, as the dancers formed a kaleidoscope of motion, whirling, spinning, twirling, weaving in and around and over and under, a seamlessly turning flow set to lovely music.
"I want to do that!" I thought, and I made several attempts, including local weekend workshops led by Karin Brennesvik, a famed Norwegian dance instructor. I remember well the first session, where we spent the first twenty minutes just walking around the Tracy Hall floor in time to the music.
Telespringar is a dance with an odd sort of rhythm; it's in three, but the beats aren't even, more like long-medium-short, though those first two are closer in length than the words might indicate. And the accent doesn't fall reliably on the 1, the way it does in the waltz, for example. So, this walking around and feeling the beat wasn't a simple task by any means.
When I had a moment, I asked one of the other participants, clearly a more skilled dancer, "Is this typical, to start out just by walking?"
"Well, yes," she replied—without a hint of the "D'uh" expression she might well have added—"except that at Scandi camp last summer she had us doing it for the entire first day, not just a few minutes." Clearly, I was entering a dance world that didn't conform to the usual contra dance expectation of welcoming folks onto the floor for the first dance within minutes of walking into the hall.
Telespringar has its own dance vocabulary, a series of movements that can be connected in different patterns. It's not a strict choreographed regimen but rather an improvised conversation, a sort of Scandinavian swing dance, very much a lead-and-follow dance with distinct roles for the dancers. Long story short, I didn't stay with it long enough to get comfortable with the dance, though I did have a few lovely moments along the way with patient and supportive (and smiling!) partners, and in another lifetime it's something I'd love to be able to dance, along with swing and tango and much more.
Friends who dance Scandi tell me that there's a lot of interest now in Slängspolska, a Swedish dance form that also relies on improvisation. Musicians lydia ievins and Andrea Larson, among others, are actively teaching the dance, and it's from them that I recently saw this Slängspolska video, which I really like. For starters, the videography and audio and editing are all well done. The dancing is delightful, the music rich and varied, the interplay between the two musicians wonderful to watch. I especially enjoy the close connection between the musicians and the dancers. On stage with a good contra or English country dance band, we feel that same connection, and this video—showcasing a very different style—demonstrates that feeling so well. Enjoy!