Swedish Squares

by Pat Tardiff

Having just returned from the 17th Annual Ericsson Square Dance Festival in Stockholm, Sweden, I promised to write of my experience.

Square dancing in Sweden, believe it or not, isn't all that different from dancing in the States. Not to worry; the calls are in English. My biggest challenge was to acclimate my ears to the accent of the local callers. And, of course, if the Swedish caller decided to help the dancers with a few cues, I was out of luck - they cued the dancers in Swedish. On the other hand, if Mike (Jacobs) or Bill (Harrison) tried the same, in English, it didn't work. At one point, Bill called "Ladies square thru four - Guys cheer 'em on". No one moved. Mike couldn't resist an "I told you so".

The best difference (for me - a single dancer) is that the dancers don't pair off. Dancers may come as couples but primarily do not dance together. When the tip is over, all the dancers scatter and pick up another partner and immediately square up for the next tip. That's another difference - no breaks - no rounds. As long as it takes for the caller to select his next record - that's it. I am told that at regular club dances, the dancers take one long break (30-45 minutes) in the middle of the dance.

The age of dancers that I saw at this festival ranged from 20-60. Somewhat younger than here. There were a few younger and older, but the median age seemed to be 40-60.

A fun experience was when I got to dance with Eric. Eric (age 16) and his family came from Sweden to Louisville this summer to participate in the National Advance and Challenge Convention and I was fortunate to have Eric as a partner for much of the convention. At the Ericsson Festival, Eric's younger brother, Martin (age 12), having just completed his Basics, was in full swing. What a treat to dance with he and his family in Sweden.

I can only hope that I didn't offend anyone during the Festival. Without breaks, it all moved very quickly. When the dancers spoke to me, there wasn't time to explain that I didn't speak Swedish. Whenever I had the opportunity to let the dancers know that I was from America, they immediately began speaking in English. I later learned a secret from a travelling dancer - wear a pin or some replica of an American flag. When you don't have time to explain that you don't speak their language, just point to the flag. They will figure it out. At least it works for him when he comes to the States.

We were fortunate to have a couple of extra days before the Festival, and marvelous hosts (Anna Catherine Glimtoft, her husband Jorgen, and daughter, Adrianna - as well as local caller, Lars Asplund) helped us experience much of Stockholm. We learned very quickly that rain and snow doesn't slow them down for an instance. I went horseback riding in the rain, to the zoo in the rain. It rained every day. What choice did we have? It was a delightful experience and I will be forever grateful for their generous hospitality.

This article may be reprinted with no further permission from the authors and/or publications.  Permission has been granted in advance for the reprinting with the stipulation that credit be given to the contributing author/publisher.