Saturday, February 27, 2016

1799 description of Halling and Polsk in Røros by Edward Daniel Clarke

In Norway a well known source of dance history is the travel novel of
Englishman Edward Daniel Clarke who visited Røros on 21 Sept. 1799.

For example, the Røros festival web site refers to Clarke.
The Røros UNESCO application also refers to Clarke.
Egil Bakka refers to Clarke on page in Norske dansetradisjonar, 1978.
The exhibit on Pols and the Bond Dans tapestry at the Røros museum refers to Clarke.

Clarke (1769-1822) was on a tour through Northern Europe through Turkey and on to Egypt.
At this time the Danes ruled Norway. In 1814 rule transferred to Sweden with the
connivance of England as opposed to becoming independent.
The Røros mines were a capitalist venture in which there were 172 shares at this time.
The workers were said to be from Norway, Finland, Sweden and Germany.

Edit: June 15, 2017.
<< Clarke was published in "travel" broadsheets or magazines in
London in around 1816 and published in book form in the various editions from 1816 to the1830s.
 It would be great
to learn if Clarke had any diaries or contemporaneous writings on his encounters with
dance.  Clarke encounters the waltz in Christiana,  Stockholm and Dalarna in 1799 and uses the term "national dance".    Either these have an element of fiction, or post dating, or they seem to be
the earliest such placement of the Waltz in Scandinavia and the use of the term "national dance".
The waltz was popular in Paris in 1803 but was introduced in London in 1813.
In popular literature Goethe use the word waltz in his 1789 poem Reciprocal Invitation to Dance.
and his 1774 "Sorrows of young Werther".
  Similarly it would be great to confirm the author or ghost writer of this portion of Clarke's works.
The question is, how much of Clarke's narrative was modified 14 or more years later to make his
travelogue have a bigger audience.

A lack of detailed description of the dance steps beyond associating a "violent whirl" with a
waltz or graceful movements with a minuet.

I quite overlooked the writing by Clarke where he writes the national dances of Sweden are
the Waltz,  and  the Polska,  the Polish dance and also the Minuet in Dalarna.

Upon the next day (Sunday), the miners having received
a months's pay, there was a good deal of rejoicing, and a
miners' ball in the evening. We attended the latter.
The national dances of Norway differ from those of
Sweden. The most common are, the Halling and the Polsk
dances. We saw both of these at Röråås. The first is,
undoubtedly, the dance of Hippocleides the Athenian, when
contending with other rivals for the daughter of Cleisthenes;
namely, a dance in which the performer, standing upon
his head, kicks his heels about in the air as his hands.
The other, that is to say, the Polsk, answers the
account which Herodotus gives of the Attic dance
performed to the Emmeleia, which, by its indecency, offended
Cleisthenes. When we reached the room, in which the
miners with their lasses were assembled, they were beginning
the Polsk. In this dance a circle is formed, and two begin,
turning each other something after the manner of a waltz.
Presently the male dancer throws up his feet nearly as high
as his head, squeaks, falls on his knees; and in this posture,
leaning back till his head touches the ground, he beats the floor
with his knuckles, and practises every possible grimace, look,
and attitude, that may express lasciviousness; then rising,
without the assistance of his hands, he dodges his head
this way and that, and at length catching his partner in his
arms, more waltzing takes place, and the dance concludes.
When they all dance the Polsk together, the different couples
move round to tunes resembling our English hornpipes;
each man, as he comes opposite to the spot where the
fiddler stands, for this is the signal, throwing up his heels in
the manner before mentioned; squeaking, and exhibiting his
amorous propensities as was described. During these movements
the tune often changes, as in the waltz. Being provided
with partners, we joined in the dance at which they were

all much delighted. It was quite surprising to observe
with what agility in the midst of all this leaping and turning in
a small room, they managed to keep clear of each other.
A tread from one of their feed, which descended upon the
floor with shocks like so many paving hammers, would
have crushed the toes of the women, had it not been for this
circumstance. The men universally wore red woollen nightcaps;
the women short jackets; each of them, in the dance,
holding a handkerchief in her right hand. The Halling is
considered in the country as the older dance of the two; it is
frequently performed by men only; and sometimes, both the
Polsk and the Halling are performed to the same tune.

Clarke also referred to Sweden.

Added June 15, 2017 <<
At Grado,  Dalarna, upon meeting a group returning from a wedding party while Clarke
was traveling south from Falun.

So the Swedes demand some spirit before they will dance for the English.
“and we expected to be gratified with a
sight of the curious old provincial dance of the
Dalecarlians. But they began with Waltzes;
and after swinging each other in whirls, with a
degree of violence that made an approach rather
dangerous, ended in the graver measures and
attitudes of the Minuet, which we found much
better suited to the sort of doubtful equilibrium
maintained by most of them: with the Minuets
the dance ended.”

In another volume Clarke describes a polska dance in Sweden that sounds like a slang polska.
 At Kalback we saw a Swedish dance it consisted of several couple placed 
as in our common country dance,
 swinging each other round as fast as possible and marking the time by stamping with their feet
 but never quitting the spot on which the whirl began.

and search for dance 

The national Dances of Sweden are the Waltz with various modifications,
the Polska or Polish Dance differing from that of Norway in having slower movements
also Minuets which are practised in Dalecarlia and are frequent among the lower orders

Back in Norway, 
Clarke had some interesting comments on the miners calling them all asthmatic perhaps due
to sulphurous fumes, ( from the smelting?), ( or perhaps rock dust in the lungs). The miner's upper body strength
for dancing on their hands could be seen by Clarke's comment on their daily work quota of
drilling 4 feet of holes with hand tools such as a steel bit and a hammer.


The 1816 to 1824 10 volume edition of “Travels in various countries” is also available at
many libraries and is cited by C.B. Burchardt in 1920.

Burchardt's 1920 review of English travelogues of Norway is rather critical
of Clarke's use of a classical frame of reference for his observations.
page 36.
“The life and the manners of the peasants are studied by
the travellers with great interest, if not always with equal
accuracy. This interest usually centres round the wedding- •
feasts, at which the men wear their national costumes with
silver-buckled shoes and white stockings fastened at the
knee with crimson ribands. The Norwegian popular
dances, the Halling and ' the Polsk,' are frequently made
the subject of observation and gave Dr. Clarke occasion
for the following remarkable reflection …
(Clarke's comparison to Herodotus's dance description) ...
In similar far-fetched comparisons the travelers rejoice,
one of them even fancying he can trace a resemblance in
the manners and customs of the people of Dovre to the
ancient Greeks.”

Topics for thought.

In 1799 the halling was older than the polsk and both laus and couple halling were danced in Røros
as well as the polsk.  The Norske couple halling dance is said to be a lost tradition.This is the only reference to the couple halling dance I have seen to date that is 
not identified as the halling springar or halling polska. In the description of the polsk, the acrobatics  
described are somewhat similar to the handstands and kneel hops in the bakmes dances from Dalarna, as well as the tradition of throwing the feet into the air in the Halling springar.   The description of the music changing for the polsk acrobatics is interesting. Throwing up the feet as high as his head is seen today in the Halling springar when dancing two measures per revolution. Arthur de Capell Brookes 1820 description of the polsk in Jerkin has none of these acrobatics.

To me, Clarke's description is not inconsistent with the halling springar as danced today.
Second, the polsk in Sweden as danced to slower music just as it is over two
hundred years later. Third the polsk was distinct from the minuet and the waltz.
Supposedly the waltz was indroduced to English society in 1813, so one wonders whether Clarke was familiar with the
waltz in 1799, or was introduced to the waltz before he wrote his travelogue prior to 1816.
Clarke's use of the term waltz primarily indicated that the dance was a turning one, as in one would “waltz” in the polka.
The women holding a handkerchief is similar to dances in the Danish court circa 1630 or Augsberg in the 1580s.

Jan Lin reports Swedish Oboe player Gustaf Blidstrom annotated over 300 minuets and polskas while in prison in Russia in 1715.
He quotes Kjellberg (1983) A division becomes tangible between art and folk music songs of the polonnaise and polska types.

Clarke died in 1822, and some works published later are derived from Clarke's manuscripts and correspondence.
The description of the polsk seems to have been published no later than 1818 in “travel” newspaper in London.

One of several internet accessible versions.
The dance description starts on page 197.

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