Sunday, February 21, 2016

1839 Fredrika Bremmer describes the Halling and Halling-polska

   In 1839 Fredrika Bremmer wrote descriptions of the Halling and the Halling polska.
   In those years Norway and Sweden were united under the Swedish crown.
   While in Norway the dance may have been called the Halling springar or Halling spring dans,
   in Swedish perhaps the translation was Halling-polska.

   A question I have is what were Bremer's personal knowledge of the dances
   or from what works did she borrow material.   Perhaps some historian has already
   investigated her diaries.

FREDRIKA BREMER'S WORKS.   1852.  strife and peace,   1839, 1840  sweden,

OR, LIFE IN SWEDEN  Bremer 1839.
 Chapter,   A wild and animated Swedish national dance

"Our sensible little Queen-bee," a rather broad-set, but very well-grown blonde of eighteen, distinguished herself in the dance by her beautiful steps, and her pleasing though rather too grave carriage. Everybody, however, looked with greater admiration on Eva, because she danced with heart and soul. Gabriele, with her golden curls, flew round like a butterfly. But who did not dance this evening?—Everybody was actually enthusiastic—for all were infected with the joyous animal spirits of Henrik. Even Jeremias Munter, to the amazement of everybody, led Eva, with most remarkable skill, through the Polska,[4] the most artificial and perplexing of dances.
A wild and animated Swedish national dance.
More lights than common streamed in pale beams through the misty windows of the public-house as Petrea came up to it. All was fermentation within it as in a bee-hive; violins were playing; the polska was being danced; women's gowns swung round, sweeping the walls; iron-heeled shoes beat upon the floor; and the dust flew up to the ceiling. After Petrea had sought in vain for somebody outside the dancing-room, she was compelled to go in, and then she saw instantly that there was a wedding. The gilded crown on the head of the bride wavered and trembled amid the attacks and the defence of the contending parties, for it was precisely the hot moment of the Swedish peasant wedding, in which, as it is said, the crown is danced off the head of the bride. The married women were endeavouring to vanquish and take captive the bride, whilst the girls were, on their part, doing their utmost to defend and hold her back. In the other half of the great room, however, all went on more noisily and more violently still, for there the married men strove to dance the bridegroom from the unmarried ones, and they pulled and tore and pushed unmercifully, amid  shouts and laughter, whilst the polska went on its whirling measure.

It would be almost at the peril of her life that a delicate lady should enter into such a tumult; but Petrea feared in this moment no other danger than that of not being able to make herself heard in this wild uproar. She called and demanded to speak with the host; but her voice was perfectly swallowed up in the universal din. She then quickly turned herself, amid the contending and round-about-swinging groups to the two musicians, who were scraping upon their fiddles with a sort of frenzy, and beating time with their feet. Petrea caught hold of one of them by the arm, and prayed him in God's name to leave off for a moment, for that her business was of life and death. But they paid not the slightest attention to her; they heard not what she said; they played, and the others danced with fury.

Halling and Halling Polska

It begins, as it were, upon the ground, amid jogging little hops, accompanied by movements of the arms, in which, as it were, a great strength plays negligently. It is somewhat bear-like, indolent, clumsy, half-dreaming. But it wakes, it becomes earnest. Then the dancers rise up and dance, and display themselves in expressions of power, in which strength and dexterity seem to divert themselves by playing with indolence and clumsiness, and to overcome them. The same person who just before seemed fettered to the earth, springs aloft, and throws himself around in the air as though he had wings. Then, after many break-neck movements and evolutions, before which the unaccustomed spectator grows dizzy, the dance suddenly assumes again its first quiet, careless, somewhat heavy character, and closes, as it began, sunk upon the earth.

Loud shouts of applause, bestowed especially upon Harald, resounded on all sides as the dance closed. And now they all set themselves in motion for a great Halling-polska, and every "Gut" chose himself a "Jente." Harald had scarcely refreshed and strengthened himself with a can of ale before he again hastened up to Susanna, and engaged her for the Halling-polska. She had danced it several times in her own country, and joyfully accepted Harald's invitation.

This dance, too, is deeply characteristic. It paints the Northern inhabitant's highest joy in life; it is the Berserker-gladness in the dance. Supported upon the arm of the woman the man throws himself high in the air; then he catches her in his arms, and swings round with her in wild circles; then they separate; then they unite again, and whirl again round, as it were, in superabundance of life and delight. The measure is determined, bold, and full of life. It is a dance-intoxication, in which people for the moment release themselves from every care, every burden and oppression of existence.

After the song, the dancing began again with new spirit. An iron hook was driven into the beam in the middle of the roof, and the dancer who, during the whirl of the Halling-polska, succeeded in striking it with his heel, so that it was bent, obtained the prize for dancing this evening. Observing the break-neck efforts of the competitors, Susanna seated herself upon a bench.   ...

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