Going International

Local Swedish Folk Dance Team Takes Talents Overseas

Twenty-two members of Thule Lodge No. 127 made a trip to Sweden in September. Some of the members pose for a photograph while on the trip. Submitted photo

BEMUS POINT — Twenty-two members of the Thule Lodge No. 127 Swedish Folk Dance Team spent 11 days on a dream trip come true to Sweden.

“Without regular practice and the grants from local foundations it would not have been possible,” organizer Don Sandy said.

The members who visited were composed of 19 dancers and three musicians. In addition 10 family members also accompanied the group.

“This is a trip of a lifetime for many it helped connect them with their heritage,” Sandy said.

For many members, this was their first trip to Sweden. Some members also connected with distant ancestral relations.

Members of the Thule Lodge No. 127 in Bemus Point take part in a practice session with a Swedish folk dance team. Submitted photo

The group received funding from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Sheldon Foundation and the Scandinavian Foundation. Thule Lodge also raised money for lodging, airfare and related expenses. The round trip from Pittsburgh to Stockholm ranged from $1,200 to $55,000.

“Members had to attend 80 percent of practice from March 2017 to August to become eligible,” Sandy said, referring to dance practices at Thule Lodge.

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 10 the group experienced countrywide tours and training from nine folk dance groups in Sweden. Three days and nights were spent in Stockholm. From there the group spent three more days in Rattvik and two more in Orebro.

In between all of this, the members received lessons in Swedish dancing from individual folk dancing teams. Some nights were spent with upwards of two groups per team. Visits were also made to castles in Orebro and Sigtuna. The Lodge’s visit to Stockholm took them through the province of Dalarna. During their stay, the Lodge met with the Spanga and Viksjo dance teams. The trip then took them to the university town of Uppsala. The group visited the cathedral there as well as the village’s burial grounds dating back to the Vikings. From there the Lodge spent their time in Rattvik. Between Uppsala and Rattvik, the group toured the mining village of Falun and the village of Sundborn. There they visited the museum of Swedish artist Carl Larrson, situated in his former home.

In Rattvik, the Lodge experienced traditional Swedish folk music and dance. The area retains its agricultural and forestry industries and is considered the most ‘Swedish’ area in the nation. Rattvik also attracts folk musicians across Europe. Every year a major festival called Music at Siljan is held. Because of the rich musical culture, it is not uncommon to find a wide variety of instruments in the region. Fiddles, nyckelharpas and accordions were the most common instruments seen by the Lodge.

The next stop for the lodge members was the village of Nusnas. The village is the main manufacturer of Dala horses, the symbol of handcrafted art in Sweden. Originally created as toys, they were made from scrap wood of the trade.

Today, they have become a collector’s item and are a national staple of Swedish art and culture. Dalas are also distributed widely as souvenirs. The Lodge also visited one of the few remaining church boats in the country.

From there, the group visited Mora and the museum of impressionist artist Anders Zorn Orebo. The Lodge then visited Orsa and the Orsa Hembygdsgard park. The park includes open air exhibits and ancient buildings.

The Lodge’s final stop was Orebro and included their final dance night with the Narkia dance team. The group also spent their final night in the Arlanda hotel. It is located in a repurposed Boeing 747 outside of Arlanda Airport in Stockholm.

“The purpose of the trip was to get the feel of real folk dancing,” Sandy said. “Being able to work with other folk dancers was significant for our members.”

Sandy also called it an educational experience for all involved. In particular, he cited the historical connection of the Chautauqua region and the numerous manufacturers that benefited from Swedish immigration.

“It promotes cultural networking in the community,” Sandy said. “It is also an ongoing learning experience.”

Originally organized in 1907, the purpose of Thule Lodge was to help Swedish immigrants find housing, employment and schooling. Regionally, many found employment in the furniture factories in Jamestown and Falconer. Today, Thule Lodge promotes the preservation of Swedish heritage through events and activities. To arrange performances, make a donation or for more information, call Don Sandy at 665-0883.