FOLK DANCE IN DENMARK
This page is intended for foreigners interested in Danish folk dance and who maybe want some contacts ...
The descriptions below are specific for Denmark, however, the other scandinavian countries had wery similar clothing and dancing traditions.
The Dances and the Music
A short history: Danish folk dance is very old. In fact most dances are from around 1780-1880. That might not sound that old, but the fact is, that most other countries has folk dances that is much younger... (from 1840-1930, actually).
The Danish dances were danced by the farmers and the poor people (that's why it's called folk dance - dances for the mass). These people wasn't allowed to dance the dances danced in higher circles - for example the were not allowed to dance menuette (french dance - very popular in noble circles in the 16-19th century) and dances like that. Instead they had their own dances which could be quite advanced. There were ring-dances, 2, 3 and 4 pair dances, 3-person dances (if there was a shortage of men each man had two female dancers ...), 8-pair dances, and row-dances. And, of course, single pair dances. The dominating types are 4-pair dances and the ring-dances.
Today these dances are not danced that much. You can still meet some variants of these to some parties, but it's getting rare. But this doesn't mean that there ain't folk dance around anymore.
Around 1920 the old dances were almost forgotten or substituted with new variants. Some people realized the cultural loss this would be for our country and began to seek contact with old people who actually had danced these dances or played the music. They wrote down what they learned and their descriptions are today used by local dance groups, who likes the old dances.
The music they danced at was folk music, and it could be written by the local musician or have been passed on from father to son, from generation to generation. Being a musician was hardly a job and you never became rich, but the full time fiddler enjoyed a special status. Almost always capable of earning himself a meal or a little money playing at the farms, at parties and so on. But not all musicians were professional. Often there were one "professional" and a few amateurs playing at the dance events - if there were any pro's around. The local musician could of course also just be a farmer with music as a hobby.
It is not just old-people's dancing. In Denmark quite many young people are dancing too. But still the dances are most popular among the adults and the children.
When we perform we mostly wear copies of the old costumes - the sunday clothes worn around year 1800. This is done to give a better look of what folk dance looked like in those times. The costumes are sewn by hand and the materials are often handmade, from the clothes to the silver on it.
Of course the outlook of the costume depended on several things. Farmers (own land) - earlier copyholders - often had a special set of clothes for special occasions (church, parties, etc.), while day-labourer and servants sometimes only had one set of clothes and one or two shirts extra.
The woman's jewelry was a status-symbol. The nicer dressed she were, the more money the man had. Often most spare money went to buy silver chains for the locking of the female vest, a little (or big) brooch and silver/gold threads for the Bonnet. Especially the bonnets can be extremely rich decorated and weight several hundred grams. The bonnet often consisted of a "over the top" part and a "neck". This neck can be breathtaking beautiful. Under the bonnet were mostly worn a embroidered linen-piece to protect the bonnet, and to enhance the framing of the face, created by the bonnet. The back of the bonnet mostly contained a bow with the ends hanging down behind. The color of this bow could be used to determine weather the girl was married or not. A few places the bonnet were substituted with some other kind of cap.
Embroidery was an important part of a costume. Everything from the socks to the head-clothing can be embroidered. Often in a stunning amount of details - boring winternights has been an unknown word for the housewife. On shirts are often embroidered when it was created, its number - and the monogram of he or she, who owned it.
There do exist thousands of different clothing pieces. Each area had it's own way of putting the things together, and looking at a correct produced costume, you will be capable of identifying the area that costume comes from, down to a few square kilometers.
What to do now?
First you can go explore the pages - actually you will find several with explanations in english. Of course you are invited to take a glance at the Danish texted pages too.
If you would like to know yet more about folk dance and folk music in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia - or if you would just like to send us a greeting - please send us a mail.
Frits Lilbæk - Sune Lilbæk
Sune initial made this page - and Frits made the enhancements.