FolkFire Articles

November / December 1998

  • Dancing to the Fiddler
  • To Our Readers
  • "Warm Up" for Winter
  • FolkFireHome
  • Index of Articles

  • Dancing to the Fiddler
    reprinted from Norway Tourist Magazine

    For three days in November the International Folk Dance Association of University City will immerse themselves in Scandinavian folk traditions with teachers Olav and Mary Hegge from Norway and fiddler Loretta Kelley. Olav is an accomplished Valdres springar dancer and fiddler. His teaching reflects the elegant style of the Valdres tradition. Olav and Mary have taught extensively throughout the world. Loretta is one of North Americaís finest hardingfele players and a favorite of dancers and listeners on this side of the Atlantic. She began serious study of her instrument in 1979 when she made the first of many trips to Norway. She has taught and performed throughout the United States, and has written several articles about the hardingfele and a book of tune transcriptions.

    She has been a staff teacher for Buffalo Gap Scandinavian Week in West Virginia, Scandia Camp in Mendocino California, the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America, Garrison Keillorís Prairie Home Festival, the Norsk Stemne in Washington, and Folklore Village in Wisconsin.

    For several years Loretta played international folk music with the Aman Folk Ensemble in Los Angeles. In 1994 her playing was featured in an hour-long program on Norwegian radio. Her performances also include appearances on Garrison Keillorís American Radio Company, National Public Radioís "All Things Considered," the Christmas Revels and the Kennedy Centerís Grand Foyer Series in Washington, D.C.

    Loretta has made two recordings of traditional springar and gangar dance tunes. Dansekveld (Dance Evening), her first recording, was released in 1990 and AmerikaSpel, her first CD, was released in 1996. These will be available for purchase at the November Workshop.

    Lorettaís instrument the hardingfele (in English, the "Hardanger fiddle") is the national instrument of Norway. It is a regular fiddle, creatively decorated with mother-of-pearl inlays, drawings, and often capped by a carving, usually a fearsome lionís head, on the end of the neck. Its most distinguishing feature is the four or five sympathetic strings that run under the fingerboard. These are tuned to the main strings and provide the harmonics and bagpipe-like "drone" for which the hardingfele is famous. The instrument originated in the area around the Hardangerfjord of Norway, hence its name. The oldest known fiddle has a date of 1651.

    The primary purpose of the Hardanger fiddle is to be played for listeners, but especially for dancers! Hardingfeler can be played for gammaldans (the waltz, rheinlander/schottis, pol, etc), but are most associated with Norwegian bygdedans (regional dances) such as springar and ganger.

    Beginning around 1850, there was an enormous emigration from Norway to North America, and the children of the emigrants rarely learned to play the instrument. Papaís fiddle lay in its case in the attic, or was hung on the wall as decoration...and the tradition died out in America. In Norway the popularity of the fiddle waned as people became interested in the "modern" sounds of the accordion for gammeldans music.

    In 1923, Norwegians realized they were in danger of losing an important part of their cultural heritage and organized the Landslaget for Spelemenn (National Association of Fiddlers) which now has well over 4,000 members in about 100 clubs and sponsors local and national competitions for fiddlers, dancers and singers.

    Now there is a hardingfele revival here in America, not only among the descendants of the emigrants, but also among others who have discovered the music and dance.

    The Hardanger Fiddle Association of America (HFAA) is a non-profit organization preserving and promoting traditional Norwegian folk music and Scandinavian dance.

    If youíre interested in seeing, hearing and dancing to this Norwegian tradition, you are invited to experience the music first hand, since Hardanger fiddle music is much more compelling when it is heard live.

    Portions of this article are printed with permission from the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America. Visit the home of the Internetís first website devoted to the hardingfele, Hardanger fiddle!

    Visit the website at

    To Our Readers

    Richard Baker

    Dear Friends of Folk Dancing and Folk Music:

    Iím writing to ask for your support for FolkFire newsletter. I know I donít have to convince you of the entertainment value, the cultural importance, and the pure fun and camaraderie that folk dancing and music add to our lives. Your participation as a FolkFire Subscriber says it all. Itís gratifying to know that you look to FolkFire for information about dance and music related events and resources.

    We have a problem. Even though we receive revenue from subscribers and advertisers, and even though virtually everyone who works on FolkFire is an unpaid volunteer, weíre still having trouble making ends meet. Printing costs are up. The price of paper is continually on the rise. Thereís only so far we can go in economizing by finding less expensive printers and using cheaper paper. As a result, each time we publish a new issue of FolkFire, we lose moneyóa circumstance that threatens our future.

    At the same time, FolkFire is in more demand than ever. In our first five years of publication, FolkFire has emerged as the authoritative source of folk dance and music information for St. Louis and our region. Our member groups often report that new residents and out-of-town visitors find their way to their favorite folk events after picking up a copy of FolkFire or connecting with our Website. Folk veterans and newcomers frequently tell us how much they appreciate the quality, accuracy and thoroughness of the information we present. In short, FolkFire has taken on a vital role in nurturing and perpetuating the folk tradition.

    No matter how many people show up, a sense of community, friendship and fun are always in attendance at folk events. Through FolkFire, we hope to keep that spirit alive and to share it with a larger circle of friends.

    Iím asking for your help in achieving that goal. Your annual $6 subscriptions and additional contributions, in any amount will make a difference. Contributions of $25 or more would be especially appreciated. Please send your tax-deductible contributions to: FolkFire, c/o Richard Baker, 1712 (rear) S. Big Bend Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63117.

    Thanks for your continued support.
    Richard Baker, President

    "Warm Up" for Winter

    by Karen Jackson

    Whether one is a one-night-a week dancer, a "weekend-dance-warrior" like I am, or a professional/competitive dancer, we all should try to be nice to our bodies. As dancers we often place heavy demands on them, but can neglect to do even the most basic of warm-up exercises first. This can lead to achy, or even pulled or torn muscles or ligaments. That is, of course, no fun at all, and can sideline us from our beloved dancing. In order to prevent such injuries, here are some warm-up exercises, culled from Dr. Bill Russellís Performance Health Newsletter. Dr. Russell has specialized in treating dancers in the St. Louis area for over 10 years and is currently serving as Dance Physician for Dance St. Louis. These warm-up exercises should keep any social dancer and most competitive dancers healthy, pain-free and on the dance floor, which is, of course, where we most want to be! (Please note that some types of competition require warm-ups that are much more extensive.)

    Large Muscles of the Legs, Hips and Back

    1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Reach alternately right arm up, bending right knee, then left arm up bending left knee. Repeat 10X.
    2. From the above standing position, roll down through the spine, first head, then neck, upper back, and lower back. Keep knees flexed and drop the tailbone. Slowly reverse to full upright position with straightened knees. Repeat 5X.
    3. Standing with feet apart and arms outstretched gently turn head to the right. Let shoulders and spine follow, twisting as far as possible without straining. Return to facing forward, unwinding from the waist first and following with the head. Repeat to the left. Keep feet and hips square, knees slightly flexed. 5X.
    4. With toes pointed forward, loosely swing one leg. Allow knee to flex upward in front, release on the downswing, and flex in back. 16X each leg. Repeat the exercise (16X each leg) with foot and leg turned out to the side.

    Lower Legs and Feet

    1. Seated, "air write" the alphabet with each foot.
    2. "Roll" in place. Stand with feet together and alternate rolling through each foot from heel to arch to ball to toes. 10-18X
    3. Face the wall with arms outstretched and hands against the wall. Repeat the "rolling" exercise, focusing on lengthening the calf muscles while pressing each heel to the floor. 10-18X
    4. Stand on a stair facing up, with heels extended over the edge. Hold a railing and keep your body weight forward. Lower your heels, stretching the backs of your legs and hold 15 seconds. Recover, rolling up to the balls of the feet. 10X
    5. With your dancing shoes on and arms held in dance position, walk several times across the floor, forward and backward. Complete turns and complex steps. Practicing without the benefit of a partner to "lean on" improves balance and grace.
    Keep your social dancing simple; a few patterns done well will bring much satisfaction. Allow your competitive dancing the time and attention it requires. Enjoy yourself, and remember to warm up!

    Dr. Bill Russell has written and taught dance medicine internationally. In 1994, he served as resident physician for Opera Ballet of Sumara, Russia. Karen Jackson is a contra dancer in the St. Louis area. This article is based on notes by Bonita Brockert in Performing Arts Health Letter, Fall, 1997.