Uppdansning (polskemärkes – Uppdansning or Swedish bygdedans medal testing) is a program that was created to maintain the tradition of Swedish polska dances from regions and villages around Sweden (bygdedanser).
Dances were carefully collected and written down in books, some from old videos or from older couples who still remembered and did their regional or village dances. A program was created with point values for the different dances based on difficulty, and a series of medals progressing through the program. 103 dances are eligible, with point values from 5 to 10 points. Bronze is the first level, with 3 dances with total point value between 21 and 24. Then silver, with at least 27 points. Then there are 3 stages required to get to Big Silver (Stort Silver), the highest level. Each of these 3 stages requires 3 big dances totaling at least 27 points, and 3 smaller dances of 8 or fewer points. Completion of the Big Silver thus requires mastery of 24 dances.
The testing consists of a performance for the judges and audience with live music of your chosen dance list. You are not competing with any other dancers, but being judged based on your proficiency and correct execution of the appropriate dance, in time with the music. Each couple is announced with their names and costume and local dance group. They also announce each dance. At the Big Silver level, after your 3 big dances the judges choose one of the 3 small dances for you to perform next. You need to be prepared to dance any one of the three, but will only actually perform one.
The audience applauds and is very supportive of dancers, especially at the bronze level. You don’t find out if you passed until the final ceremony on Sunday. If you fail and don’t get a medal, you will still get a certificate. It can be difficult to tell who passed or failed during the ceremony itself. But you can count the number of Big Silver medals on the table and compare it with the number of people trying to get Big Silver in the program. One recent year there were 13 trying and only 7 medals on the table. If you fail, you can come back another year and do it again.
Doing this program is something that the best dancers of Swedish polska do, and it is exciting to come to Sweden and dance with and among the best dancers of Swedish polska. Several visiting Swedish dance teachers urged us to do it, as did American dancers who have done this program previously, so we plunged in. The first time, in 2008, we had 7 dancers from the DC area who went for bronze medal testing together. And we all passed! It is really fun, a real rush to perform for this audience, and very good for our dance skills to go through the practice and training and the event itself.
During the Uppdansning weekend there are 3 evening dances for fun, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. The first few nights many people are practicing their chosen dances for upcoming testing, but everyone gets more relaxed as the weekend continues. These dances have become more enjoyable as we have gotten to know people, and are a real highlight of the weekend. In this knowledgeable crowd instead of a last waltz, the evening is more likely to end with a final Gammalpolska från Föllinge or Bingsjö Polska!
We had a lot of encouragement to go through this program, and people to show us the ropes as we went along. It has been a lot of fun, and very good for our dance proficiency.
I am grateful to Ross Schipper for practicing with me in Furudals Bruk before each of the last 4 events, and to both Ross and Linda Brooks for practicing with me in Washington, DC during the intervening years.
There is more information at www.scandiadc.org under dance and Uppdansning.