Bjorksta Folkdanslag: more fun to watch than say

Brian Allen

The cold weather of Oct. 11 was actually a warm reminder of home for the Bjorksta Folkdanslag dancers and their band, the Falkhettan/Folkfras. The folk dancing group was visiting Topeka from Umea, the city of Birches, in the far north of Sweden.

Washburn University was lucky to be squeezed into the short two week tour schedule between Lindsborg and Minneapolis, thanks to the sponsorship of Washburn’s Departments of Music, Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science, and International Programs.

The show started with a gracious introduction by Siv Voman, dancer and spokeswoman. Then the Falkhettan/Folkfras, musicians from the Umea School of Fine Arts, fired up their seven fiddles, acoustic guitar and 1930s portable pump organ. They played some quaint musical pieces to warm up the audience and set the mood.

Then the Bjorksta Folkdanslag troop took the stage. It was founded in 1923 to encourage traditional Swedish folk dance. Some members of the group have been twirling and kicking for 30 years. Though it is self financed, they managed to bring 22 of 38 members to White Concert Hall.

Both musicians and dancers wore traditional Swedish costumes. The tunics, blouses, vests, boots and aprons varied somewhat so that each could represent the style of their home provinces. They were simple garments with splashes of color, most were homemade, some so detailed as to include snuff pouches and utility knives.

The Bjorksta Folkdanslag performed seven dances including three polkas, two waltzes, a sailors’ dance and a quadrille. An astute observer might speculate we were watching the roots to some of our own folksy square dances. In between dances the Falkhettan/Folkfras kept the audience tapping its toes with lively music including a number that had the fiddlers jumping in the air.

Watching the show, it was easy to imagine how the Swedes of old coped with their long cold winters with the help of lighthearted music and spirited dancing. The crowd showed its appreciation for the folk dance program with a well-earned standing ovation.

The self-financed Bjorksta Folkdanslag and Falkhettan/Folkfras could grace us with their talents because of the efforts of Washburn’s International Program, which managed to find local families willing to host several troop members. If you would be interested in hosting international visitors or an international student during class breaks, please contact Baili Zhang, director of International Programs at 785-670-1051.