Audun Reitzel - Square and Contra Dance in Denmark
Contradance in Denmark is known as traditional square dance. It's practiced in quite a different way from what is common in the USA.
Every autumn - usually late September - about 60 weekly adult teaching classes begin all over the country. Usually the first evening is free, so newcomers havea chance to try it out. The classes are often divided into levels for beginners, intermediate and advanced dancers. In the classes, the callers teach all the different figures and formations which are common in traditional American contras and squares and of course call dances. The season lasts until late March, although in some places spring classes are also held. The estimated numbers of active square dancers in the adult classes in Denmark is about 2000.
In addition to the classes, open dances are held throughout the year, with at least one open dance a week held somewhere in the country. Open dances are aimed at dancers who have attended the classes for at least short period of time and are familiar with the basic figures. Unlike classes, which rely on recordings, about half of these open dances feature live music. A large number of workshops are also presented to our dancers, mostly during the winter season. Each year about 4 - 5 dance weekends are held, usually with 100 -200 participants. About 350 of the Danish traditional dancers are "addicted" to their hobby. They regularly travel around the country, to dance as much as possible.
(Kindly translatet by David Millstone)
Margot Gunzenhauser originally from the New York area, came to Denmark in 1970. She was already at that time an experienced square and contra dancer and had taught international folkdance in the US. In 1981 the first weekly class was started by Margot. In the next 25 years she was the leading “dynamo”, getting all kinds of activities concerning traditional contra and square dance started.
To mention all the things she has started and achieved would take a long time, but a few of them are:
Trained more than 500 callers (usually about 100-200 have been active at any given time).
Started a number of dance classes.
Arranged more than 60 courses for dancers and callers.
Got more than 2000 people interested in the activity at all different levels.
Written and published (in Danish and English) a callers handbook that is the “bible” for Danish callers (a very professional book).
Published in U.S. by McFarland as “The Square Dance and Contra Dance Handbook”.
Written and published (in Danish and English) “Square Dancing at School”.
Written and published lots of dances.
Invited more than 20 U.S. callers to come to our country to call and teach (but many more have also been here).
Produced recordings of dance music with a number of bands.
Started the organization: “Square Dance Partners“.
Started the organization: “Traditional Square and Contra Dance in Denmark”.
Traditional Square and ContraDance in Denmark would probably not have been alive today, without Margot Gunzenhauser’s incredible efforts during the years.
And due to all of her – and many other people´s - remarkable initiatives, square dance has been a very popular activity in Denmark for many years, but especially the last 15.
If you want to know more about square and contra dance in Denmark:
Contact Audun Reitzel
Dances written by Audun Reitzel Taastrup Danmark.
1. Square PA SO
written spring 1995. Square
Progression : Lad 1 pl. to the R
All four ladies chain over and back.
Four gents R hand star (8) - All do pa so ( P,C,P ) (16)
Finish do pa so. Keep left hand hold with P and gents move in – back up star half way .(8)
Let go of the star, and gents put R arm around ladies waist, promenade almost ¾ (8) and then the gents turn over R shoulder and sw. girl behind you on gents home pl. (8)
In 95 I was still “trapped “ in the N.E. Style. Everything had to fit into 32 bars.
Some years later , after starting calling Traditional western squares I realised that this type of figures would flow much better by skipping the frase, and just call it to Old time music.
That also gave me ideas to improve the dance by adding “ roll away “ , after the second chain in A1
And ending the dance with a promenade – after the swing - which would give a better choreography for the ladies entering A1.
2. The Wangbo experience
Written 2001. Contra Dup. Imp.
Start 1´s face dn. – 2´s face up.
Act.: Mirror do si do – Mirror allemande
Act dn the C., cal twirl – return and hand cast off with same gender
Act. Alm. R. 1/1 (4) Alm. L. neighbour ( same gender ) (4) - Act. Start Hey for four by passing R. sh.
Finish hey - Act sw. end facing dn.
3. Class contra
Written January 21. 1996. Contra dup imp.
Neighb. Alm. L. 1 ¼ - Gents Alm. R. 1½
Sw. P. – Lines F&B
Opposite balance, and box the gnat - face P. : balance, and swing
End the P-swing - ladies chain across.
Due to the second balance in B1 I recommend a well frased NE tune.