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Swedish dance terms

There are in many cases difficult for me to know if a direct translation of Swedish dance term makes sense in a foreign language.. For this reason, in many places on this site the Swedish name is used, with a link to this site where the meaning of the name is explained. If there is a proper translation of any of these terms to English, I would appreciate to be informed about this.




  • This is a modern dance that uses a strict pace with even beats per bar, and where almost all turns are made around the own shoulder. The dance involves very frequent turns for the lady, while the turns for the leader are less frequent.

Czech polka

  • The dance starts with polka (druff) for 16 bars, that mostly is danced clockwise. Then the couples walk behind each other in a ring, with the leader's left arm on the left shoulder of the leader in front of him (16 bars).

    During the next 16 bars all the leaders head inwards towards the centre and starts handclapping (e.g. on knees, hands, shoulders and above the head), the followers dance in a ring outside the leaders, headed forwards and using polka steps. Then the described dance sequence is repeated with a new partner.


  • A translation should be something like 'dance singing games'. The dances are sometimes also danced with young children, and involves song, dances in rings, some turns etc.. These are often for dance around the midsummer pole and for Christmas tree looting. It may also be used as the first step towards folk dance.


  • This should perhaps not be needed to translate - the translation to english is English. Probably these dances are well recognised in England? There are many variants. Often the dances are danced with other couples, where the couples from and then move around with various patterns in a ring .

Family waltz

  • The dance starts with all the dancers in a ring around the floor. The first bar is danced with waltz steps, the leader heads towards the follower to the left (the follower towards the leader right), without releasing the ring. The second bar is danced with waltz steps with leader headed towards the follower to the right, without releasing the ring.

    Two variants of the waltz are used - but just one at the same dance. Either the steps above are repeated once more, or clockwise waltz is started from here, where the leader dance with the follower to the left of him three turns. If the the steps above are repeated, the waltz in couples will last for only two bars. The ring is then re-established with the follower to the right of the leader, and the sequence described is repeated.


GDV dance

  • Gdv translates to something like ´The Gammeldans friends´. The term was used for dance evenings arranged by non-profit organizations when I was young. These dances included obviously gammaldans, but mixed with dances like foxtrot/bugg, tango, modern waltz and possibly also some latin, such as cha-cha-cha or samba. The entrance fee mostly included fika in the dance pause, and - in early days - occasionally with a sing-song or two.

    These dances still exist to a degree, but nowadays modern dance has to a high degree replaced gammaldans.


  • Gillesdans is a group of dances, which contains longer dancing sequences. These are mostly danced without any variations. There are plenty of such dances, but when played with gammaldans, at least in the Stockholm area, only a few are commonly used. Those are schottische in tours, snurrebock, family waltz and Czech polka. Pariserpolka should probably also be categorised as a gillesdans.


  • This is a Swedish dance with three beats per bar. This is a type of polska that however mostly is referred to as a gammaldans. The dance use eight bars per sequence, with two bars with dalsteg, one bar walking steps, four bars turns and one bar for assembling.

    See also Hambo


  • The hambopolkett can be thought of as a polka using three beats per bar. Another way of explaining the dance is to say it is like waltz but with the movement sideways in the dancing direction rather than forwards/backwards. The dance has some nicknames that gives a good idea about the characteristics of the dance, such as Gubbstöt (old man's bump) and RumpedarraRumpedarra (Rump's quiver).


  • Långdans is danced hand in hand in a long row. The steps can be free, and the music can be two count or three count. A rather popular form is Långdans from Sollerön, which is danced holding each other rather tight, with rhythm as in slow polska, and with ordinary polska basic walking steps, alternating with one step per bar. At the end of the video from the Bfd dance report there is a short sequence with Långdans from Sollerön.


  • Note: The Swedish gammaldans mazurka is not the same dance as the mazurka danced in other parts of Europe.

    The music has three beats per bar. In Sweden the first melody is mostly danced using a variant of hambopolkett, but where the step on beat three in the bar contains a small jump.

    The second melody is mostly danced as "skånsk" mazurka, with eight bars per sequence - two bars dalsteg, two bars with two turns outwards from each other with frykdal steps, two bars with frykdal steps forwards side by side, two bars where the couple makes one turn together but side by side.

    During later years it has become slightly more frequent that the European (French) mazurka is also danced in Sweden, but so far not when dance is announced as GDV or gammaldans.

    See also Mazurka


  • The best translation I can find is Keep fit dance. Mostly, but not necessarily, these events will contain gammaldans. Between each dance the dancing partner is exchanged in an organised way. The method for this varies. One method is to use a jägarmarsch between the dances, where males and females walk in rings in opposite directions. When the music stops playing, you dance with the partner that is in front of you.


  • This is a gillesdans that now is so common at the gammaldans events that I have included it in gammaldans. The pace in the dance is similar with snoa. The dance contains 5 times 4 bars, where (if) each bar is counted as four beats. One dance lasts normally for just one sequence, and then there might be 4 extra bars in the end, if so most people repeat the first part of the dance once again. A very brief description of the dance is:

    Sequence 1: Walking steps forwards (4 beats), walking steps backwards (4 beats), polka forwards (4 beats), snoa two turns (4 beats).

    Sequence 2: One turn from each other forwards (4), one turn towards each other backwards (4), polka and snoa as above.

    Sequence 3: Pancake turn from each other and forwards (4), pancake turn backwards and towards each other (4), polka and snoa.

    Sequence 4: Walking steps forwards with double hand hold and the follower walking backwards(4), walking steps with kept hand hold backwards and with the follower making one turn counter-clockwise (4), leader polka steps, follower one clockwise turn under leader's arm (4), snoa (4).

    Sequence 5: Leader walking steps forwards, follower turns once clockwise under leader's arm(4), leader walking steps backwards, follower turns once counter-clockwise under leader's arm (4), leader polka steps forwards, follower turns twice clockwise under leader's arm (4), snoa (4)


  • This dance can be danced in several ways, although one of the most common is the druff polka (´quick quick slow´ sideways, turn on ´slow´ 180 degrees). The music has two beats per bar. Polkett is similar to the druff polka but contains a small jump on ´slow´.

    See also Polka


  • Polska is a group of dances containing a lot of variants, that in many cases have been evolving for a long time. Today almost all dances in this group use 3 beats per bar, although they probably have developed from music with even counts. The group contains some variants that are rather demanding to dance. Some of the most popular variants today are bingsjöpolska, bodapolska, orsapolska, bondpolska, hamburgska, pols and slängpolska. Hambo is also a polska, although it is mostly referred to as gammaldans today.

    See also Polska


  • Rundpolska is a nick name for a basic polska, similar to hamburgska. It contains polskeförsteg and clockwise turns. The step in the turn is for follower: 1 right, 2 left, 3 turn on left foot assembling and support with right.

    Step for leader is beat 1 left, beat 2 turn on left assembling and support with right, 3 right.


  • Polskeförsteg are the walking steps in polska. Although there are variations, the basic step is as follows:

    Leader: 1 left, 2 no step but moving forwards with body, 3 right.

    Follower: Same as leader but mirrored (starting on right foot).

    Seek for a floating movement - avoid to walk like a duck.


  • This is a mazurka variant from Finland and the northern part of Sweden, that runs over sixteen bars. It starts with the couple side by side with the leader's right hand behind the follower, and the follower's hand on the leader's right shoulder. At the first three bars Frykdal steps are used.

    At the fourth bar the follower change position to the left of the follower by making a half turn counter-clockwise in front of him using three steps. During the next three bars once again Frykdal steps are used, with the follower to the left of the leader. Then the follower turns clockwise in front of the leader, and the couple dances waltz clockwise for the next eight bars.


  • Rundpolska is an often used term for a basic polska, where the leader turns on left-left or both- right, the follower turns on left (bringing right foot into the left to a light touch on the floor)- right,-left.


  • This dance is probably well known in other countries. The music has four beats per bar and four bars per sequence. It is mostly danced with two bars schottische steps and two bars snoa turns.

    See also Schottishe

Segla (sail)

  • Segla is a dance that comes from the Swedish west coast. The most common form of segla is danced to waltz music, although it can be practised with most dances. The turns are always counter-clockwise, and the hold is very close. In the dance the right foot is crossed behind the left. The dance is danced with individual pace, mostly slower than the beats in the music.


  • Two or four beats per bar. The dance contains walking steps and turns, with one step per beat and one turn per two beats. The walking can be omitted. The pace in the music is as when walking.

    See also Snoa/Polka


  • There are several types of slängpolska, but the most common form is the type that slängpolska from Sörmland represents. It is probably one of the oldest forms of polska that is still danced today. The dance contains walking steps in figures alternating with small and/or wide turns at a single point in the room. The music is smooth.


  • The bakmes is danced counter-clockwise. When using similar steps clockwise the steps are sometimes referred to as a fram-mes. In waltz however, the clockwise variant is called stigvals.


  • A nick name for a hambo style from the Stockholm area from around 1970, that now has vanished. It was practised to hambo music in high pace, and the major difference compared with the classic hambo is that the knees where not flexed


  • Stjults is a variant we met at the dances in Orsa. It is danced to music with even beats per bar. The pace is as in polka with with moderate pace. The steps are as in polkett (polka with a jump on the last beat). At the jump the heels are clicked. The dance is danced both clockwise and counter-clockwise.


  • The waltz is probably well known for most of the readers. The gammaldans waltz has a pace that is similar to wiener waltz, and is otherwise also more similar to wiener waltz than the modern waltz. The waltz has three beats per bar and is danced both clockwise and counter-clockwise, with one step for each beat. A rather common variant is the stigvals.

    See also waltz



  • Bakmes is an element of many dances, and can be used in most dances. It is common in many polskor, and can be ised in waltz and polska.

    There are many variations of bakmes, but basically it is danced counter-clockwise, with the leader positioned to the right of the lady, and with the steps outside the partner. In most cases the bakmes, it uses two bars to make a complete turn. The waltz section contains a short video with the variant. It can also can be danced clockwise, and is then sometimes referred to as fram-mes.


  • This is a step practiced in music with 3 beats per bar. The steps are forwards on one foot on beat 1, let the other foot and leg cross the first forwards and to the side on beat 2-3. while moveing the weight to the foot sole and stretching the leg and foot, keeping the tip of the toe close to the floor. Repeat this by stepping on the other foot on the first beat in the next bar. See also Hambo.

Enben (one-leg)

  • This is another element in some dances. In most cases only the leader dance enben, while the partner for example might continue with the same steps that preceded the enben variant.

    Enben is danced using just one leg for a complete 360 degree turn, while the other foot is kept lifted, in many cases used for keeping the balance or add power to the turn. The feet are placed outside the partner to the right.

    The variant is often used in Bingsjöpolska, but can also be used for example in Bodapolska, hambo, schottische and waltz.

    This variant requires balance, and will probably need some practising before it runs smoothly. It is eventually possible for both persons in the couple to dance enben at the same time, e.g. in waltz, but it is rarely seen.

    Enben is mostly only danced clockwise, but in schottische I also sometimes dance it counter-clockwise.

    See also video for Bodapolska, the tail part of it contains an example of enben


  • The frykdal steps are used in mazurka. The step is outer foot, inner foot, jump on and land on inner foot while making a kick with the outer foot.


  • This is a turn where the couple turns around each other without moving in the room. The position is similar to the bakmes, but using a gallop step.


  • The most common walking step in polska is stepping on the first beat. On beat 2 the body is moved forwards without doing much with the feet. On beat 3 the body still continues to move, while moving the other foot slowly forwards to a step on the first beat in the next bar. Strive for an even fluid movement with the body.


  • Spelman / spelmän - Folk musician / folk musicians
  • Spelmanslag - A group of folk musicians. In many cases it might be 20 members or more.
  • Spelmansstämma - Folk musician's rally. This is a folk music event, mostly with some concerts, musicians who play anywhere they can find a place, any music they like to play, but mostly with gammaldans and polskor. Many of these events are arranged summertime in the open. In many cases there is dance as well on these events.

Last updated: Jan 22, 2024