Dear friends,

Many thanks to all of you whose good wishes were with us on August 5 when we "danced up" before the judges in Sweden! Ilse and I did win our bronze medal, proud and humble in the end after feeling not too confident the week before. Here are a few photos from uppdansning and from the previous week.

We first stayed ten days at Furudals bruk, enjoying the hospitality of Diane, Chris, and Cameron at Kättingsmedjan and Tomas Fredholm at Herrgården, while working hard every day in Leif and Margareta Virtanen's training course to prepare for uppdansning along with our other American friends Emily, David, Arne, Harry, and Roo, and many wonderful dancers from Sweden, Italy, France, and Holland. Furudals bruk is a cluster of old buildings on a beautiful lake in the forest, a few km from the tiny town of Furudal and 40 minutes drive from Rättvik. We danced, hiked, played cards, and grilled korv over the campfire by the lake in the evenings, still light at 10:30pm. It was very hard to leave.

Ilse and I had worked hard all this spring, practicing our dances every chance we could get, from Santa Barbara to San Diego and all points between. By the time we left for Sweden we felt pretty good about our Bingsjö and Hede, but the slow Haverö was my nemesis -- maintaining both balance and angular momentum through the slow pivot turn just seemed physically impossible. (The good dancers make it look effortless.) On the third day, Leif and Margareta gave us a brutally slow tune, 62/min, and our Haverö completely disintegrated. After class Sunday we looped that tune for a solid hour, doing our best to dance to it; and Sunday evening my dicey right knee gave out. Dear Cameron lent me her knee brace; I sat out Monday, iced my knee after every dance Tuesday and Wednesday; and by Friday's uppdansning it was back in shape.

The uppdansning was at Brunnsvik, near Ludvika a couple of hours south of Rättvik. (Here's the program in Swedish). About 100 couples in all danced during two and a half days of judging for all levels; there were 10 newbies, including Ilse and me, dancing for bronze. It sounds intimidating to dance in front of all those experts, and the judges, and the superb musicians. But in fact there is such a powerful feeling of support, of good will toward the newcomers, that the actual 10 minutes of uppdansning feels happy and exciting. The judges are completely poker-faced, of course; but the audience applauds with extra vigor for the bronze dancers, and it does feel like the musicians are playing just for you. Ilse and I were the first bronze dancers on the program, halfway through the first day, and although we had no idea whether we'd passed (every little misstep felt huge!) the warmth of the audience and our friends was terrific. And when the judges announced the results at the end of Sunday, our dancing was "godkjent" and even "vårdat".

Thanks again to all of you who listened and helped and taught us for our trip!

- John & Ilse