Amborg. Holmfrid. Inga. Olaf. Do these names inspire passion, visions of windswept vistas, heaving chests of toned muscle or full bosom? Can you imagine them as dance partners, steaming up the lenses of the audience while engaging in a full-frontal tango? Or is the conjured vision one of clay-soil-toiling, no-nonsense sea gleaners, inhabitants of the short-seasoned north? Ah, such is the joy of being Nordic.
The long-wintered northern climes of Europe, produced a people who worked hard for survival. The short growing season required constant labor to produce the food that would last through the winter. Root cellars and smoke houses were common, vegetable pickling increased the storage longevity of produce, and crops were grown then stored for the animals, winter’s source of protein. Men, women, and children spent their time on food production, as well as the felling of trees, and splitting firewood for winter warmth. The long winters were busy with the caring of animals, keeping the fires burning, telling stories, and celebrating holidays. These people groups did dance, even with closely held couples swirling around the dance floor, but the image of groups of women, dressed in layered skirts, scarves, aprons, hands on hips as if in disapproval, scooting around the dance floor with care, is the one I connect with.
In my house, we grew up Nordic with the added constraint of my parents’ very conservative religious upbringing. In fairness, our upbringing was looser than the one my parent’s endured, but practically speaking, it was still:
We don’t drink, smoke, chew or go with girls who do.
You can insert the word dance in between ‘smoke’ and ‘chew’. In a theological nutshell, people are born bad because of Adam and Eve’s misstep, and the physical body is the vehicle for this badness. Ergo, one must control one’s body and behavior to avoid the appearance of badness.
At the deepest core of their being, humans respond to beauty, to music. Little kids live in the moment. Small children are accepting, forgiving, responsive. They learn judgement, intolerance, inhibition, and self-loathing. I don’t remember what was playing, perhaps it was the soundtrack to Disney’s Snow White, but my sisters and I were dancing around the living room. I remember the laughing, the fun, the silliness of it. I also remember my mom’s words:
Girls, don’t wiggle your bottoms.
She made this statement on more than one occasion and it did the job. Now, while it seemed that gossip was acceptable, moving one’s body was not. I became stunted. I didn’t learn how to move my body, even to where my feet wore cement shoes while playing tennis. I hated school dances, which we went to, go figure, as I had no skills to use there.
Encouraging or discouraging, words spoken at a pivotal point in a child’s life will have devastating effect; devastatingly good or bad. Today, I’m married to man who doesn’t dance with his body but who creates music that bodies can move to. I’m mother to a boy who has rhythm coursing through his veins. I choose to stretch myself, dancing goofily with my son, responding with movement when he creates a groove or highlights a piece of music that intrigues him. I have danced along with the theme music of various video games at the behest of my boy. I practice yoga and karate, creating a connection between my mind and my muscles. I do believe in a creator God. I believe that God’s creation is good and I am part of that creation. With all respect to my ancestors, I have stopped using Nordic as an excuse and have started rewriting my story.