The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Gordon Ekvall Tracie (1920-1988), Scandinavian researcher, teacher, and author.
Gordon, Scandinavian folk music and dance specialist, was born on March 20, 1920, in Seattle, Washington. His parents were of Scottish, Irish, and Swedish extraction. Gordon became the leader of the Skandia Folkdance Club of Seattle, Washington. For many years he was a consultant in the realm of Scandinavian folk dance and folklore. He spent many years studying and writing in Scandinavia, and his research was based on first-hand experience with folk dancers and musicians in the Scandinavian countries.
Brought up in Seattle, Gordon attended University Heights School there. He later graduating from the Bainbridge High School in Winslow, Washington. At the age of 22, Gordon entered the United States Coast Guard, serving during World War II until 1945. In the period immediately following the war, he traveled to Dalarna, Sweden, where his grandfather was from, and attended the University of Oslo and the Univesity of Stockholm. He saw a poster announcing a Spelmanstamma, where fiddlers played Swedish music, handed it down to future generations. There, Gordon met lead fiddler Karl Aronsson and began a lifelong friendship. This was the beginning of Gordon's love affair with Swedish music, dance, and culture, and although Gordon never learned the fiddle, he did become an accomplished guitarist.
Gordon began studying the music, dance, and folk culture of his maternal grandparents, at first in the Dalarna area, which was readily accessible to people from other countries. He learned the Swedish language, speaking it with a Dalmal dialect. He eventually was conversant not only in Swedish, but in the languages of other Scandinavian countries as well.
When he returned home to Seattle, Washington, Gordon introduced all the dances he had learned and also spread the music he had brought back. At Thompson Hall on the University of Washington campus in 1948, he started an informal group of folkdancers, soon moving to Eagleson Hall at the YMCA. That group of folkdancers became known as the Skandia Folkdance Club, which later changed its name to the Skandia Folkdance Society, now one of the strongest Scandinavian dance and music organizations in the United States, whose purpose is the preservation and promotion of the traditional music of Scandinavia. Gordon later organized one of Skandia's several exhibition teams known as Nordiska Folkdancers.
Gordon began teaching dances and discussing the music of all parts of Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia. He taught at many camps and workshops around the United States. On another trip to Scandinavia, he spent a year at the Institute for Folklife Research in Sweden.
In 1962, Gordon received the "Order of Vasa" award for cultural endeavor from Sweden's King Gustaf VI. In 1963, he spent the summer studying Finnish dance in Finland. During his travels in Scandinavia, Gordon amassed a large collection of Scandinavian music recordings.
Gordon also was founder of Skandia Midsomarfest, Nordiska Folkdancers, co-creator or co-director of myriad Scandinavian events and festivals in the Puget Sound area, and co-founder of the Northwest Regional Folklife Festival and Ethnic Heritage Council.
In the 1960s, Gordon produced the LP record Dans I Dalom with Knis Karl leading a group of top fiddlers. The ethnic fiddling was recorded in the tiny village of Overmo in its village hall to which the fiddlers brought blankets to hand around the walls to dampen the echoes and improve the sound. Gordon also became acquainted with Gunnar Hahn, composer and conductor, who arranged and orchestrated folk music to be played in a more organized manner. Together, the two produced the first Scandia recording that contained a variety of Scandinavian dance music. This album was released on compact disc in 1997, complete with dance notes and liner notes.
From 1973 to 1976, Gordon was retained by the Smithsonian Institution as the Folklore Consultant for its Folklife Festival. He also led guided tours throughout Scandinavia.
In the summer of 1988, Gordon suffered a stroke while on a trip to Sweden to work on development of another Scandia album. He was hospitalized in Mora for a time. When he returned to Seattle, he was still suffering from the effects of the stroke and walked with a cane, although he continued to teach his dance classes and attended Skandia Ball, even managing a few dances.
Gordon Ekvall Tracie, while planning the big 1989 40th anniversary of Skandia Folk Dance Society, died on December 12, 1988, of heart failure. Gordon's extensive collection of recordings, printed music, dance notations, books, and field tape recordings was kept intact and is now housed in Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum's Gordon Ekvall Tracie Music Library.
Dick Sacksteder, Gordon's close and longtime friend of 49 years, finished the work on the second Skandia A Definitive Collection of Traditional Nordic Rhythm recording, issued as a double album under the auspices of the Skandia Music Foundation.
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