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The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)

Jämtländsk Bakmes Step
from Kall, Jämtland

By Gordon Tracie

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Gordon Tracie The "bakmes" step from Kall in Jämtland, Sweden, is a cognate of the "bakmes" step from western Dalarna (Västerdalsk bakmes) as well as the "vrangsnu" turn of Rørospols, but incorporates a heel-turn on the final count, with an accompanying catch-step preceding it in order to facilitate proper transfer of weight. Like the western Dalarna form, the left foot is always the leading foot, and should be pointed in line-of-direction at the beginning of each pattern.

Of the three rhythmic forms given in the 1981 University of the Pacific (Stockton) Folk Dance Camp syllabus, the polska is undoubtedly the oldest, stemming from the ancient triple-meter polska music. However, because this rhythm demands a sort of syncopation in the step's execution, it seems the most difficult. But, if the simpler "Västerdalsk bakmes" is mastered first, the principle becomes abundantly clear, and the Jämtland version should not be a problem.

As other rhythms crept into the folk scene in Sweden, the "bakmes" step was adapted to them as well. First, the "stigvals" (stride-waltz, not introduced at this time), then the schottis, and finally the polka. In these latter two dances, the rhythm is, of course, changed from triple- to duple-meter, and as a result, the subtleties of the polska form are no longer present. The step movements are in a steady 1-2-3-4 cadence.

The turning principle in a typical "bakmes" step involves each partner in an alternating status of "activeness" and "passiveness" from one measure to the next. Specifically, the active person dances around his/her partner so as to initiate a half-revolution, while the passive person allows herself/himself to be turned. Then the roles are reversed, thereby accomplishing one full revolution as each partner completes the total pattern.


Reprinted from the 1981 University of the Pacific (Stockton) Folk Dance Camp syllabus.

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