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Dancers and fiddlers show off Swedish tradition

The American Swedish Institute Spelmanslag along with the North Star Nordic Dancers will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at The Phipps Center for the Arts.

The Spelmanslag is the fiddling group of the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. The ensemble plays the traditional folk music of Sweden, primarily from the region of Dalarna. Their repertoire includes traditional dance tunes such as waltzes, schottisches and polskas.

The music they play represents a living tradition that started hundreds of years ago in Sweden. The country's tradition of fiddle music goes back hundreds of years as well, but the tunes the ensemble plays may never have reached Twin City audiences if one man hadn't loved the fiddle.

Edwin Johnson left Rättvik, Sweden, during the 1920s, when drought and a weak economy drove many Swedish farmers to America. Once here, he built himself a new fiddle and, when he met Nall Jon Eriksson, who grew up in the same fiddling tradition in Rättvik, and the two played together at many Swedish-American social events in Minnesota. Johnson taught his children and grandchildren to love the music from his homeland.

His son, Bruce Johnson, and his grandson, Paul Dahlin, played with him for many years as the American Swedish Spelmans Trio.

After the elder Johnson died in 1984, Dahlin continued his grandfather's legacy and further advanced the tradition in America by organizing and leading the ASI Spelmanslag. The ensemble, organized in 1985 with a dozen players, grew out of fiddle classes Dahlin taught at the American Swedish Institute. It currently has more than 40 fiddlers of all ages, from teenagers to octogenarians, many of whom were in Dahlin's original classes.

Tickets, shuttle bus

Tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for all students with a current ID. Discounts are available by purchasing season tickets. For reservations, contact The Phipps Center ticket office at (715) 386-8409 or visit

On Oct. 18, there will also be a Phipps Children's Theater production in the Black Box Theater and the Professional Walleye Tournament awards banquet in Lakefront Park, adjacent to The Phipps. Patrons are advised to arrive well in advance of the concert at 7:30 p.m. or take a shuttle bus from the outer lot of Plaza 94 on the frontage road (Coulee Road) north of I-94 or from the Welcome Center off the frontage road (Crest View Drive) south of I-94.

Shuttle buses will run every 15 minutes Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Street parking is available in addition to public lots at the corners of Second and Vine and Third and Walnut streets.