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Hastings sisters are taking up their family’s tradition of Norwegian dance

Linnea, left, and Julia Ronning are pictured in their bunads, traditional Norwegian costumes. Submitted photo

Lots of children take dance classes. Not as many take Norwegian dance classes and get dressed up in wool outfits to perform. But that’s what Julia and Linnea Ronning do, and it doesn’t take long to tell that it’s something they really love.

Julia, age 9, and Linnea, 8, are the children of Hastings residents Kristian and Lizbet Ronning.

The family is Norwegian, Julia explained, and maintains close ties to its Norwegian heritage. Kristian is the vice president of the Hastings – Cottage Grove Sons of Norway Hjemkomst Lodge, which is how the two sisters got involved in traditional Norwegian dance.

Fjell og Fjord is a Norwegian folkdance group that features youth from all around the Twin Cities. It is led by Carol Sersland and Steven Petersen. The group regularly performs at Sons of Norway meetings and at cultural events like Festival of Nations, Skandia Fest and Syttende Mai. Julia was introduced to the group at a local Sons of Norway meeting, back in 2011. She watched them dance and was instantly taken with the group.

“I liked how they were all together,” she said. “I like how they moved and how happy they were.”

She joined the group right away. Linnea joined around 2013.

Dancing for the girls is more than just a way to stay active and have fun, although they have plenty of that. Fjell og Fjord teaches youth dancers traditional Norwegian dances, and that, Julia said, helps them learn about their family’s background.

“It’s a way for us to develop our heritage,” she said.

It wasn’t many generations ago that the Ronning family immigrated to America. Kristian’s parents lived in Norway, he said, and his grandmother came here in 1925, when she was just 5 years old. She was also a folkdancer, as was Kristian himself, he said.

The dances

Traditional Norwegian dance often focuses on specific interactions that occur in real life.

“A lot of the dances are based on a couple,” Julia explained.

For example, one of the dances she knows depicts an old woman with a cane. Another features two girls making silly faces at each other as they “compete” for a boy. Another dance showcases how young men might show off to impress the ladies.

For performances, the girls wear a traditional dress, called a bunad, which has a black skirt, white blouse and red vest with a white apron. Sometimes, they wear hats.

For the sisters, the dances are a source of joy. Linnea said she really enjoys being able to dance with other people. Julia said she likes the feeling of having everyone come together and making people smile. She recalled dancing at a nursing home and seeing how much the residents smiled at the performance.

“Sometimes, you get really happy,” she said.

It’s an activity neither sister intends to give up anytime soon. They both said they will keep dancing for some time, and they’re even working on recruiting their younger brother to the group also.

Beyond dancing with Fjell og Fjord, the sisters have joined the Sons of Norway float (a Viking ship) in Hastings’ Rivertown Days parade, dressed in their bunads. They have also appeared in the Winter Light parades in downtown Hastings.

Hastings performance

The Ronning sisters, as part of Fjell og Fjord, will be performing their traditional dances in Hastings this Sunday, Feb. 14, at 3:30 p.m. at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 400 W. Ninth St. The performance is part of the Sons of Norway Hjemkomst Lodge meeting, but it is free and open to the community. Those who want to see the dances don’t have to be Sons of Norway members, and they don’t even have to be Norwegian, Julia said.

The dancers will perform about a dozen dances. There will also be traditional Norwegian songs, accompanied by actions.