Folk dancing is one of those rare activities from which people of all ages and walks of life can readily gain a large measure of satisfaction. In the beginning, most stand outside the fringe of those who ‘belong’ until someone extends a smile and a beckoning hand… we have no chance to wonder what this power is that so swiftly makes friends of strangers, yet we have a good time and the very important feeling of really being included. We realize that the spirit of the people we are with is more important than our own skill in dancing.
--Jane Farwell, “The Makings of a Good ‘Saturday Night’”
Jane Farwell was born on January 18, 1916, on her family farm near Ridgeway, Wisconsin, and graduated in 1938 from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with a degree in “Rural Recreation.” While in college, she stumbled upon Swedish dancers teaching the Hambo Polska and quickly fell in love with the activity, making it the centerpiece of her recreational programs. Jane’s travels brought her to Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Turkey, Japan, and eventually back home to her family farm, where she established Folklore Village in 1966. Here, Jane and the community of Folklore Village engaged in cultural activities like dance, music, craft, and foodways traditions.
Folklore Village is home to over 200 folk dance costumes collected and made by members of Folklore Village. In addition, the collection features items donated by important figures in the international folk dance movement such as Beatrice Lever, Karin Gottier, and Mary Ann Herman. The collection has been made, collected, and used by its members for educational and recreational purposes, and also for performance activities. The collection reflects the local preferences and interests of the community, but also wider trends in the study of folk dance and folklore. Some of these costumes use mass produced fabrics and techniques alongside handwoven linen and wool imported from Norway. Others are dresses collected from Central European villages by traveling collectors in the 1930s-1960s, and still others are sourced by creative and skilled community members in the Upper Midwest. As a whole, the collection can help us to better understand the folk dance movement, while also giving a deeper look at the ever-changing state of folk dress.
Check out the links below to learn more about the collection, the collectors, and the cultural community that makes these folk costumes such an important part of the folk dance history in the region.
This project would not be possible without the generous support of Folklore Village, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Sustaining Scandinavian Folk Arts in the Upper Midwest project, Anna Rue, Marcus Cederström, and the staff and members of Folklore Village, especially Terri Van Orman and Becky Rehl.
Note: The costumes were photographed as they were worn and stored at Folklore Village, using the notes and information available. Some of the ensembles are of mixed ages and materials and some people may notice “mistakes” and a mix of “authentic” and “stylized” costume pieces photographed together. We are aware of many of these issues and hope to be able to address them in future projects.