The story of Hanna and Mattias Lundmark is a Herräng fairy tale come true—how they had their first dance at Folkets hus in 1997, became partners and turned their passion for Lindy hop into a business and a mutual love—and produced hundreds of Swing Kids. Have you seen the youngsters swirling around camp? Ask for an autograph—they’re expected to be the next generation of Lindy hop stars!
By: Annika Munter Editor: Odella Schattin
Hanna and Mattias’s mutual story began with a dance at Dansbanan in Herräng, 28 years ago. She was the young Herräng village girl, working in the kiosk, wanting to learn Lindy hop. He was the metropolitan guy from Stockholm, spending his sixth year at camp, and that particular year as an instructor. From what I understand, romance was in the air and sparks flew everywhere, lighting up the sky around Folkets Hus. Hanna fell for Mattias unselfish style and his ability to make her feel fabulous, even though she was a beginner.
– It was a combination of his technical skills and his ability to see me and make me a better dancer. Mattias has that personality and that’s often how it is; the characteristics you see in someone dancing, that’s what defines them as a human being.
Mattias took his first dance steps as a twelve-year-old, thanks to his primary school teacher who made all the students attend a class called “dare to shuffle.” Mattias didn’t really like it but afterwards, when two girls from class asked if he’d like to learn the Swedish bugg with them, he said yes. This was in the late 1980s and a new dance school in Stockholm, run by the Swedish Swing Society, invited kids to try Lindy hop one weekend. Mattias went there, this time accompanied by his sister Annika. He was told that he had a “bugg butt,” but nevertheless, the social aspects of the community made Mattias realized that swing was his thing. He wore his shoes out practicing, advanced and became a part of the dance company Shout ’n Feel It. In 1997, he placed third in the world championships and was recruited by The Rhythm Hot Shots, today known as Harlem Hot Shots.
Mattias and I meet on a sunny day in May, at the Lundmark home in a suburb of Stockholm. Toys are lying around and family pictures decorate the walls. I’m given a tour around the terraced house and it turns out that the family has a Prop Shop of their own on the bottom floor. Countless costumes, hats and props are hanging aroundwaiting to be used in one of the Lundmarks performances. They not only dance and teach professionally, but also choreograph and produce, sing and act, touring Swedish theaters and schools with their shows and workshops.
– We have our overall passion and even if I still want to dance like in the movieHellzapoppin, I think that our mission is important today; to spread the joy of the dance and to encourage young and old to have fun and to socialize with each other, regardless of cultural or social backgrounds.
If you’ve seen Mattias and Hanna dance you know that Mattias’s “bugg butt” is gone and replaced with a characteristic raw
and spontaneous style. Hanna’s intense energy says a lot about her personality too and the word “childlike” describes her dancing well; lusty, always with a great smile and completely lacking self-consciousness.
Together they strive to dance like in the heyday, but with their own unique twist. To Mattias, that represents the old style Lindy hop, how it was mastered in the 1930s.
– I want to see my partner, surprise my partner and go outside my own comfort zone—perhaps go a little faster. To me, that represents the old style and I’m comfortable doing something that’s been done before me.
– I’m actually like that when it comes to a lot of things. For instance, if I favor one particular restaurant, I continue to go there, without the need to discover something new. I love what I do!
As we leave the bottom floor to seat ourselves in the kitchen, I notice a stick on the floor, similar to the stick Fred Astaire use in the clip Putting on the Ritz. It’s lying around as if it’s deployed, to be used whenever a family member feels like doing a move.
– We dance a lot at home, Hanna and the boys always know how to put on a show. Hanna is still one of my greatest sources of inspiration. Just the way she enters a room! She exudes energy in a way that I rarely see in others. She has the ability to capture everyone’s attention naturally, especially children’s.
Hanna grew up in Herräng. She was born and raised in the village and when John Clancy came around in 1982, as a special guest at the first edition of Herräng Dance Camp, she was only two years old. Hanna’s mother was the principal at Herräng School, where Hanna learned math, geography and other compulsory school subjects. The activities around Folkets Hus became a fun part of her summer holidays as she was growing up. She spent a lot of time sitting around Lennart’s office, talking to staff, running errandsand once in a while she got to enter the stage in main ballroom; throwing candy at the audience and waving with a feather at Lennart, to cool him off.
Her dancing career began when she was 16, with Frankie Manning as her teacher. This was the same year that she danced with Mattias at Folkets Hus for the first time. Meeting these two men gave her a kick start into her profession.
– Frankie preached the dance in a way that I could understand—it was very clear, simple and rhythmic. He was a calm and very welcoming person, kind and humble, which also made me calm. He taught me the basic eight count steps, chose fun little routines, like The Chase, that made it feel advanced, even though it wasn’t. And he made me practice over and over again.
In no time, Hanna was recruited by Shout ’n Feel It, followed by The Rhythm Hot Shots. And you know who was already a part of the ensemble: Mattias!
Officially they became partners in 2004–in dancing and in life. Since then, they’ve been seen at theaters, camps and on television around the world, teaching and performing. In 2010, they got married and Hanna sums it up quite simply:
– My entire life is a fruit of Herräng Dance Camp. My husband, my kids, my career and my free time. Dancing is the meaning of my life. It’s the air I breathe!
In 2002, Hanna founded Swing Kids. The number of children attending was eight. This summer, more than 120 kids and teens have signed up for the track, and nowadays taking care of them all is a family affair. Sometimes it can be chaotic and Mattias acknowledges that now and again they need to make use of Hanna’s magic ability to capture the kids’ attention.
– Kids just want to have a good time and we try to teach them without being demanding. When it comes to holding hands, boy or girl, they’re a bit shy and we teach that too.Adults dance without challenging us in this way.
Hanna believes that today’s swing kids will be the next generation’s Lindy hop stars. She points out that last year’s world champions in Boogie Woogie—Thea Wallqvist and Eric Chadell—were Swing Kids not long ago.
– When kids start dancing at an early age they become fearless. They develop the courage to really dance and learn how to improvise and create new, cool movements.
– Right now, we are talking about a few youngsters whom we think have the ability to go far with their dance.
The theme of Swing Kids 2018 is “The heART of swing.” The way Hanna and Mattias Lundmark see it, dancing and interacting with music is a craft, just like painting with brush and easel. But copying our masters is not enough; each dancer must understand what’s been done before them and then create something unique. Within each dancer there is an artist with a heart full of personality and expressions.
– This year we want to get into the depths and the roots. Perhaps be a counterweight to many of the discussions about technique that are going on in the community today. To us Lindy hop is everything but a cosmetic surface!
ABOUT: Hanna & Mattias Lundmark
Age: 37 & 41
Work: As professional dancers, choreographers and producers – touring Swedish theaters and schools with shows and workshops, as well as international camps.
Why bring kids to Herräng: If you have a common interest, or if you want to develop one, Herräng is a perfect place. We amuse the children while the parents dance.
Advantages in learning Lindy Hop young: You stay young! The kids are more positive towards themselves; they learn the steps easily and without being self-critical.