Western Ozaukee County,
Wisconsin, is the site of the oldest German
settlement in the state. In 1839 Pomeranian immigrants began to settle
there, calling their new homestead Freistadt, meaning "free
city." While Pomeranians may have been unhappy about the lack of freedom
and economic opportunities in the old country, they happily continued
their customs, traditions, songs and dances, as well as the use of their
native language, Plattdeutsch (Low German), in their new home
well into the middle of the 20th century. Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt
was organized in 1977 to preserve the folk culture of their forefathers
by performing songs and dances from the Pomeranian regions.
How does a performing group get started? In this case, the story goes
back to the American Bicentennial celebration in 1976 when the families
in Freistadt hosted a Pomeranian dance group from
Tanz- und Speeldeel Ihna (today
known as Tanz- und Folkloreensemble Ihna). The
group, under the direction of Eike Haenel, performed for a number of
festivals in southeastern Wisconsin,
and before they returned to Germany,
the dancers invited the people from Freistadt to visit them in
Erlangen. One year later, forty young people from
the Freistadt area went to Germany,
where they stayed in the dancers homes and learned Pomeranian folk
dances from Eike's parents, Karl and Hildegard Haenel. The group of
young people from Freistadt asked their instructors to come to
the next year. The Haenels came and stayed for a month and a half. They
taught the enthusiastic Pomeranian-American kids even more folk dances.
kids rehearsed every night for the next six weeks. And the rest, as they
say, is history.
In the years since our origin, we've grown to a polished performing
troupe of dancers and musicians. Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt consists
of three age groups. In the Lütten group, children ages 5 through 8
participate in story-telling and games that teach about our ethnic
heritage, and learn simple dances and songs in German. The Backfische,
ages 9 through 13, learn more complicated dances and choreography, as
well as developing poise, stamina and discipline. Our main performing
group consists of the Jugend (ages 14 through 20) and Erwachsenen (21
and over), and performs in a variety of venues around southeastern
Wisconsin and the Midwest.
Our talented musicians and singers, known as Pommersche Späldeel, also
perform on their own at numerous events throughout the year.
We invite you to click on the
links on the left to learn more about us. New members are welcome to
join us, especially our children's groups. You'll find it an enjoyable
and rewarding experience.