Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Swedish National Anthem:
Dancing Queen
July 4th may have been for the USA, but July 5th was for Sweden. We went to see ABBA. Or at least the ABBA cover band "Waterloo". Swedes really, really, really love ABBA. Who does not love ABBA, with their matching outfits and coordinated dance moves?

The love runs so deep, it can be banked on. In Sweden at Christmas in the big box electronic stores, there were video game X-Boxes piled high in the aisles for sale, just like in the USA. But on the packaging was none other than ABBA. While the US Christmas edition of the game player was released with "Kung-Fu Panda"- a game that combines the appeal of an animated blockbuster movie with street fighting, the Swedish x-Box was sold with ABBA Karaoke, so you can sing along with all your favorite ABBA hits. This pretty much sums up the difference in Swedish culture and American culture.

USA: animated street fight starring Angelina Jolie. Bomb Iraq.
Sweden: sing-a-long, and imagine you are the girl with golden hair. Remain politically neutral, accept refugees from all over the world.

My husband imparted this Swedish love of ABBA to our daughter, who was thrilled when one year ago, just before we moved to Sweden, we were able to see the ABBA cover band Waterloo on their American tour in the USA. She was even more delighted when last week, almost one year to the day after her first "Waterloo" show, we were given free tickets to go see them locally in an outdoor amphitheater. Bad weather did not stop the fun.

Here is the crowd doing the 'Swedish finger dance' to Mama Mia..See how they suddenly lose control, with the fire that is in their soul?

We sat enjoying the show with our friends from Australia and Ireland. It was fun to realize that all three of us, from different parts of the world, could still share in this common experience of growing up knowing ABBA songs. The Australian recounted how in her school, you were either an ABBA fan or a KISS fan, the camps were very clearly defined. That at six, she had gone to see ABBA, and now, at 6 her daughter was able to see this show, coming full circle. The girls had a blast, and at just age 4 and 6, both of the girls have the box set of ABBA songs in their homes, and know every word of every song. It was great to them mouth along to the words from their seats, and share their glee with one another when they recognised the first few bars of a favorite song. Soon the excitement over took them, and with out any adult help, they walked down the stands, made their way to the front row, and like true groupies, sang, danced, and waved at the band from the front row. Swedegirl got at least three special, right-at-her waves from the band during the performance. One was caught here on film!

When we saw Waterloo last year, Swedgirl was so mesmerized she asked if she could meet them. We stayed afterwards, and met Ulf Peterson, an original ABBA member, the drummer, and the blond lead singer and her little baby. For months Swedegirl would pretend I was "the ABBA lady", as in "Ok, you be the ABBA lady, and I...." "ABBA Lady" is right up there with Cinderella for her, and having met her before, Swedegirl hoped for such luck once again. She managed to get backstage, with little buddy, to say hi this time too.

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life! See that girl, watch that scene, digging the Dancing Queen:
And when Dancing Queen came on, all those poncho clad Swedes stood up, and started dancing, and I was sure that that 'seeing ABBA live' like this was truly a cultural experience, and that Dancing Queen must in fact be the Swedish National Anthem.

I recall declaring one day when standing in the impossibility long school lunch line that I was going to marry a man named ABBA. Since my maiden name starts with 'S' and I was forever at the end of the line. I reasoned with that as a last name I'd always be the first in line. Perhaps, in someway, I did marry a man named ABBA, when I married a Swede.

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