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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, Inc. 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 Erlangen, Germany, Tanz- und Speeldeel Ihna (today known as Tanz- und Folkloreensemble Ihna). The Erlangen 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 Wisconsin 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. The Wisconsin 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.

Milwaukee Germanfest 2009

The Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt Family
Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt

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