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スポーツの近代と現代、そして・・・

The popular voicing of sport – Comparative aspects of Grundtvigian movement culture

The popular voicing of sport

– Comparative aspects of Grundtvigian movement culture

Henning Eichberg

“The human being is a voicing being (stemningsvæsen).”

Hal Koch

Grundtvig was not only influential by his direct words, actions, and inventions. His influence worked also – or maybe primarily – indirectly by practical and oral channels, by the Grundtvigian movement, free congregations, gymnastic associations, cooperatives, and People’s Academies. Sport and movement culture show how this practical Grundtvigianism affected Danish everyday life, down to the personal, bodily level. However, this happened in a way about which Grundtvig probably would have been surprised himself.

Grundtvigian folkelig gymnastics in context

The world of sports in Denmark is marked by the impact of Grundtvigian gymnastics. These so-called folkelig gymnastics made people meeting in voluntary associations and in large summer meetings (in Danish stævne), singing and playing together, mostly in a non-competitive way. The “popular” model can be compared with Swedish Lingian gymnastics, German Turnen, Slavic Sokol gymnastics, Gaelic sport in Ireland, Highland Games in Scotland, Glima in Iceland, and more generally with folk sports in different parts of the world. And yet, Danish folkelig gymnastics was different.

A common denominator between these very diverse activities and the Grundtvigian approach – all having roots in National Romantics – was nation building through or from out bodily movement. Or folk building? And who is the folk?

However, the rise of Danish folkelig gymnastics and sport was not derived from Grundtvig’s personal concept or initiative. Grundtvig himself did not initiate any sportslike practice. If so, he would eventually rather have favored fight and combat instead of gymnastics, that is why one has – with some ironical undertones – imagined “Grundtvig as boxer” (Korsgaard 1986 b). Furthermore, Danish folkelig gymnastics were not a prolongation of elder or even ancient Nordic practices of play, game and competition, as they could be translated by National Romantic reception (Engelstoft 1801). Instead, modern Danish folkelig gymnastics resulted from complex effects of the Grundtvigian movement, combining bodily movement, personal development and national identity since the late nineteenth century. And some spill-over of this Grundtvigian movement could even be seen in other Danish sport movements, which rivaled with folkelig gymnastics – in bourgeois sport and workers’ sport.

From rivalling folk movements to modern sports

What characterizes the particular way of Danish sports is that it originated from popular movements in different social milieus. Modern Danish sport culture involved, from its very beginning in the nineteenth century, a complex mix of three class-related elements – rural farmers’ culture, urban bourgeois culture, and workers’ culture. During the twentieth century, this initial profile was supplemented by and received further nuances from new reform movements, cultural radicalism, and welfare culture. All these milieux and social movements gave different, rival, and sometimes contradictory impulses to the Danish practice and understanding of sports – and they were in different ways related to Grundtvigian impulses.

(1.) The main force of Grundtvigian cultural influence was the Danish farmers’ culture of the nineteenth century. It was socially based on the class of land owners who developed a liberal-democratic self-conscience and social practice of their own – in contrast to the aristocratic ruling class on the one hand and the bourgeoisie in Copenhagen on the other. The farmers founded rural producers’ cooperatives, People’s Academies (folkehøjskoler), and local assembly halls. Continuing some traits from revivalist religious movements of the 1820s, the rural milieu with its spiritual, emotional, and educational impulses became the cradle of a special type of gymnastics. These gymnastics were adopted from the Swedish-Lingian system in the 1880s and became the origin of Danish popular (folkelig) sports in voluntary associations. People’s Academies integrated the new movement activities into the construction of “the whole human being”, as it was expressed in Grundtvigian terms. Gymnastics played a central and controversial role in the national-democratic policy of education around 1900, when the majority party, the farmers’ “Left”, finally gained power (Korsgaard 1982 and 1986 a; Eichberg 1996).

(2.) Another source of sports in Denmark was urban bourgeois culture in Copenhagen, and soon afterwards also in other towns. Following the English model, middle class people – mostly men and only a few women and young people – met in socially exclusive clubs, taking over British patterns of achievement and competition. It can be questioned whether the local clubs with specialised activities at that time really could be regarded as a “movement” properly. When a minor group of well-dressed men in 1896 founded the Danish Sports Confederation (DIF), they were mostly interested in common rules of competition and in amateur rules, which laid distance to non-bourgeois people from sport. On the political level, they were “non-political” with undertones from national liberalism and royalist conservatism. At first, this umbrella federation, represented by military officers, medical doctors, businessmen, and lawyers, did not catch the interest of the majority of local clubs. But when sport in the early twentieth century became a mass movement, the DIF gradually developed more elements of a folkelig movement such as common symbols, rituals and a health-related ideology.

(3.) That sport became a mass movement owed much to workers’ culture. A part of this milieu was connected with Social Democracy and its cultural initiatives – “peoples’ houses”, socialist scouts, cultural associations, and socia­list People’s Academies, which combined the Grundtvigian idea of Folk Academy with cultural socialism. Wor­kers’ sport in Denmark, however, failed to develop a lasting alternative to bourgeois competitive sport. The Danish Workers’ Sport Association (DAI) lasted for only a few years (1931-1937) as a separate body, before joining the sport federation DIF. As Social Demo­cra­cy be­came increasingly hegemo­ni­c and reformist, it fa­voured cor­pora­ti­ve structures and Sport for all instead of socialist sport. A special feature of workers sport was the “Festivals of Professions”, mixing sports with carnival-like folk competitions like tug-of-war (Hansen 1993). Today, DAI organizes social and integrative sports, with special focus on elderly people, immigrants and disabled people.

After 1900, new reform movements supplemented the picture with youth movements, alternative health movements, and outdoor activities (friluftsliv). As an open-air movement, sport obtained now a new profile and a new mass-character. Cultural radicalism between the two World Wars added further innovations. It connected functionalism and technological enthusiasm with jazz, boxing, expressive gymnastics, and nudism, valuing sport as aesthetical events. Some cultural radicals distanced from Grundtvig, others like Martin Andersen Nexø translated Grundtvigian inspirations to socialist ideas. Later, this radicalism found a particular expression in the work of the Situationist artist Asger Jorn (1964) who designed a huge project of ancient and folk art in the North and explicitely referred to Grundtvig. When Jorn (1962: 37-38) proposed a “triolectic” game of football between three goals in order to avoid the dualist war configuration of soccer, this was an original and “weird” Neo-Grundtvigian approach.

At the same time as these reform movements, urban Social Democratic administrations developed a welfare system including “Culture for the people” (Julius Bomholt). In the name of social consensus, the cultural struggle was downgraded, and a new type of welfare culture institutionalised the workers’ movement. Welfare policy supported people’s tourism (Dansk Folke­ferie), laid out urban folk parks with sport facilities, opened the green natural environments of the countryside for outdoor activities, and supported Sport for all, especially municipal sport and company sport, in the spirit of health for all (folkehygiejne). From the underground of this welfare culture – with elements of protest against its authoritarian aspects – the youth revolt of 1968 expressed a sort of Neo-Grundtvigianism, with Ebbe Kløvedal Reich and Ejvind Larsen as prominent voices.

Højskole sport: from entertainment to educational idea

People’s Academies have historically played a central role for the diffusion of popular gymnastics in Denmark. In comparison with other countries, the close connection between the free academies and sport is particular for the Danish situation. As a space of alternative education, the “school for life” had an important impact on sport as being “sport for life” and “popular sport”, folkelig idræt. Sport as folkehøjskole activity was, however, marked by the paradox that the connection between the school and sports was originally unintended. Nevertheless, in the longer run it followed a certain educational logic. This developed and alternated through five historical periods.

In a first period, when the first folkehøjskoler were established (beginning in Rødding in 1844), sport had no place in their concept of education. The students were taught by lectures and by some manual labour. But elements of movement culture entered into their daily practice, as a break in the daily routines. It was more for practical purposes that gymnastics and exercises of the “Danish” type, similar to German Turnen, were here and there introduced – as healthy exercise and compensation for sitting learning, as joyful alternation and entertainment. Body movement in Grundtvigian Academy was not present as a subject of its own, and it was not related to “popular enlightenment”. It developed in the intermediary space between the “real” subjects.

“The whole human being” in movement

In a second period, the place of body culture changed when physical exercises became more integrated into the ideas of højskole education in the 1880s. It is here that Grundtvigianism really began to influence body culture. The process started on the People’s Academy in Vallekilde on the isle of Zealand. Under its headmaster Ernst Trier, students began in 1884 to train Swedish Lingian gymnastics, and a group of teachers was sent to Sweden in order to learn this system more in details. Subsequently, Danish folkehøjskoler began, one by one, to introduce Lingian gymnastics.

This change happened in a time of inner tensions, when Denmark was threatened by a civil war between the majority of democratic farmers (“the Left”) and the ruling minority of aristocrats and landowners (“the Right”). Instead of military confrontation, People’s Academies and popular gymnastics became part of a peaceful cultural revolution, which finally overthrew the right-wing dictatorial regime. This contributed to the non-militaristic or even anti-militaristic agenda of Danish folkelig gymnastics. The choice of (“left-wing”) gymnastics was a choice against the military policies of the (”right-wing”) revanchism. And yet, the folkelig milieu was nationalist, too, but in another way, referring to Nordic identity in confrontation with the German Reich.

On the level of practice, lectures, joint singing and gymnastics constituted the characteristic triad of højskole education. Together they formed “the whole human being”. Ernst Trier (1884) expressed the philosophy of gymnastic Grundtvigianism in a famous speech, which he gave at the opening of Vallekilde gymnastic hall in 1884: “Gymnastics shall promote what is divine in the human being – what distinguishes the human being from the animal.”

This spiritual vision of education through gymnastics was both great and pretentious. However, the real practice of gymnastics was rather poor and stereotypical, being derived from rank and file military-like exercises. The traditional patterns of discipline and control were, however, not turned towards bodily militarism, but towards self-discipline and self-control as personal development. Both folkehøjskoler and folkelig gymnastics contributed to the change of political power in Denmark. In 1901, parliamentary democracy became a reality. Thus, bodily movement and social movement were linked together in højskole gymnastics.

A third element in this combination of movements was the cooperative movement of the farmers. Between 1880 and 1900, a strong network of associations developed in the fields of production and consumption. This cooperative movement – being the economic wing of the democratic revolution in Denmark – got important impulses from the People’s Academies, from the cultural wing. And folkelig gymnastics in the villages became a bodily link between the one and the other, linking the idea of folkelig self-organisation to the practical economic cooperation.

From the end of the nineteenth century, the range of the People’s Academies became more varied. There opened a gap between more positivistic and natural-scientific orientations and the more “mythological” tradition. Also højskoler on the basis of more orthodox Christian belief (“Inner Mission”) were founded. And at the beginning of the twentieth century, the rising workers’ movement opened socialist People’s Academies. There is, however, but little known about the role of gymnastics and sports in these types of højskoler.

Gymnastic and sport academies

In the 1920s and 1930s, a third period of højskole history began. With the realisation of parliamentary democracy in 1901, the democratic agenda of the Academies had lost its sharpness. And with the return of South Jutland to Denmark in 1920, the national ambitions were saturated, too. New contents were needed. Important ingredients in this quest for a new orientation were bodily activities and movement culture.

Academies that specialised in gymnastics and sports, were established and expressed new currents of educational and cultural reform, first in Ollerup 1920 and Snoghøj 1925, later in Gerlev 1938, Vejle 1943 and Viborg 1951. With gymnastics it happened for first time that a “special” field of activities was put into the centre of højskole education. The leader of a gymnastic team, delingsfører, became a social figure of particular character, important for generations of “bodily Grundtvigians”, and the højskole became a place of their education. At some academies, this innovation was achieved to the disadvantage of the spiritual message, which had been at the centre of the classical Grundtvigian Academy.  This was the case in Ollerup, the school of Niels Bukh who became the most famous Danish gymnastic leader – and a controversial pro-Nazi right-winger (Bonde 2003). However, the shortcomings were critically remarked by a Japanese observer, the young Shigeyoshi Matsumae (1987). After travelling through Denmark in the 1930s, he contrasted the lack of spirituality in Ollerup with the spiritual atmosphere around gymnastics in Snoghøj and Askov where one tried to combine physical activity with spiritual culture and democratic nationalism. In Snoghøj, female gymnastics was closely connected with the Grundtvigian philosopher Jørgen Bukdahl who regularly lectured on this academy. Bukdahl launched the idea that body culture needed a “point outside”, giving movement a deeper meaning. This “point outside” was for Bukdahl the “popular enlightenment” (Bukdahl 1943; Engberg 1991). The “point outside” became one of the most famous keywords in Danish popular sports.

After the Second World War, sport became a broader leisure activity in the population, but the People’s Academies turned generally more towards literature and democracy. In this phase, a gap opened between “the book” and “the physical”. Sport did not play any important role in the self-understanding of the højskoler. In their program, sport had the place of a leisure entertainment. The process of specialisation, however, continued, and new Sports Academies were established in Sønderborg 1952 and Århus 1970. On the other hand, the sports organisations started to build up their own system of more specialised courses outside the Academies.

In a fourth period from the 1960s onward, the People’s Academy and the classical gymnastic Grundtvigianism were questioned and became redefined in new and often conflicting ways. A driving force of this change was the youth movement of 1968 giving birth to a Neo-Grundtvigianism with revolutionary gesture. The academies were now challenged by new types of grass-root movements from outside and by generational conflicts from inside. New types of academies were opened. Certain new højskoler were related to ideological currents as “red” academies, Tvind schools (which were engaged in solidarity work in the Third World) and some new-spiritual højskoler with meditation on the program. Other schools were established for special groups as women, elderly people, and disabled persons. Further types of academies specialised in certain disciplines as arts, theatre, music or sport. Sport entered into an anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist agenda: “The private is political!” Centres of Neo-Grundtvigian body culture became Gerlev (under the headmaster Ove Korsgaard), Viborg and Køng (founded in 1978). New games, new forms of meditation, expressive gymnastics, anti-authoritarian pedagogy, sport as personal development – cultural struggle reappeared.

Youngsters from new urban milieus, which so far had been distant to the rural academies, began now to enter the højskole. Side by side with long courses of several months, short courses during the summertime became popular; they were often more specialised and appealed more to middle-aged participants. The links between the academies and working life – which had traditionally been of rural character – loosened, and the højskole became more leisure-oriented or even an alternative to “the world of capitalist labour”.

This educational shift changed the balance between literature, which had been in the focus so far, and the creative arts. The højskole, which so far had mainly been teaching young farmers, became an aesthetic academy centred around music and arts. From here, the step towards a bodily højskole was not so far. The new significance of arts, music, sports and psychology weakened the role of the lecture and the study circle to the favour of the workshop, “doing things together”. Education for life, livsoplysning, came near to either leisure education or critical-alternative education. Under both aspects, sport could find an important place, but was at the same time reinterpreted and changed. Sport entered into a connection with the new “body subjects”, kropsfag that had developed during the 1970s, and with the new social movements of protest and civil innovation. In some schools, the sport of competition became degraded in favour of “sport for life”, which was adapted to the values of popular sport from earlier periods. Body culture appeared as alternative education and personal development.

In a fifth period during the 1980s, the tendency of specialisation continued with the founding of new Sports Academies in Ålborg 1982, Nordjylland 1986, Odsherred 1993, and Midtvestjylland 1994. Some tendencies pointed back to discipline-oriented education, and the significance of the market was enforced, too. One talked about “individualisation” and disciplinary “competences” and included fashionable sports, as it was the case at the new højskole in Oure 1989. The social movements from the 1970s, which had promoted the new humanistic innovations inside the academies, became weakened.

Among the 98 Academies that existed in 1999, 31 had a general character, 11 were schools of sport and the rest specialised in other ways. The specialisation made it more and more difficult to identify a comprehensive vision of “sport in popular education” – and of “folkelig education” more generally. Some tendencies tried to adapt the academy curriculum to fashionable sports, propagating a “sport without Grundtvig”, whilst others wished to turn back to “the classical Grundtvigian” højskole based on history, literature and philosophy – without body or sport.

After 100 years of development, højskole sport in the 2000s was confronted with a paradox, which became the opposite of the one from the 1880s: The activities were now rich and diverse, but the common visions and their educational contents tended to be blurred.

Sport for life – the transformation of sport by højskole education

Nevertheless, the connection between Grundtvigian spirituality, People’s Academies and popular sport has given sport new profiles. The Grundtvigian impact made evident, which qualities sport includes – or could include – as sport for life and as sport for social and personal development.

The qualities of sport: Sport has “enlightening” qualities, which are fairly diverse – dance and expressive activities, fight and competition, meditative movement, play and game, outdoor life. Each of these implies its own psychology of movement. The dialogical principle of Grundtvig’s “living word” and levende vekselvirkning is enlarged towards the mimetic principle of dialogue from body to body.

Community of action: By popular sports, people develop their common rhythm, fællesskab. The højskole is a field of common action and voluntary commitment. Sport can contribute to build self-confidence – “I can!’” But the condition is that the activity does not discriminate between the “able” and the “disabled”, making all those losers who are not at the top of the achievement hierarchy. This is a contribution of folkelig sport to living democracy: One body – one vote.

Joint singing: Danish popular sport is a singing movement, which is connected with the Danish højskole as a singing academy. Popular sports (with its organisation Danish Gymnastic and Sports Associations, DGI) have a songbook of their own, and the same is true for the Peoples’ Academies with their Højskolesangbogen. People sing a broad range of genres, from folk ballads, Grundtvig’s psalms and patriotic songs to pop, rock and international songs (African folk, African American spirituals, The Beatles). Joint singing is usual at the more official meetings of sport associations, at the national festivals of sports, and at the opening of højskole lectures. Ever since the beginning of modern democracy, social movements have been singing movements (Eichberg 2010, chap. 8).

Wholeness: Popular sport is a practical way towards understanding the social, philosophical, aesthetical and religious dimensions of human life (Korsgaard 1986 b). These qualities are under threat in everyday life, in the routine and stress of associational life. But højskole sport is a way to re-establish wholeness, consciousness and practical innovation.

From body to language: Bodily learning implies complex processes of translation between practice and word. While the mainstream of universities’ academic thinking favours the translation from practice to numerals, i.e. the digitalisation of knowledge, the People’s Academy tends to put experiences into words, in an analogical process. The “living word” from the Grundtvigian tradition obtained a surprising actuality, being now connected to “the living exchange” between body and body.

Variety: The students can use their højskole stay to test different sports side by side, thus experimenting “the other” type of movement. Specialisation is not at the centre. This coincides with some general tendencies among young people to choose “one’s own sport” in a more flexible way than it has been defined by specialised traditional organisations.

Choice: For a People’s Academy, the activities are always a result of a flexible choice. They are never fixed as at the university or in the course plan of sport organisations where one knows, which are “the real sports”. In a højskole, one never knows this for sure. On the very practical level, the People’s Academy has to test and quest the “market” again and again afresh: Which sports appeal to our students? In this climate, the practice of play and game could thrive, and the International Playground, Legepark, was in 1999 opened at the Gerlev Academy with Grundtvigian emphasis (J. Møller 2010). A recent outcome of this quest is the popularity of parkour, free-running, urban tricking and street movement on some højskoler. In Gerlev, the first Danish parkour park was established in 2007.

Social encounter: Meeting the “other” sport is connected with meeting the “other” social personality: Højskole is a social meeting. The lack of educational hierarchy in the People’s Academies contributes to this social chance. However, the economic crisis of the Academies during the 2000s has tended to narrow the breadth of social recruiting to some degree.

Culture of health: A recent turn is related to health and fitness. The actual wave of fitness is not without problems for the cultural and holistic approach of the People’s Academy. Health, fitness and motion have to be redefined as cultural project. Just as the højskole is a “school for life” (and not for one special purpose), people’s sport can enter into “health for life”. Some academies have tried to develop this line.

Culture of democracy: The People’s Academies have an important impact on sport as democratic practice: “Do it yourself” – and do it together with the others. A key phrase of people’s education is: “Vil du tænde, må du brænde” – “if you want to set on fire, you too must burn”. This “burning”, playing on the Grundtvigian metaphors of fire, warmth, light and folkelig enlightenment, is a driving force of voluntarism and civil society. That is why International Youth Leader Education for students from foreign students, especially from “new” developing democracies in Eastern Europe has used højskoler as their place – combining bodily movement and learning for democracy.

More generally, Danish sports organisations and sports clubs have always used the højskole as educational space for their personal and substantial innovation, especially as place of their leader education. This is especially true for the popular sport (folkelig idræt) whose organisation – now DGI – was characterised through generations by the shift of its presidency between a højskole teacher and a farmer. In the 1990s, the DGI established formal cooperation with five academies: The sports organisation funded students who would use their højskole stay to become sport leaders. Højskole sport also had an impact on the development of new sports milieux such as martial arts (judo and other budo, capoeira, stunt), traditional games, outdoor life, body therapies, yoga and relaxation, movement communication, body theatre, cricket, and parkour. But Danish elite sport also adopted features of højskole as long as elite sport does not see the athlete as an isolated producer of sport performance but as a “whole human being” in social embedding. DIF built close relations to the People’s Academy in Vejle.

Through the changes of history, the Folk Academies have developed different forms of education through sport. This education was marked by a paradox in relation to physical education and sport in state schools: Physical education in Danish schools was always expected to be a way of education, but it never really succeeded as such. The People’s Academies, in contrast, embraced sport only for practical reasons, but they transformed it into a way of education, into “enlightenment for life”.

Folk sports: Right wing and left wing, sportisation and militarisation

The Grundtvigian movement, thus, created an understanding of “the folkelig” in sports, which is unusual in international comparison. The term “folk sport” has been used in different countries, and often with National Romantic undertones similar as in Denamrk – and yet with distinct connotations, differing just as the words for “folk” differ widely in different languages: volk (Flemish, German), narod (Russian), peuple (French), folk (Danish, Swedish, English), popolo (Italian), and folk or people (English). Folk sports and the terminology of “folk” were in some cases attached to a particular ideology, spanning from rightwing nationalism as in German völkisches Turnen to leftwing socialism or even communism as in Italian sport popolare.

Grundtvig was well aware of these broader political dimensions of body culture, which he observed in the case of German gymnastics. German Turnen as a popular movement were started by Turnvater Friedrich Ludwig Jahn and his national revolutionary students (Becker/Bernett 1979; Eichberg 1984). In his lectures Mands Minde (1838), Grundtvig told vividly about Jahn’s Turner gymnasts, which he translated as “swingers”, Svingere. They represented Germany’s “great merits for freedom and enlightenment in the new Europe which we always should recognise what ever we’ll object against the German way of thinking”. Jahn, whom Grundtvig called a “giant nature”, Kæmpenatur, had engaged German youth for the liberation of their country, but he filled them also with “deep contempt for all foreign”, as Grundtvig remarked critically. And yet, Grundtvig’s sympathy was clearly on Jahn’s side when he talked about the ban, which the reactionary Metternich system had launched against Turner gymnastics (Korsgaard 2012: 92-100).

What Grundtvigian gymnastics had in common with German Turner gymnastics as well as with the Slavic Sokol movements of the nineteenth century (Blecking 1991 and 2001) was that gymnastic exercises were in the center of identity-building activity. Other models of “popular sport” were organised around traditional competitions and games like the Scottish Highland Games (Jarvie 1991) and the Breton games. Further forms of “folk sport” had indigenous forms of wrestling in their center, like Glima in Iceland and Schwingen in Switzerland. In Portugal, one differentiated between “traditional games” (jogos tradicionais) with romantic, conservative, and idyllic undertones on one hand and “popular games” (jogos populares) with undertones of people’s culture and self-determination, as promoted by leftwing milieus. On the level of ideological superstructure, thus, there could thus be relevant differentiations. Other differentiations appeared on the level of bodily practice where competitive sportisation had its impact. A further differentiation on the basic level concerned the bodily militarism, which marked German Turnen and Slavic Sokol for some periods, in contrast to Grundtvigian gymnastics.

Three theoretical points

The significance of Grundtvigian body culture can stimulate reflections into different directions. In the following, attention will be turned towards three topics: the relation between personality and movement, the diverse configurations of sports, and the significance of stemning, atmosphere or voicing.

1. The role of the personality in relation to culture and movement

The main interpretations of sport and gymnastics try to find the origin of these practices in certain rules, which were established by bureaucratic organisations (as in competitive sport) or in ideas of certain founder personalities, as Friedrich Ludwig Jahn for German Turner gymnastics, Pehr Henrik Ling for Swedish gymnastics, and Miroslav Tyrš for Sokol gymnastics. The history of Grundtvigian movement culture challenges these assumptions.

Jahn wrote the books Deutsches Volkstum (1810) and Deutsche Turnkunst (1816) giving ideas to both the nationalist and the gymnastic movement. Pierre de Coubertin formulated national-pedagogical ideas for Olympic sport. But the case of Grundtvig shows that the step from ideas to social practice is not as simple. Søren Kierkegaard became famous by his writings – but he did not initiate a cultural movement. Grundtvig on the other hand did not write on sports or gymnastics, and yet he became important for Danisk folkelig sports. His influence worked outside the written literature. Even Grundtvig’s højskole writings may have been of minor significance for the real dynamics of the People’s Academies in Denmark.

Thus, there does not lead one straight line from a historical founder personality to subsequent and current social practice, as it is often postulated by traditional historiography: “From original to…” What happens between ideas and social reality is rather a matter of curved lines. Discontinuities of this type went from non-sporting Grundtvig to gymnastic Grundtvigianism (Trier/Vallekilde), differentiated later-on between Bukh/Ollerup and Bukdahl/Snoghøj, and leading from there further to body-cultural Neo-Grundtvigianism (Korsgaard/Gerlev).

The historical overview shows that this social reality could be manifold – but it was not just “Anything goes”. For the political field one has documented how Grundtvig’s name and ideas could be “used” for very diverse positions (J.F. Møller 2005). And yet, folkelig movement culture showed a certain pattern coming out of the Grundtvigian impact.

That is why the Grundtvigian sports movement demands a closer look at what “movement” is. In Danish language like in many other languages, bevægelse has threefold meaning, oscillating between bodily movement, psychic-emotional movement and social movement. In research, the connection between these three dimensions has been underexposed so far. The case of the Grundtvigian movement shows a particular way how they were connected.

2. The diverse configurations of body culture

What came out of this development in the historical process was a fundamental tension between the two different models of Olympic sport and “popular” sport, which has dominated the organised world of Danish sports until today. It resulted in the organisational dualism of Danish Sport Federation/Olympic Committee (DIF) on one hand and The Danish Gymnastic and Sports Associations (DGI) on the other (see Kulturministeriet 2009). But at a closer examnination, a more differentiated, trialectical relation of body culture reveals – a relation between sport, physical exercise and popular movement culture.

1. The culture of sport in Denmark – not like in other countries – is characterised by competition, achievement, and the production of records. This model referred to English (and in some respect to Scottish) roots and was since the early twentieth century transformed from the club activity of Anglophile bourgeoisie to a mass movement. By the quantification and measurement of records, hierarchies of results are constructed.

This process met some cultural distance in Denmark. Grundtvig had launched a critique of hierarchies in his song

Langt højere bjerge (1820): Other countries may have much higher mountains than Denmark and a more productive industry, but we Danish people cherish the equal level in social life.

Like the high mountains hint at the problem of social hierarchies, they also hint at the pyramids of competitive sport: We have a good life without building these hierarchies of winners and losers. This conflict could open up for alternative patterns of movement culture.

2. Such an alternative pattern was developed by the culture of exercise as a practice of discipline and integration. Historically, it was represented by Swedish Lingian gymnastics, by German Turn gymnastics after Friedrich Ludwig Jahn and by Slavic Sokol gymnastics – people training togetherness in rank and file. As “physical culture”, this model was often linked to natural sciences, health, and educational values, before it nowadays became an element in the inclusive welfare politics of Sport for all.

This pattern of integration and equality disclosed a certain Grundtvigian impact. Again, Grundtvig expressed this in a song:

Et jævnt og muntert, virksomt liv på jord (1839): Let us develop a life of simple and cheerful activity in equality between ”high” and ”low” (med lige værdighed i borg og hytte).

3. And yet, the alternative between the competitive “high mountains” of sport and the disciplining equality of gymnastics was not the whole Grundtvigian history. A third approach to movement culture can be seen in a further song of Grundtvig:

Velkommen i den grønne lund (1843). People are meeting in togetherness, singing in green nature, and building identity as Danes by festive community.

This third model of popular movement culture is marked by people’s voice (stemme) and what in Danish is called stemning. Stemning (in German Stimmung) is difficult to translate, being associated with voicing and voice, with atmosphere and energy, with mood and spirit. In practice, folkelig sport and its stemning is characterised by togetherness and its dialogical qualities, by meeting (stævne) and festivity, sometimes in carnival-like forms, by joint singing and – nowadays – rock music (Madsen 2003; Eichberg/Madsen 2006). The corresponding organisational structure is the local association as expression of bottom-up self-determination and folkelig democracy. The association is a singing forening, not unlike the højskole as singing academy.

The diversity of sport and movement culture, thus, hinted towards diverse configurations of identity building in bodily practice. Nation building is not just one – it can be developed by production and competition, by integration and discipline, and by people’s meeting in difference and voicing of togetherness. “Free” sportive competition, “equal” exercise in rank and file, and community of meeting alludes to the triad of modern democracy – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – and its inner tensions since its genesis in the age of revolutions (Eichberg 2008). Grundtvig as well as the movement culture, which he inspired, had their play amidst these – often conflicting – ways of building modern nation.

Sociology of Danish sport associations has shown that there is no reason to overemphasize the idealistic dimension in the folkelig model, as it has earlier been expressed by the organisations of folkelig gymnastics and sports (Ibsen in Boje/Fridberg/Ibsen 2006). And from a view of a history and policy of health, one has recently discovered that the Grundtvigian atmosphere of sport even may have problematic aspects creating not only folkelig festivity, but also making up a background for the – sometimes excessive – consumption of alcohol in Danish sports (Vinther 2011). This contrasts with other Scandinavian countries where abstinence movements, sometimes with a background in Inner Mission fundamentalism, had a stronger stand.

Methodologically, the three different configurations of sport should not be understood as solid boxes of rigid classification, but as a way of finding important cultural contradictions. In historical reality, the voicing of Grundtvigian folkelig stemning also turned the “natural-scientific” and highly disciplinary Lingian gymnastics into a folk movement as well as it affected competitive sport in Denmark in spite of sportive orientation towards the result.

3. The significance of stemning

In contrast to the idealistic view of bodily practice as being made by men, ideas, and rules, one meets in the Danish case the significance of stemning. This voicing can also be characterised as energy or atmosphere, as mood or “spirit”. Stemning is a world of feelings, connecting individual emotions with a collective atmosphere. It represents a “warm” side in people’s life. Warmth versus coldness represented an important element in Grundtvigian understanding of life. Side by side with the organisation of space and time and with interpersonal relations, voicing has a deeper material meaning for people’s bodily practice – connecting social movement, emotion and bodily movement with each other. Stemning is an important element of the “material basis” that makes up the fundament of people’s life.

As the Grundtvigian and højskole headmaster Hal Koch expressed it, the human being is fundamentally a stemningsvæsen, a voicing being. This “warm” quality is not only an idealistic construction, but – as the history of Grundtvigian movement culture shows – a material power in people’s social life. It is a part of bodily materialism (Eichberg 1996, 2004 and 2008).

In other words: Grundtvigian folkelig sport cannot meaningfully be explained along the mainstream interpretations of cultural history: going from the man and his ideas towards their application in cultural practice. Understanding should rather take the steps from social atmospheres – Grundtvig playing a creative role in the connection of voicing – to cultural practice and people’s movement – and to new atmospheres and practices again. Stemning, bodily practice, social movement – this is the stuff, which modern identity building is made of.

Last but not least, the connection between stemning and popular movement contributes to the theory of democracy. It is tempting to explore the connections between Grundtvigian practice and voicing in sport – and the remarkable significance of equality and mutual trust (tillid) in Danish culture (Svendsen/Svendsen 2006; Wilkinson/Pickett 2009). The connection between equality and trust may be regarded as a matter of national pride, as it was expressed in Grundtvigian patriotic songs with all their “warm” voicing. But it is primarily a challenge. It was challenge in the early phase of revolutionary democracy (1789/1848), in Grundtvig’s time, when different ways of nation building conflicted and separated. And the relation between equality and welfare democracy on one hand and the voicing of trust on the other constitutes a new challenge under the experience of certain “cold” tendencies when national identity under the premises of globalization may turn towards the so-called “competitive state” (Pedersen 2011).

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