Probably 8 out of 10 people scurry to the dance floor when ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” blasts from a speaker.
“Friday night and the lights are low, looking out for a place to go,” they belt to their friends.
There’s just something about an ABBA song that fires up our emotional core. Think of the fraught “Fernando” and “Mamma Mia,” or the hopeful “Take a Chance on Me” and “Waterloo.”
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“Their musical arrangements are intricate and difficult,” said Agnes Jawien, lead singer for Dancing Dream, a New York-based ABBA tribute band. “They’re not as simple as they seem. There can be a second song underneath the main song and you don’t know something else is going on. Maybe this is partially why they’re surviving the test of time.”
The six-piece Dancing Dream will perform Friday and Saturday at Boot Barn Hall.
Jawien and Halina Ulatowski, who now acts as the group’s manager, started the tribute band almost 14 years ago from the ashes of their former Polish cover band.
Ulatowski had been a huge ABBA fan since living in Poland, where the Swedish pop band was uber popular. Seeing her first ABBA tribute band, and then the ABBA jukebox musical “Mamma Mia!” on Broadway, inspired her to pose an idea to the cover band: Why not cover some ABBA songs during a show?
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“It started as kind of a joke at one of our shows,” Ulatowski said. “We dressed up as ABBA, used an ABBA track and did a show for 300 to 400 people, only five songs. But the reaction of the audience was overwhelming. We performed in this club every Saturday. They were so used to us, they usually had no reaction we were just a local band.”
But Jawien knew they were onto something: “As soon as we opened the curtains with an ABBA song they went nuts. That was the moment I thought this is going to work.”
Their cover band broke up after losing its steady gig, and Jawien and Ulatowski moved forward as the duo ABBA GIRLZ. Seven years later, they became a quartet and rebranded themselves as Dancing Dream.
“The harmonies are beautiful and unique,” Jawien said. “There are so many different ones and you can sing it a multitude of ways. They were all geniuses.”
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A decade ago, Ulatowski heard there were more than 300 ABBA tribute bands in the world. Nowadays there are four or five big ones in the U.S., Dancing Dream being one of them. They don’t aim to impersonate the group, though they’ve spent hours scouring YouTube and studying the group’s costumes and choreography. What’s most important is how they sound.
“We dress like them, we kind of look like them, but it’s not our goal to impersonate then,” Ulatowski said. “Our goal is for people in the audience to feel like they’re listening to an ABBA live show. Their live shows are very different than recordings.”
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