Remembering Our
Danube Swabian Ancestors

Donauschwaben Villages

"Helping Hands"

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead


Peter Speckner
Kitchener, ON

Kitchener Schwaben Club
Culture Liaison, was the 2nd Treasurer and is the Choreographer-Instructor of the Schwaben Dancers



"In whatever you do, always do it the best you can."

Mover & Shaker
Interview by Rose Mary Keller Hughes
Published at 23 Mar 2010 by Jody McKim Pharr

The Interview . . .

We are all interested in learning about you, Peter.  Where were you born and what schools did you attend?  I was born in Kitchener, ON in 1973, and have spent most of my life in this city.  I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Communication Studies, and a Bachelor of Education.  I am currently employed with Rogers Communications Inc,, but it is my involvement with the Schwaben Club in Kitchener that takes up most of my time outside of work.  

Are you married?  Yes, I am married to a wonderful woman, Andrea, who thankfully understands my deep involvement in my Club, and is also very involved with it as well.   

That leads me to my next question . . . how did you get involved with the Schwaben Club? 
I have actually spent most of my life involved in the Club in one capacity or another.  It started with being in the Kindergruppe (Children’s Dance Group) from 5-17 years old, as well as being in the club’s Bowling League from 6-23 years old. That’s amazing!  You have been with the club since you were a small child?  Oh yes, when I was 18 years old, I came back to the Club as a member of the Schwaben Dancers, and continued with them for the most part until I became the instructor 2.5 years ago.  Although I still occasionally dance with the group, since our group has blossomed in size to almost 30 active dancers, I spend most of my time teaching the other dancers.  I also joined the Club’s Board of Directors in 2007, and currently sit on the board as the Cultural Director.   

We know now how you got started in choreographing and instructing the Schwaben Dance group, were you ever a participant in another kind of traditional German dancing? 
I started as a dancer in the Schwaben Dancers when I was 18.  When I left to go to Windsor for my first degree, I took time off from that dance group, only to join a German Schuhplattler group in the Windsor area for the next four years.  I guess German dancing is in my blood, so I need to do it wherever I live.  When I lived out in Burbaby, BC for a year in 2000, I also joined a Schuhplattler group there to get my German dancing “fix.”  When I came back home in 2001, I immediately joined up again with the Schwaben Dancers.  The dance group itself accepts people as young as 14, but has no upper age limit.  Our thinking is, as long as you are physically able to do the dances (since many are fast-paced and often involve lifts or flys), then you may perform with the group.  We do primarily traditional German or Swabian dances, but do have a few non-traditional dances as well. 

You started at a young age participating in Schwabian dancing—were your parents interested in this kind of ethnic and traditional performance?  My original inspiration for choreography was my mother.  She taught the Schwaben Dancers for a few years, and choreographed a number of great dances herself.  They were quite different from anything the group had done before, and are still popular today. So when I choreographed my first dance back in 2002-2003, I chose to also do a unique dance that was different from anything else that had previously been done. 

What has led you to using the non-traditional in choreographing dances for the group? 
Using that frame of thought is what originally led me to use non-traditional music in some of my choreography.  Over the years I noticed that, although the German community loved and appreciated our dances, the non-German community, however, wasn’t that interested.  This became very clear during Oktoberfest, when non-Germans would flood into the German clubs to celebrate, but paid very little attention to the dancers performing during the festival.  Since I loved the dancing, and saw no reason why everybody shouldn’t, I decided to try and bridge the gap with our non-German audience.  My first idea was to use a non-traditional German techno song, and choreograph traditional steps to it.  Combined with traditional costumes, I felt that giving the audience music they might be more able to relate to, would give them a reason to pay more attention.  And it worked!  Along with my second dance to non-traditional music, done to a German heavy metal song, I have noticed that both the German and non-German communities appreciate and watch our performances a lot more now.  What an interesting concept!  I know our members would love seeing a Schwaben group dressed in tracht doing the traditional steps to heavy metal!   

At the DVHH, we are, for the most part, researching our Donauschwaben heritage.  Have you done any research regarding your ancestors?  In the past, I have done a little bit of research into my heritage.  My father’s side is Bavarian, but my mother’s side is Batschka and Banat.  Since I have very little family in the “old country” that I know of, I haven’t spent a lot of time tracing my lineage back.  I guess you could say I am more concerned with supporting the Donauschwaben culture in the here and now, and helping it thrive today and for the future, than with studying what happened in the past.  I know the history of where we came from, what was sacrificed by those who took the initial journeys, and how we got to where we are today.  So to me, my part of the equation is keeping the culture alive today, and sharing it with as many people as possible, so that it is still vibrant and exciting for future generations.  That’s a valuable gift to all of us who are researching our ancestry, Peter. 

Is there any dancer or musician who has made an impact on what you do with your dance group?  There is no specific dancer or musician that has had a large influence on me with my dance group.  My two biggest influences however, would have to be my mother Catherine, and Dr. Francis, a Drama professor I studied under in university.  Dr. Francis gave me a bit of advice that has always stuck with me.  His lesson, which applies to every sort of show or entertainment, was: ‘It does not matter how good your show/performance is, how important or relevant the story is, or how fantastic the talent is.  If the audience doesn’t find it fun to watch, they won’t care about it, and your show will not last.”  And that is something I’ve always taken to heart in my work. 

Yes, I try to maintain many traditional aspects in what I do, but I also try to make it more entertaining to those who don’t share our culture or history.  People have to want to watch it, to see it again and again.  If I can accomplish that, then keeping the dancing aspect of the culture alive and well will be much easier, since more people will want to experience it (both as dancers and as the audience).

Secondly, there’s my mother.  As I mentioned before, she previously taught the Schwaben Dancers.  She also taught me as a member of the Kindergruppe.  Throughout her instructing career, she has strived to keep the dances both fresh and fun.  To me, she was the first person who decided to add non-traditional aspects to her dances.  With her though, the new aspects included props (i.e. sticks and flags), as well as storylines built within the dances themselves, to give the audiences something to follow along with while watching the dance.   

So her choreography style, combined with my professor’s advice, have both impacted me greatly, and influenced everything that I do.  It can be a challenge, finding the balance between the traditional components like steps and costumes, and non-traditional aspects like modern music and props.  But if the balance is achieved, the result is a dance that attracts all audiences, and allows the culture to be shared not only with the immediate community, but with everyone. 

Peter, do you have a motto you live by?  In whatever you do, always do it the best you can.  If you succeed, succeed amazingly well.  If you fail, blow it out of the water.  Both ways, you’ll never forget what happened, and you can make sure to do it even better the next time. 

Is there a site where we might see more about your dance group?  The website for the Schwaben Dancers can be found as part of the website for the Schwaben Club itself.  A link to the website is:  and then just click on “Schwaben Dancers” to get to the section for the dance group itself. 

That brings our latest interview to a close.  Thank you so much Peter for sharing your passion with us.  It is immensely satisfying to know that young people (both you and your dancers) are so involved in being ambassadors for our people, the Donauschwabens, through your dance.  Good luck in your future endeavors!

[Published at - 23 Mar 2010]
Movers & Shakers Correspondent: Rose Mary Keller Hughes - date: 03 Mar 2010

The Nomination of Peter Speckner

“I would like to recommend interviewing Peter Speckner of the Kitchener Schwaben Club.  He is currently a committee member as the Culture Liaison, he was the second Treasurer and is the Choreographer-Instructor of the Schwaben Dancers.

In his years as Dance-group instructor, he has brought a modern component to folkdance by creating dances to hits like "Anton Aus Tirol" and "Du Hast" by Rammstein. The Rammertanz (to Rammstein) has vaulted the Schwaben Dancers to the next level of popularity and ability.  The Schwaben Dancers have performed at the Olympic Torch ceremony in Kitchener, at Casino Rama in Orillia, for various organizations who would not usually hire a Schwaben dance group. The group has been interviewed by CTV. They have been taped and this will be used for a Kitchener Oktoberfest (the largest North American Oktoberfest) commercial where they will be called the "Future of Oktoberfest". Membership in the dance group has skyrocketed from eight members to 32 members.

It is this talent, imagination and foresight which will keep the Donauschwaben people in the minds of the general population.”
~ Catherine Thompson 

[Published at 30 Sep 2020 by Jody McKim Pharr]

Last updated: 31 Oct 2020