Polka Music
History
Polka music is a lively, energetic style of music that originated in what is now known as the Czech Republic (then known as Bohemia) and spread quickly into Prague and the rest of eastern Europe in the early 1800's. It quickly spread west to Paris and went quickly to ballrooms and theaters throughout all of Europe and even America in a wide variety of versions. The dance was first introduced into the ballrooms of Prague in 1835. The name of the dance (pulka) is Czech for "half-step", referring to the rapid shift from one foot to the other while in Polish the word polka means a "polish woman".

Polka has regional variations such as Rheinlander, polkamazurka, and Polish polka based on the flavor of the local people who cherished the love of music and dance. Polka even has it's own vocabulary which contributes to the size of this phenomenon. In the 20th century, spin-off's to Polka included the Fox-Trot and other simpler, less energetic styles of dance.

Musical Flavor
The style of music is categorized as Polka, however many composers have blended Polka with other styles such as Jazz, Big Band and Swing. This adds a greater variety of instruments and tones to the music, which is attractive to more and more listeners. Modern Polka has strong roots to the original tones, beats and energy but encompass other styles of music which apparently derive from such rythms.

Many composers wrote polkas, using them in ballets and operas. The Czech composer Bedrich Smetana included polkas in his opera "The Bartered Bride". Lawrence Welk has survived into the 1990's as one of the most successful polka bandleaders.

 

Dancing
As Polka originated in eastern Europe and spread throughout, it is most popular in the western world. With the arrival of such a high-energy dance, ballrooms were quickly filled by young adults and dance schools were flooded with people wanting to learn this fun style of dance. Some variations of the dance were the Galop, which was particularly popular as the last dance of the evening. The polonaise was a slower dance, which was commonly used to open a ball. Bohemian redowa was another known slower dance and the Polish mazurka was a more complicated dance usually performed by those with more experienced in Polka. The schottische was of German origins and was a fairly simple dance, being that it's roots are Folk in nature.

Dances were often combined depending on the venue and the region. Of all the regional dances, Poka survived them all and successfully combined elements of all their steps, rhythms and style. This is due to Polka's amazing ability to adapt to culture and modernize with the times. Polka dancing actually has become a competitive form of dance, incorporating many of the traditional folk styles and emphasizing on skill and precise movements.




© 2009/2011 Walt Procanyn

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