Thursday, September 30, 2010

Come Dance the Polka With Me

Polka, a couples dance that originated in the nineteenth century, is actually from the Czech Republic – Eastern Bohemia, to be exact. Creation of the dance is generally attributed to one Anna Slezak, a peasant girl in Labska Tynice who supposedly invented the dance in 1834.

The name comes from the Czech word pulka, which means “half-step,” which refers to the rapid shift from one foot to the other. Polka is often thought to have originated in Poland; polka means “Polish woman” and the dance may have been named in honor of the Polish people who helped the Czech people during an unsuccessful revolution during Austrian occupation.

The polka, like kolache and other wonderful Czech creations, caught on fast. The dance made its way into the ballrooms of Prague shortly after its creation and caught on more broadly when a Prague dance teacher demonstrated the polka in Paris. Parisians fell in love with the new dance and the trend swept Europe and the United States.

One of the few dances created in the 19th century to survive, polka did see a brief decline around the time ragtime music and jazz were increasing in popularity. The dance, however, saw a revival after World War II when Polish immigrants to the United States adopted the polka as their "national" dance. It also became more popular from efforts of Lawrence Welk and other post-war bands.

Feel like dancing now? Watch a video on the basic steps of the polka and feel free to practice at home (we won’t tell!).

-Heather Tinley, Opera Colorado Marketing Coordinator

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