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The polka is originally a Czech dance and genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. The polka remains a popular folk music genre in many European countries, and is performed by folk artists in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, PolandSlovenia, Switzerland, Croatia and Finland, and to a lesser extent in Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, Russia, and Slovakia. Local varieties of this dance are also found in the Nordic countries, Spain's Basque Country, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Latin America and the United States.

Dance A performing art consisting of movement of the body

Dance is a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolic value, and is acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture. Dance can be categorized and described by its choreography, by its repertoire of movements, or by its historical period or place of origin.

Dance music music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing

Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are live dance music and recorded dance music. While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times, the earliest Western dance music that we can still reproduce with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances. In the Baroque period, the major dance styles were noble court dances. In the classical music era, the minuet was frequently used as a third movement, although in this context it would not accompany any dancing. The waltz also arose later in the classical era. Both remained part of the romantic music period, which also saw the rise of various other nationalistic dance forms like the barcarolle, mazurka, ecossaise, ballade and polonaise.

Bohemia Historical land in Czech Republic

Bohemia is the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech lands in the present-day Czech Republic. In a broader meaning, Bohemia sometimes refers to the entire Czech territory, including Moravia and Czech Silesia, especially in a historical context, such as the Lands of the Bohemian Crown ruled by Bohemian kings.




Street musicians in Prague playing a polka Prague Street Musicians (Polka Band).jpg
Street musicians in Prague playing a polka

The term polka possibly comes from the Czech word "půlka" ("half"), referring to the short half-steps featured in the dance. [1] Czech cultural historian and ethnographer Čeněk Zíbrt, who wrote in detail about the origin of the dance, in his book, Jak se kdy v Čechách tancovalo [2] cites an opinion of František Doucha (1840, Květy, p. 400) that "polka" was supposed to mean "dance in half" ("tanec na polo"), both referring to the half-tempo 2
and the half-jump step of the dance. Zíbrt ironically dismisses the etymology suggested by A. Fähnrich (in Ein etymologisches Taschenbuch, Jiein, 1846) that "polka" comes from the Czech word "pole" ("field"). [2] On the other hand, Zdeněk Nejedlý suggests that the etymology given by Fr. Doucha is nothing but an effort to prove the "true Czech folk" origin of polka. Instead, he argues that according to Jaroslav Langr ("České krakováčky" in: Čas. Čes. musea, 1835, Sebr. spisy I, 256) in the area of Hradec Králové, the tune Krakoviáky from the collection Slovanské národní písně of František Ladislav Čelakovský became very popular so that it was used to dance (Czech dances) třasák, břitva, and kvapík, and this way was called "polka". Nejedlý writes that Václav Vladivoj Tomek also claims the Hradec Králové roots of a polka. [3] The OED suggests that the name may have been derived from the Czech Polka meaning "Polish woman" (feminine form corresponding to Polák, a Pole). [1]

Čeněk Zíbrt Czech ethnographer and historian

Čeněk Zíbrt (1864–1932) was a Czech ethnographer and historian, specializing in folk culture.

František Doucha Czech poet, lexicographer, translator, collector of regional songs, writer and roman catholic priest

Frantisek Doucha was one of the most famous Czech literary translators and writers. He was among the most prolific translators of the century, translating works from 14 different languages. His name is often associated with many Shakespearian translations into the Czech language. He lived in Petrovice.

Agricultural land land used for agricultural purposes

Agricultural land is typically land devoted to agriculture, the systematic and controlled use of other forms of life—particularly the rearing of livestock and production of crops—to produce food for humans. It is thus generally synonymous with both farmland or cropland, as well as pasture or rangeland.

The word was widely introduced into the major European languages in the early 1840s. [1] It should not be confused with the polska , a Swedish Loudspeaker.svg 3
dance with Polish roots (cf. polka-mazurka). A related dance is the redowa. Polkas almost always have a Loudspeaker.svg 2
time signature. Folk music of polka style appeared in written music about 1800. [4]

The polska is a family of music and dance forms shared by the Nordic countries: called polsk in Denmark, polska in Sweden and Finland, and by several different names in Norway. Norwegian variants include pols, rundom, springleik, and springar. The polska is almost always seen as a partner dance in 3
, although variants in 2
time, as well as in compound meters also exist.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, formal name: the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.5 million have a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

Origin and popularity

Polka, c. 1840 Polka (NYPL b12147626-5094855).jpg
Polka, c. 1840

The beginning of the propagation of dance and accompanying music called polka is generally attributed to a young woman, Anna Slezáková (born Anna Chadimová). The music teacher Josef Neruda noticed her dancing in an unusual way to accompany a local folk song called "Strýček Nimra koupil šimla", or "Uncle Nimra Bought a White Horse", in 1830. She is said to have called the dance Maděra ("Madeira wine") because of its liveliness. The dance was further propagated by Neruda, who put the tune to paper and taught other young men to dance it. [2] Čeněk Zíbrt notices that a common claim that the events happened in Týnec nad Labem, Bohemia, in 1834 is incorrect. Zibrt writes that when he published this traditional story in 1894 in Narodni Listy newspaper, he received a good deal of feedback from eyewitnesses. In particular, he wrote that according to further witness, the originating event actually happened in 1830, in Kostelec nad Labem, where she worked as a housemaid. Zíbrt writes that he published the first version of the story (with incorrect place name) in Bohemia (June 5, 1844), from where it was reprinted all over Europe and in the United States. [2] Zíbrt also wrote that simple Czech folk said they knew and danced polka long before the nobles got hold of it, i.e., it is a truly folk Czech dance. [2]

Madeira wine Portuguese wine

Madeira is a fortified wine made on the Portuguese Madeira Islands, off the coast of Africa. Madeira is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif to sweet wines usually consumed with dessert. Cheaper cooking versions are often flavoured with salt and pepper for use in cooking, but these are not fit for consumption as a beverage.

Týnec nad Labem Town in Czech Republic

Týnec nad Labem is a town in the Czech Republic.

Kostelec nad Labem Town in Czech Republic

Kostelec nad Labem is a town in Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It has cca 3,000 inhabitants. It is a member of Mikroregion Povodí Mratínského potoka.

By 1835, this dance had spread to the ballrooms of Prague. From there, it spread to Vienna by 1839, [5] and in 1840 was introduced in Paris by Raab, a Prague dance instructor.

Prague Capital city of the Czech Republic

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.6 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.

It was so well received by both dancers and dance masters in Paris that its popularity was referred to as "polkamania." [6] The dance soon spread to London and was introduced to America in 1844. It remained a popular ballroom dance until the late 19th century, when it would give way to the two-step and new ragtime dances.[ citation needed ]

Polka dancing enjoyed a resurgence in popularity after World War II, when many Polish refugees moved to the US, adopting this Bohemian style as a cultural dance. Polka dances are still held on a weekly basis across many parts of the US with significant populations of central European origin. It was also found in parts of South America.[ citation needed ]


Polka rhythm Polka dance pattern.png
Polka rhythm

There are various styles of contemporary polka besides the original Czech dance, which is still the chief dance at any formal or countryside ball in the Czech Republic.

One of the types found in the United States is the North American "Polish-style polka," which has roots in Chicago, with large Czech and Polish minorities; two sub-styles are "The Chicago Honky" (using clarinet and one trumpet) and "Chicago Push" featuring the accordion, Chemnitzer & Star concertinas, upright bass or bass guitar, drums, and (almost always) two trumpets. North American "Slovenian-style polka" is fast and features piano accordion, chromatic accordion, and/or diatonic button box accordion; it is associated with Cleveland. North American "Dutchmen-style" features an oom-pah sound often with a tuba and banjo, and has roots in the American Midwest. "Conjunto-style" polkas have roots in northern Mexico and Texas, and are also called "Norteño". Traditional dances from this region reflect the influence of polka-dancing European immigrants. In the 1980s and 1990s, several American bands began to combine polka with various rock styles (sometimes referred to as "punk polka"), "alternative polka", or "San Francisco-style".

There also exist Curaçaoan polkas, Peruvian polkas (becoming very popular in Lima). In the pampas of Argentina, the "polca" has a very fast beat with a 3
time signature. Instruments used are: acoustic guitar (usually six strings, but sometimes seven strings), electric or acoustic bass (sometimes fretless), accordion (sometimes piano accordion, sometimes button accordion), and sometimes some percussion is used. The lyrics always praise the gaucho warriors from the past or tell about the life of the gaucho campeiros (provincial gauchos who keep the common way). The polka was very popular in South and Southwest of Brazil, where it was mixed with other European and African styles to create the Choro. The polka (polca in the Irish language) is also one of the most popular traditional folk dances in Ireland, particularly in Sliabh Luachra, a district that spans the borders of counties Kerry, Cork and Limerick. [8] Many of the figures of Irish set dances, which developed from Continental quadrilles, are danced to polkas. Introduced to Ireland in the late 19th century, there are today hundreds of Irish polka tunes, which are most frequently played on the fiddle or button accordion. The Irish polka is dance music form in 2
, typically 32 bars in length and subdivided into four parts, each 8 bars in length and played AABB. [9] [10] [11] [12] Irish polkas are typically played fast, at over 130 bpm, and are typically played with an off-beat accent. [13] [14]

The polka also migrated to the Nordic countries where it is known by a variety of names in Denmark (galopp, hopsa), Estonia (polka), Finland (pariisipolkka, polkka), Iceland, Norway (galopp, hamborgar, hopsa/hopsar, parisarpolka, polka, polkett, skotsk) and Sweden (polka). The beats are not as heavy as those from Central Europe and the dance steps and holds also have variations not found further south. The polka is considered a part of the gammeldans tradition of music and dance. While it is nowhere near as old as the older Nordic dance and music traditions, there are still hundreds of polka tunes in each of the Nordic countries. They are played by solo instrumentalists or by bands/ensembles, most frequently with lead instruments such as accordion, fiddle, diatonic accordion, hardingfele and nyckelharpa.

The polka in the classical repertoire

Polka Polka 1848.jpg

Bedřich Smetana incorporated the polka in his opera The Bartered Bride (Czech : Prodaná nevěsta) and in particular, Act 1. [15] [16]

While the polka is Bohemian in origin, most dance music composers in Vienna (the capital of the vast Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was the cultural centre for music from all over the empire) composed polkas and included the dance in their repertoire at some point of their career. The Strauss family in Vienna for example, while probably better-known for their waltzes also composed polkas that have survived obscurity. Josef Lanner and other Viennese composers in the 19th century also wrote many polkas to satisfy the demands of the dance-music-loving Viennese. In France, another dance-music composer Emile Waldteufel also wrote many polkas in addition to his chief profession of penning waltzes.

The polka evolved during the same period into different styles and tempi. In principle, the polka written in the 19th century has a four-theme structure; themes 1A and 1B as well as a 'Trio' section of a further two themes. The 'Trio' usually has an 'Intrada' to form a break between the two sections. The feminine and graceful 'French polka' (polka française) is slower in tempo and is more measured in its gaiety. Johann Strauss II's Annen Polka op. 114, Demolirer polka op. 269, the Im Krapfenwald'l op. 336 and the Bitte schön! polka op. 372 are examples of this type of polka. The polka-mazurka is also another variation of the polka, being in the tempo of a mazurka but danced in a similar manner as the polka. The final category of the polka form around that time is the polka schnell, which is a fast polka or galop . Eduard Strauss is better known for this last category, as he penned the 'Bahn Frei' polka op. 45 and other examples. Earlier, Johann Strauss I and Josef Lanner wrote polkas designated as a galop (quick tempo) or as a regular polka that may not fall into any of the categories above.

The polka was a further source of inspiration for the Strauss family in Vienna when Johann II and Josef Strauss wrote one for plucked string instruments (pizzicato) only, the well-known 'Pizzicato polka'. [17] Johann II later wrote a 'New pizzicato polka' (Neu pizzicato-polka), opus 449, culled from music of his operetta 'Fürstin Ninetta'. Much earlier, he also wrote a 'joke-polka' (German "scherz-polka") entitled 'Champagne-polka', opus 211, which evokes the uncorking of champagne bottles.

Other composers who wrote music in the style of the polka were Jaromír Weinberger, Dmitri Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky.

Polka in the United States

In the United States, polka is promoted by the International Polka Association based in Chicago, which works to preserve the cultural heritage of polka music and to honor its musicians through the Polka Hall of Fame.

Texas Polka Music Museum in Schulenburg west of Houston, Texas Texas Polka Music Museum, Schulenburg IMG 8217.JPG
Texas Polka Music Museum in Schulenburg west of Houston, Texas

Polka is also popular in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Beer Barrel Polka is played during the seventh inning stretch and halftime of Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks games. [18] Polka is also the official State Dance of Wisconsin. [19] Wisconsin also is the home to multiple large Polish festivities where people from all over the country come to stay and listen to multiple bands on multiple days of music. These festivals usually take place in the summer, but there are a few in the winter months.

The United States Polka Association is a non-profit organization based in Cleveland, Ohio. [20] The Polka Hall of Fame is in Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.

Walter Solek was one of the early polka pioneers starting in the late 1930s. Recognition expanded when the Grammy Awards were first presented for polka in 1985. The first award went to America's Polka King, Frankie Yankovic, for his 70 Years of Hits album on Cleveland International Records, produced by Joey Miskulin and Dragutin Razum in 1986. Cleveland International Records had another polka Grammy winner with Brave Combo's Polkasonic in 1999. Other polka Grammy nominees on Cleveland International Records include Frankie Yankovic's America's Favorites (1986), Songs of the Polka King Vol. I (produced by Joey Miskulin and Slavko Slivovitz, 1996), Songs of the Polka King Vol. II (1997), and Brave Combo's Kick Ass Polkas (2000). Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra is arguably the most popular polka band in America, having won 18 out of the 24 Grammy Awards given for Grammy Award for Best Polka Album.

Polka Varieties was an hour-long television program of polka music originating from Cleveland, Ohio. The show aired in several U.S. cities, and ran from 1956 until 1983. At that time, it was the only television program for this type of music in the US. [21] (There were a number of polka shows originating from the Buffalo Niagara Region in the 1960s, including WKBW-TV's Polka Time, which was hosted for its first half-year on air by Frankie Yankovic, and cross-border station CHCH-TV's Polka Party, hosted by Walter Ostanek. [22] Buffalo once again received a polka television show in 2015, when WBBZ-TV launched the weekly Polka Buzz. [23] )

Beginning with its inception in 2001, the RFD-TV Network aired The Big Joe Show, a television program that included polka music and dancing. It was filmed on location in various venues throughout the United States from 1973 through 2009. RFD-TV replaced The Big Joe Show with Mollie Busta's Polka Fest in January 2011; after Big Joe's death, reruns of The Big Joe Show returned to RFD-TV in 2015. [24]

In 2009, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which hosts/produces the Grammy Awards, announced that it was eliminating the polka category. [25] The Academy's official reason for eliminating the polka award was “to ensure the awards process remains representative of the current musical landscape.” [25] The Academy's decision stems from the declining number of popular polka albums considered for an award in recent years. For example, out of the five polka albums nominated for an award in 2006, only one album was widely distributed in the mainstream. [25]

See also

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  19. "Wisconsin State Symbols". Wisconsin.gov. Archived from the original on 29 June 2006.
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