The main story of the Polka comes from a story of Bohémia (at the time a part of CZ.) and was supposedly discovered by Joseph Neruba in 1830 who introduced it in 1835 (fewer say Joseph Cellarius did this.) It is said that Mr. Neruba saw a little Bohémian peasant girl dance (some say age 16) by the name of *Anna Chadimová-Slezak, who was born in Elbeteinitz in 1805 (d.1884,) and lived in Konotopy (or *Kostelec) on the Elbe (Elbeteinitz, Bohémia). (Note: dates would make her 25-30 years old).
In 1830, Anna was dancing and singing to a tune she liked called "Strycek Nimra Koupil Simla" and invented a little dance which she called "the Madera." Seeing the possibilities of the dance and the possibility of money, Neruba, liking what he saw asked her to repeat the dance for him and took it to Prague in 1835, it was here the "Madera" was supposedly dubbed the Pulka (meaning a half,) and later on went to Vienna in 1839 by a music band from Prague under the leadership of Pergier. In 1840 J. Raal, (a.k.a.: Raab, Baab) a dancing master of Prague danced it at the Odéon Theater and made it a huge success.
The Polka was the second "closed position" couples dance to be introduced to the world, with the first being the Waltz. The word Polka (Pulka ) is Czech meaning "Half-Step" pertaining to the quick movement from one foot to the other. The polka and other dances that followed were spin-offs of the waltz. The polka began to rival the waltz about 1835.
"The Polka (Polka Tremblante) was later introduced into the ballrooms of France and England in 1843 by Cellarius, and led to the inauguration of the present style of round dancing. It had been in vogue but a short time on the other side of the Atlantic, when a musical and theatrical gentleman, named "De Their," forwarded the music, and a description of the dance, in manuscript, to the proprietor of the New York Daily Aurora, of which paper he was a correspondent. Mr. Thaddeus W. Meighan, a gentleman connected with the editorial department of that paper, presented Prof. L. De. G. Brookes, who was ballet-master at the "National Theatre," on Chatham Street in New York at that time, with the music and a description of the dance. It was first danced in America by Miss Mary Ann Gammon and L.G. Brookes at that Theatre, on May 10, 1844. Mr. Allen Dodsworth, reportedly introduced this dance to his pupils in 1845 (dancing and it's relations to education and social life-Dodsworth-1895).
The Czech "Pulka" was also an instant hit. The "Illustrated London News" in 1844 reported the first Polka being done in London at Almacks Dance Hall. Fanny Cerrito and Arthur Saint Léon were avid dancers and performers of the Redowa (a 3⁄4 time Polka) and introduced it to the Italian's in 1845. (Neruba's later appeared in print in 1870, Published by Helmer, supposedly as the first polka.)
The Polka however is traced all the way back to 1822 in Czech, by a poet named Celakovsky, who had translated (of his tongue), the dances at the time, with one being the Cracoviacs (Poland), which at the time was exactly like the Polka. One of the title's of the songs he reported was "The Polish Maiden" which was probably named in honor of the Poles which would have given rise to the possibly now SEMI-fictional Bohémian girl story above.
The polka originally only had ten figures but as time went on that did expand. The polka and Redowa were sometimes confused as the same dance often times. The Polish-Americans have even adopted the polka as their national dance. By 1860 the "frantic hopping" done originally in the Polka was calmed down to a subtle "rising and falling" and the flinging of the feet were much less obvious. This calming of the Polka is credited to France btw.
There are many variations of the Polka, such as the Heel and Toe Polka, Princess Marie Nicolaewnais credited with creating the Polka-Mazur (Polka-Mazurka ) in 1830 which was basically a waltz. Polka-Waltz, Pulka (1840), Polka-Valse, Scottische-Polka, Polka-Redowa (a SLOW POLKA) introduced in 1852 and done to Redowa music, Polka-Coquette (c.1860), etc. (and as you can figure out they were a mixture of the dances named.) Later on, the Castles would "invent" a dance called the "Half & Half," which was one half of one dance and half another, (guess they figured it out.) The Berlin dance was a mix of the Polka and Galop dances.
In the language of the Bohemians the word "Rejdovat" means to push, to and fro. This term is applied to the "Pursuit" in the round dances (such as the waltz,) where the follower is pushed along the line of dance. In Zorn's book he recommends a "figure" (pattern) change every four measures.
This change of figures was named the Redowa (3⁄4 time) in southern Germany in 1830. The Redowa was known as the "Hunter Schottische" or Polka by "Neufchatel Hunters" (Berlin's Military) in certain countries like Berlin. The Polka was known as the "Schottische waltz" by 1840 in Germany. The Polka-Redowa is the same as the Polka, except that the pause of the Polka is omitted, and in dancing you count three for both the music and the dance.
Another dance, similar to the polka was the Galop (1815) or Gallopade which was introduced to England and France about 1829. The Polka is also said to be a descendent of the sixteenth century Court dance called the Bourrée of Avergneé. The Polka-Coquette was very much en vogue about 1860. The Esmerelda was basically a polka with two additional slides.
An interesting side note is that Henri Celarius states in his book "La Danse des Salons" (Drawing Room Dances) published in 1847 that:
"We have now to treat of one of the oldest and most popular of modern dances, the polka, which in spite of its foreign origin may now be considered as French, for it is to France that it owes it's fashion and character of universality".... (It sounds like he knew that this was a much older dance, only 17 years old, however he called it a modern dance?).
With all that said ... The most likely source is it just evolved quickly over time by the Waltz dancers or teachers of the day who would sooner or later try to dance Waltz patterns to polka music for many different reasons. The dancers who were experimenting with this new Waltz dance would invariably try the Waltz to other forms of music, (just like dancers do today) as back then there were no other prior forms of closed position couples dancing to draw upon. Think about it; The waltz is all the rage, polka music is played at the dance and the Waltzers just keep waltzing to polka music (and later other music forms,) easy enough to figure out and over time the Leaping, Lifting and Hoping were taken out of the original Waltz form and you now have two distinct and different styles of dance. Which we can see from all the mixtures of other dance styles mixing together of the day like the before mentioned 'Polka-Mazur, Valse-Polka' etc. Then later someone had to ask "Well where is this dance from, who invented it ... blah, blah, blah. Or a dancer trying to cash in would pronounce ... "Here we have today ... the newest dance from Poland ... that all of France is clamoring for ... "the Polka" and I, being the main exponent of this dance will now show you how, bla-blah-blah." Just like for a while, anything from France was all the rage, made up or not and sold to the public. However, this was most likely done first in or probably more to be credited to Poland as musically based and they ran with it ... very similar to Salsa & Bossa Nova history and others.
Anyway, whoever and whatever, the Polka is a simple dance that is very fun to do and the music is happy. There can be many pretzel type patterns or just a simple German style of a Clockwise revolving Hop-2-3--Hop-2-3 stepping around the floor. So the next time you hear of a "Brewfest," or go to a Restaurant with a "Omp-Pah" polka band, give it a try, you'll have a lot of fun!.
1) During the Polka, there really is no "LOD" (line of dance,) is generally Counter-Clockwise... but ... you go where you can to avoid the other couples.
2) Mr. Polkos of the "Polkos Rebellion," Vera Cruz, Mexico (1840's) the rebellion was supposedly named after the Polka and not Polkos.
||Folk dance / Ballroom|
|1844 - Almacks (London)
||1844 - Chatham Theater - USA
|1844 - Vauxhall (London)
||1844 - Palmos Opera House
|1845 - Cremorne (London)
||Niblos Gardens - NY.
|1840's - Argyll Rooms (London)
||1845 - Vauxhall Gardens
|1844 - The Prado (Paris)
||1843 - Drury Lane Theater (Bohemian Girl)
|1845 - The Valentino (Paris)
||1845 - Buckingham Palace (Queen Victoria)
|1840's - The Ranelagh (Paris)
||4/11/1845 -Her Majesty's Theater - London (Grisi & Perrot)
|1840's - The Chaumiere (Paris)
|1840's - Jardin de Mabille (Paris)
|1844 - Palmos Opera House
|1877 - Adelphi Theatre
Films / Movies
Ballets / Stage
|1942 - Pigs in a Polka (WB toon)
||12/27/1843 - The Bohemian Girl|
|1979 - The First Polka
||5/1845 - Polkamania (Niblos)|
|1984 - The Last Polka [DVD]
||6/1845 - Poker-Mania (N.Y. Museum: Burlesque)|
|1998 - They Live to Polka
||1934 - Gypsy Blonde?|
|1991 - Shmenges: Last Polka (Candy) [VHS]
||1942 - Ringling Bros. Circus (Vera Zorina)|
|1995 - America's Polka King: Yankovic [VHS]
|2003 - From Lawrence Welk to America [DVD]
||Harvest Moon Ball Dance Contests|
|Back to the Future (Polka dance)
||'Le véritable Polka'|
Various Instructional Videos
|Polka 101 [DVD] (Kaye)
||3/24/1844 - Illustrated London Times|
|Polka 102 [DVD] (Kaye)
||5/11/1844 - Illustrated London Times (Eugene Coralli)|
|Polka 103 [DVD] (Kaye)
||6/8/1844 - The Living Age|
||7/13/1844 - The Living Age|
|Punch Magazine -1844|
|1955-1982 - Lawrence Welk Show
||12/12/1853 - Putnam's Monthly|
|1956 - Dick Sinclair's Polka Parade (aka Polka Party)
||Jan/Feb./1944 - Dance Magazine|
Other Related Dances of the time and Various Polkas...
|American or Side Step Polka
||Norma Polka Quadrilles
||Half and Half
|Baden Baden Polka
||Heel and Toe Polka
|Beer Barrel Polka
||Serious Family Polka|
||Polka-Redowa (slow Polka)
||Side Step Polka|
||Jenny Linds Polka
||Sleigh Bell Polka|
||La Belle Swoyarde Polka
||Three Slide Polka|
||La Sicilliene Valse Redowa
||United States Polka|
|Cross Step Polka
|Polka Timeline (for what I have found) ... many versions of the polka have been described as waltzes as well.|
|1500's - Bourree of Avergneé
||1845 - American version|
|1815 - Galop (aka: Gallopade)
||1852 - Polka-Redowa (aka: Redowa Polka)|
|1820 - Redowa (aka: Redjovat)
||1853 - Varsovienne (waltz with polka, Redowa and Mazurka movements)|
|1822 - Cracovian (aka: Cracovienne, Krakovioc, Krackowiak)
||1860 - Polka-Coquette|
|1830 - Madera Polka (aka: Czech Polka)
||1880's - Esmerelda Waltz/Polka - (aka: three slides polka)|
|1830 - Polka-Mazur
||1880's - Heel and Toe (aka: Bohemian) ... orig a vari of the orig polka.|
|1830 - Hunter Schottische (Redowa)
||1880's - Combination Polka - (Esmerelda, Bohemian, Polka)|
|1835 - Celarius Pulka
||n/a - Polka-Waltz|
|1839 - New Polski Mazourka(Polka & Mazurka by Pauline Desjardins)
||n/a - Polka Valse|
|1839 - Viennese version
||n/a - Schottische Polka|
|1840 - Pulka
||n/a - Berlin|
|1840's - Schottische Waltz(Germany)
||1943 - Betty Grable Polka|
|1844 - English Polka
Dancers, Choreographers etc.
|1835 - Joseph Neruba
||1944 - Harold Maddax
||1840s - Mr. Polkos|
|1840s - Henri Cellarius
||1946 - Yee Hoo Polka
||1845 - Queen Victoria|
|1840s - Laborde
||1947 - Janette Hackett Dancers
|1840s - Lucian Petipa
||1950s - Mazowsze Polish State Dance Co.
|1844 - M. Cellarius
|1844 - Céleste Mogador
|5/10/1844 - L. de G. Brookes
|1844 - Pomaré
|1844 - Rose Pompon
||"The Infant Sisters"
|1844 - Vaclav Klastersky
||Marie Guy Stephan
|1845 - Fanny Essler & Domenico Ronzani
||Clarke and Holland
|1845 - Augusta Maywood
|1845 - Clara Fontaine
||Miss Taylor & H. Clarke
|Jules Perrott (1810-1892)
||Mrs. Timm & Walcott
|1908 - Moitié de polka
|3/25/1845 - Eugene Coralli & Mlle. Maria
||Busby Berkley (C)
|1944 - Hawkeye Hoedown
||Mira & Tadeusz Sygietynski
|1944 - Betty Williams
Composers / Musicians
Poets / Writers
|Balfe, Michael William (1808-1870)
||1835 - Jaroslav Langer|
|Bunn, Alfred (c.1877)
||5/1/1841 - Heinrich Heine (London News)|
||1/7/1842 - Heinrich Heine Letters|
|Freising, Herr A.
||1844 - Vaclav Klastersky|
||3/1844 - Ill. London News|
|Offenbach, Jacques (1819-1880)
||1845 - Revista Universal Lisbonense by (Lisbon)|
||Arthur E. Michel (1883-1946)|
||Théophile Gautier (1811-1872)|
|Strauss, Johann II (1825-1899)
|Yankovic, Frankie (1915-1998)
Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches
||Pulka, Polskie, Polska|
Basic Step excerpted from Eugene Coulon's Hand Book-1873:
"There are only three steps in the Polka, which are all jumped, and occupy one bar of music, the fourth interval being only a repose to give time to prepare for the next foot. To begin, the foot is raised a little behind, the gentleman using his left, the lady her right foot.
1) The first step, springs lightly on the right foot, and almost simultaneously slides the left foot to the side, finishing on both feet, with the knees bent.
2) For the second step he makes a jetté with the right foot, which brings the left foot extended to the left, and raised a little from the ground;
3) For the third step he makes a jetté before with the left foot, and finishes with the right foot up, a little behind. Then, without stopping, he bends on the left foot, in order to employ the fourth interval of the bar, and proceeds in the same manner with the right foot. The lady does the same, only, as I have mentioned, beginning with her right foot.
This description of the Polka step may be danced either to the right or to the left. But when it is desired to go forward or backward, as well as in turning, it must be observed that the first step is taken backwards or forwards in the direction that is required." end.
(In simpler words: slight Leap, Hop, Slide, Change weight; they are always made sideways, to the right, or to the left, Couples revolving.)
Trasak, Britva, Kvapik, Pas Bohémian, Back Waltz, Polka Step (Some original Polka Step names).
|"un rage, un delire, une fureur"|