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The Polonaise

            The Polonaise, also known as Danse aux lumières, properly speaking is really not a dance but rather a promenade or procession. The Polonaise came from the Polish dance melodies of about 1585. Originally the Polonaise was a grand marching dance, done by soldiers only eventually becoming a court dance and was considered similar to the more lively Swedish Polska. It was said that the Polonaise was a triumphal march of the old warriors, women did not come into the dance until later, about 1645, and then as separate couples. The Polonaise became the Polish National dance around 1790.

   Germany became a big, big fan of the Polonaise. Later when the women appeared in the dance (around 1645) its purpose was to offer the lady in whose honor the ball or dance is given, to be able to greet the guests and to invite them to participate in the lively entertainment (like a social mixer). When Chopin

arrived on the scene his music was much more solemn and the dance took a new turn, becoming much more sedate and eventually became the main style of the dance who he himself composed over 16 Polonaise pieces (see Romantic Period). In all the aristocratic Courts, and, above all, in those of Northern Europe ... from Vienna to St Petersburg ... the Polonaise was the most stately of the dances and and became the prelude to the balls of the highest sphere of society, as it was to Her Majesty's Bal Costumé on the 6th of June, 1844.

   In this purpose the honored lady makes a tour of the hall (Grande Promenade), accompanied by her partner, saluting each couple in turn. Each couple, after having been greeted, fall in line behind the first couple (" Column of twos"), who continue their way around the room until all have been greeted and taken their places in the procession. Then they break off (Columns and castings of two and four) into dance positions around the floor. From that point the dancers, led by the first couple, passes arm in arm between the couples, (Passage of the first half column) the group separates and closes as each couple goes thru, repeating till the last couple. Then just the ladies pass thru like above, then just the men pass thru then returning back to the original couples (Columns again) continuing on into "the Half Moon or the Snake," and may at any time turn into a Polka or Waltz, , then returning back into a Polonaise. The "Grand Circle" ends the precession. The step is a basic triple step in 3/4 time and starts with the right foot. At one time it was customary to exchange ladies at different points in the Polonaise.

   The Polonaise is sometimes executed at the end of the ball, except farewells replace greetings. There are many exquisite figures for a Polonaise, way to many to list here. The Circassian Circle, or Sarabanda's , or an ordinary waltz, were well adapted to follow the Polonaise.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Poland 1585 Soldiers Processional

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

1989 - Leedvermaak
1892 - Majestic Polonaise Introduction & Polonaise
      1945 - Theme from Polonaise Polonaise (Chopin)
      1945 - Till The End of Time (Kaye) Polonaise # 2, 6, 10, E (Bach)
        Polonaise Brillante In C Major [MP3]
        Polonaise in A-flat, Op.53 (Chopin)
        Polonaise in A major (1907)
        Polonaise Militaire (Paderewski)
        Polonaise, Op.71, No.1 (Chopin)
        Polonaise Volte (1615)

Night Clubs



n/a n/a Germany

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a 6/6/1844 - Her Majesty's Bal Costumé
            1858 - Royal Marriage Berlin Polonaise Ball St. James
            1907 - Les Sylphides
            Sleeping Beauty
            Swan Lake



Other Related Dances of the time...

Chodzony (Walking Dance) Les Polonaise (Mazurka) 1850's Polka Swieczkowy
Mazurka March Polski (taniec polski) Waltz
Gallop/ Galop Minuet Quadrille War Dances
Lancers pieszy (Chodzony) Russian Dance  
Chmielowy (Hop Dance) polacca Square Dance  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


1840s - Cerrito / St. Leon 1909 - Tamara Karsavina Prince of Saxony
1840s - Grisi/Petipa 1909 - Vera Fokina  
1870- Eugene Coulon 1950s - Tadeusz Sygietynski  
1907 - Anna Pavlova 1950s - Mazowsze Polish State Dance Co.  

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
$ World History Of Dance Sachs, Curt 1936 W.W. Norton
$ dance Encyclopedia Chujoy, Anatole 1949 A.S. Barnes

Composers / Musicians


Poets / Writers

Bach, Willhem Freidman (1710-1784) n/a n/a
Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750)        
Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)        
Chopin, Frédéric-François (1810-1849)        
Handel, George Frideric (1685-1759)    


Hassler, Hans Leo
Liszt, Franz (1811-1886)        
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)        
Schubert, Franz (1797-1828)        
Sychra, Joseph (circa 1772)        

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Chodzony March Romantic Period War
Classical Music Nobility Solemn Warriors
Courtly Polonez Stately  
Kosciuszko Insurrection Promenade    
Also written Polonese and Polonoise.
March 26, 2013