The polka is one of the most popular dances in Poland. Performed both in villages and in cities and known almost in every region of the country, the polka achieved the greatest popularity and variety of forms in the regions of Małopolska (Lesser Poland) and Podkarpacie. The polka is a fast dance performed by pairs whirling in four directions along the circle.
Oskar Kolberg derived the origin of the polka from Czechia, pointing to the word půlka (half, half turn) as the prototype of the name of the dance, yet present-day dance researchers claim otherwise. Some argue that the popularity of the polka occurred only after 1830 as the expression of Europe's sympathy for the November Uprising. Others say the dance was born at the beginning of the 19th century in Czechia as a fashionable bourgeois dance which quickly spread across the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Europe. The polka is a fast dance, danced in the 2/4 metre in pairs, and features whirling in four directions along the circle. In the fundamental polka step, one leg "chases" the second in turns, as dancers add one leg to the other and transfer their body weight onto the leg added. The step can be taken smoothly, on the entire foot, or with a slight trembling of knees. The polka can also be performed in the gallop, sometimes with the additional step performed to keep the rhythm of the dance or with a "limping" kneel in one or on both legs. The course of the dance and its variants is constituted by the way of performing the fundamental step and by the local musical and dance traditions. Polkas have been familiar and are still danced across the entire country, however the largest number of variants of the polka can be encountered in the area of Małopolska (Lesser Poland) and Podkarpacie. The best known polkas are: polka bez nogę (featuring a turnover on the added leg), tramelka - polka trzęsiona (featuring a slight trembling of knees), gładka polka (featuring smoothly shuffled footsteps), cięta polka (featuring very fast steps), polka chodzona (featuring walking), polka galopka (featuring running), hura polka (featuring lively and sweeping steps), polka szurok (featuring shuffling feet) and polka-sztajer (featuring a step called sztajer). Additionally, the names of many polkas have been derived from the names of particular regions (e.g. polka warmińska from the region of Warmia), towns (e.g. polka żywiecka from the city of Żywiec), first words in songs (e.g. polka majdanek), or gestures woven into the dance (e.g. żydowska polka - Jewish polka). Polkas have been danced individually or as sequences of different polkas, while also being performed between other dances.
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