The powolniak is the best known traditional dance from the Kurpie Zielone, an area in the north of the Mazovia region. The powolniak consists of two parts, and it is performed by pairs in a fast tempo (despite the literary meaning of its name: powolniak from the word powolnie - slowly, deliberately). The powolniak is characterised by polyrhythm, i.e. the performance of steps in the odd metre to the music in duple metre.
It is a very difficult whirling dance, performed mostly in the 2/4 metre to instrumental music unaccompanied by singing. Any number of pairs can join the dance, and dancers are conjunct in the closed position (the so-called "shaft" position). Before they begin to whirl, all couples form a line standing one by one and mincing to mark time, as if slowly preparing for the actual dance (in some local variants of the dance, women and men would toddle in two separate lines). The name powolniak has most likely originated from the "slow” introduction to the dance. The dance consists of two parts: first comes the fast walk with steps which imitate limping, followed by the dynamic whirling in the second part. Polyrhythm is the characteristic feature of the powolniak and is manifested here by whirling in the odd metre, counted on three, to the music performed in duple metre. Dancers take long and fast steps, and sweeping and vigorous turns when dancing the powolniak. Hence, especially when performed in a small space (small chamber), the powolniak was often performed by a solo pair showing off their skills in front of other pairs waiting to take their turn. Following the solo performances, the second part of the dance features the whirling movement of all pairs. Despite the fast tempo and vigorous whirling, the dance is performed smoothly, without trembling or leaping. Sometimes the male dancer takes a one-legged kneel when turning to the right. The dance ends with a double or triple accented step while standing in the final position, sometimes topped with a hołubiec jump or a vigorous turn of the female dancer, following which the pair promptly leap into “limping” steps.
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Dąbrowska, Grażyna W. Taniec ludowy na Mazowszu [Folk Dance in the Mazovia Region] Cracow: PWM, 1980.