Who invented the polka?

Couple dance in an even beat, in which a rotation of 360˚ is performed with two alternating steps. The dance became very popular around 1830 as a result of the awakening of Czech national consciousness in Bohemia, with the legend that it was invented around this time by a Bohemian peasant girl. In terms of dance history, she has P. however, their forerunners in the Ecossaisen waltz and in Scottish, which was danced as early as 1810. In 1837 the P. entered by students in Prague and probably got its name there because of the “half step” (popular name for alternating step): “pulka” means “half”. The P. quickly spread as a ballroom dance: in 1839 it was brought to Vienna by the Prague Sniper Music Corps; in the same year it reached St. Petersburg / RUS. In 1840 it was performed in Paris, where it became the most popular ballroom dance in 1843/44; It appeared in northern German cities in 1841/42, in London in 1844, then in the USA. At that time there was a real one P.-Fashion; all the newspapers reported about this dance, "You wore your hair à la polka, you anointed yourself with a polka comade, you ate cake à la polka, wore dresses à la polka, etc." (Anger). Among the most famous P.-Composers were the Strauss family; in the style of the gallop, J. Strauss Sohn led in 1864 with the Juristenball-P. in Vienna the fastP. a. The P.-Fashion has left its mark on numerous folk dances, which has led to a confusing terminology (see Bavarian-P., Mazurka, Polka française, Rhinelander and others). The P. also found its way into art music with F. Smetana as the most famous representative (inter alia. Out of my life, the sold bride).
MGG 10 (1962) & 7 (1998); NGroveD 15 (1980); K. Horak in M. Bröcker (ed.), [Kgr.-Ber.] Dance and dance music in tradition and present. Bamberg 1990, 1992; I. Peter, Salzburg dances 1975, 131; Schneider 1985; F. A. anger, Grammar of dance art 1887.

Gerlinde Haid †, Art. “Polka”, in: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon online, access: ().

[Last content change: 06/05/2001]