Polka is one of eight country-western dances and is one of the most popular to dance here in Texas. Whether you are looking to dance socially or competitively, Polka is great dance to learn. It’s a high-energy dance and moves quickly around the floor. In this post, I will dive into the basics of Polka, and below is a list of the topics I will be covering.
· History and Characteristics of Polka
· Musical Information
· Dancing the Basics
· Dancing with a Partner
History and Characteristics of Polka
Polka originated as a Czech peasant dance. The word “pulka” is derived from the Czech phrase for “half step,” which refers to the dance pattern of lightly stepping from one foot to the other. In the 20th century, Polish American immigrants adopted the Polka as their national dance and to this day, is still popular worldwide. Polka is characterized by its lilting action and triple steps. The lilt is what allows Polka to be light on the feet and is created by slightly lifting onto the toes, then lowering back down on each step. I will go more into this detail when breaking down the basics, but first, let’s go over the musical information.
The Polka is somewhat fast, ranging anywhere from 112 BPM to 120 BPM. The most common instruments you will notice in a modern-day country-western Polka song is the banjo, bass guitar, drums, and keyboard. Polka is written in both a 2/4- and 4/4-time signature, which means there are either two beats in a measure of music or four beats in a measure of music. However, a dance phrase is eight beats of music, so you will notice that your instructor will count to eight rather than two or four. There are a few different ways the dance can be counted, but the most common is with numbers – 1& 2, 3& 4, 5& 6, 7& 8. The beat value for Polka is half, half, whole, where the first two steps use half of a beat each and the third step uses a full beat. Another common way to count this dance is by using words that describe the steps that are being taken. For example, you can count Tri-ple Step Tri-ple Step.
Check out these Polka songs:
Better Life by Keith Urban: https://youtu.be/z3xtfNDoO3s
Free and Easy Down the Road I Go by Dierks Bentley: https://youtu.be/6_-V3LPS_TY
I’ll Take You Back by Brad Paisley: https://youtu.be/PYbde4nfVRA
Next, let’s learn how to dance the basics.
Dancing the Basics
To begin any dance, you first want to make sure you are standing with good posture. This means that your head is over your shoulders, shoulders over the ribs, and ribs over the hips. Maintaining a good posture while dancing will contribute to good balance and allow you to have a better connection with your partner. As mentioned earlier, Polka is light on the feet and has a lilt to it, so you want to keep your weight poised forward over the balls of your feet and maintain soft knees throughout the dance. To establish a good lilt action, you will need to slightly lift onto the balls of your feet each time you prepare to step, then slightly flex the knees and lower once the step has been taken. When done properly, this action will ensure that you always step with the ball of your foot first.
In Polka, you will be using a Triple Step action throughout the dance. A triple step is a series of three steps that are complete in two beats of music. The first two steps of a triple step share one beat of music and the third step uses a whole beat. A triple step can be done in many directions and forms, but the Basic Step uses a chasse where the feet will close on the second step. Below, this is broken down for the leaders and followers.
The leaders will begin with their weight on the right foot and ready to step with the left foot. To dance the Basic, you will do two forward chasses: step forward with the left foot, together with the right foot, and forward again with the left foot. Next, step right foot forward, left foot together, and forward again with the right foot to make one complete Basic.
The follower will do the natural opposite of the leader by stepping back with the right foot, close the left foot to the right foot, then step back again with the right foot. Next, step back with the left foot, together with the right foot, and back again with the left foot to complete one Basic.
Check out the Basic Step along with some good technical tips here: https://youtu.be/EJFOvtvUpds
Now, it’s time to learn how to dance this Basic with a partner!
Dancing with a Partner
To dance successfully with a partner, you need to establish a good connection first. Connection is the way dancers communicate to each other either visually, or by a physical point contact that makes leading and following possible. That said, your dance hold is very important in partner dancing! Next, I will break down how to get into your closed hold where you will dance your Basic Step.
Closed Hold: Begin by facing your partner about a foot apart and with the follower slightly offset to the right of the leader. If you are leading, place your right hand on your partner’s right shoulder blade with the elbow pointed towards the wall, then lift your left arm until your elbows are even and bend your elbow to about a 90-degree angle with your hand curved towards your partner at her chin or eye level. If you are following, you will rest your left arm gently on top of your partner’s right arm and follow the curve of his arm to his shoulder. Place your right hand in your partner’s and lightly clasp. Make sure to keep your arms and elbows in front of your body with a slight forward poise to create a positive connection which will make it easier to lead and follow. From here, you are ready to dance! Try dancing the Basic step counterclockwise around the room (Line of Dance), and when you feel ready, add music!
Check out this video to learn more about dancing the Country Polka Basic with a partner: https://www.facebook.com/665881863801998/videos/397790461204139
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and are excited to take your dancing to the next level. 😊