Encyclopedia of Dance: Mazurka
Mazurka — light and cheerful, lyrical and graceful — reflected the soul of the Polish people
The chronicle of long-suffering and heroic Poland is contained in beautiful folk melodies and colorful dances. The aspirations, dreams and hopes of the nation are captured in an emotional and heartfelt mazurka.
The term mazurka comes from the name of the Polish province of Mazovia. The inhabitants of this region call themselves Mazur, the same way, in Polish, the name of the dance, known to us as the Mazurka, sounds. The musical basis of the dance is so melodically and rhythmically original that classical composers used this dance in their works to musically characterize Polish characters. This is what Glinka did in the opera Ivan Susanin, Dvorak in the opera Dmitri, Mussorgsky in the opera Boris Godunov.
History of occurrence
The first performers of the mazurka were an ethnographic group of the population of Poland — the mazurs. The peasants of Mazovia danced this dance on holidays and on weekdays, after work, during a period of spiritual uplift. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the mazurka gained popularity throughout Poland, and, starting from the 19th century, it spread throughout Europe and became an obligatory dance at secular balls. The graceful and restrained movements of the mazurka fell in love with the Polish nobility, and, after them, the aristocrats of Europe.
The mazurka received such recognition thanks to the unsurpassed Polish composer Frederic Chopin. His love for his homeland was so great that in his works he reflected the sincerity, heroism, and assertiveness of the Polish character. With musical images, Chopin spoke both as a creator, and as a patriot, and as an ordinary person. In total, the composer wrote about 60 mazurkas. All of them can be divided into three types: rural picture mazurkas, brilliant urban and lyrical mazurkas, and waltz mazurkas. Folk music and dance inspired other composers to create their own mazurkas. Beautiful melodies were written by M. Oginsky, K. Shimanovsky, K. Debussy, M. Glinka, P. Tchaikovsky, A. Glazunov, A. Scriabin and others. Even the Polish anthem “Poland has not yet died” was based on a mazurka written by Józef Wybicki.
What is a mazurka?
The mazurka was based on three Polish dances at once: mazur, kujawiak and oberek. At a faster pace, the mazurka gravitates towards the oberek, at a slower pace, towards the kujawiak. The musical size of the dance is three-part — 3/4, 3/8, 6/8, the tempo is lively, fast.
Mazurka is a pair dance. The gentleman in the process shows every respect for the lady, leading her a little ahead of him. The partner in the mazurka has the role of leader: he determines the movements, changes the figures, sets the pace. Proudly he shows his lady to the whole room. The Polish people are characterized by self-esteem and pride. Despite the fast pace of the mazurka, the movements of the dancers are nonetheless imbued with precisely these feelings.
Types of mazurka
The Polish folk dances Mazur, Kuyawiak and Oberek can be considered both separate dances and varieties of the Mazurka.
A fast, temperamental dance, with an accentuated third beat of every second measure.
A slower dance, of a waltz character, with a lyrical, soulful melody. This is a dream dance, a memory dance.
In mazura, the folk features of Polish dance are most clearly manifested: character, mood, movements, figures.
Features of the mazurka
The melody of the dance is often syncopated. The emphasis, unlike the waltz, is often placed on the second, and even third, beat of the bar. A rhythmic group may consist of two eighth notes and two quarter notes per measure in 3/4 time, which alternate with three quarter notes.
Usually, mazurkas have a two-part form, retaining the rhythmic pattern characteristic of folk dances. Mazurka is characterized by dottedness, accentuation, whimsical rhythmic and melodic structure. Parts of the dance often have a contrasting character, intense dramaturgy.
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