Dance Encyclopedia: Polonaise


Polonaise is a dance that in the old days opened secular balls, thereby emphasizing the solemnity and ceremoniality of what is happening. Currently, the dance is performed as part of special celebrations and historical reenactments.

History of occurrence

Historians have been trying for many decades to find the origins of the origin of the Polonaise. There were several main hypotheses:

1. This is a ceremonial dance, first performed in 1574 for the king of Poland, Henry III, who stepped on the throne.

2. Polonaise is a French dance, since it is from this language that its name is translated.

3. The dance may have a Spanish-Arabic origin.

4. This dance was born in the Poznań region of Poland.

However, according to the most common version, the polonaise originated as a wedding dance around the 15th century and was called “khodzonny”, that is, “walked” and gradually became an indispensable attribute at folk festivals. Usually he solemnly opened and closed the holiday.

Among the gentry, and then in the castles of the magnates, the hodzon dance came only in the 16th century, becoming even more magnificent and ceremonial.

Probably, over time, it was this dance that was presented for celebrations and ceremonies during the election of Henry of Valois as king (later the French king Henry III). It was described as a solemn procession, and it was called «The Great Dance». Perhaps it is this dance that is closest in character to the polonaise, which became famous and popular only at the beginning of the 18th century.

As an official ceremonial dance at balls, weddings and other ceremonies, the polonaise has firmly entered the privileged society. Many composers began to write polonaises, and a special rhythm, accentuated on the first quarter, became inherent in the dance itself.

Over time, the polonaise changed and eventually ceased to be a simple procession — now the dance included figures. Usually the figures (movements) were proposed by the first couple in the procession, and the rest had to repeat them.

It was considered unacceptable to perform this dance in a pair of legal spouses — the hosts of the reception. Usually the owner of the house invited the most eminent guest, and the hostess — the most important guest. The presence of the imperial couple at the celebration made it mandatory for them to dance with the owners of the house: the first couple is the emperor and the mistress of the holiday, the second couple is the empress with the owner.

Polonaise was most common in Europe, and in the USA, for example, a grand march was performed, in which the figures were very similar, but had a bravura and «military» performance, in contrast to the pompous polonaise.

To date, the polonaise is not a «live» dance. It is performed only in historical productions, stylizations or at solemn events held by high-ranking persons.


What is a polonaise?

The basic movements of the polonaise are steps performed in a certain sequence. Partners take a step on the toe with the outer foot in relation to each other, then also the inside, the third step — with the outer foot on the foot. It turns out the basic movement: half toes, half toes, foot. On the first account, a plie (light squat) is traditionally done, and further movement takes place in a straightened figure with deployed shoulders with a proud and stately posture.

The dance has a musical time signature — 3/4.

Basic figures


One of the basic figures, in which all dancers move counterclockwise after the first couple.


When the first couple turns left to the beginning of the hall, all the rest line up after them in a column.

The fountain

The figure suggests the divergence of partners in opposite directions and the procession in a semicircle to the end of the hall. Each subsequent pair diverges exactly in the place where the first pair did.

Crawling ladies

This is a figure in which the partner takes four steps counterclockwise, bypassing the gentleman, who is on one knee.

In addition to the above figures, there are also a corridor, a fan, a neck, stars, etc.

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