Encyclopedia of Dance: Krakowiak


The cheerful Polish dance Krakowiak has been danced by both professionals and amateurs for almost six centuries. And despite its considerable age, it does not lose its relevance!

Every year in June, under the patronage of the Krakow City Council, the international festival Krakowiak is held. The thousand-year-old city, which is considered the heart of Poland, attracts children and youth groups from other countries, whose repertoire includes a dashing dance with energetic footsteps and fervent shouts. And there are always plenty of people who want to come to this festival. Probably, it is precisely with such a desire that one can measure the popularity of the cheerful Krakowiak dance!

The history of the origin of the dance

The Polish folk dance Krakowiak appeared among the inhabitants of the Krakow Voivodeship in the 14th century. Initially it was danced only by men, and later it became a pair dance. Naturally, the Krakowiak costumes correspond to the Krakow Polish folk costume. Guys most often wear white shirts with small closed collars and wide long sleeves on cuffs, white trousers with red stripes tucked into black boots, blue sleeveless camisoles, belts of yellow lace with decorations and red confederates with small peacock feathers. The girls dress up in white blouses with wide short sleeves and frills on the collar, wide colorful pleated skirts, white embroidered aprons, short red tank tops and «crowns» with colorful ribbons at the back and red beads.

Krakowiak was popular among the gentry, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries it also became a ballroom dance. Like the polonaise, the Krakowiak had the solemn character of a military procession and was called the «great dance». It could include both the steps of the mazurka and the waltz, polka. The Krakowiak from M. Glinka’s opera «Ivan Susanin» and B. Asafiev’s ballet «The Fountain of Bakhchisarai», which is performed by classical ballet dancers on the stages of opera theaters, is widely known.


Krakowiak is performed in two versions:

1. Folk stage Krakowiak

The folk-stage variant of Krakowiak is performed in pairs at the expense of 2/4, but often common figures (circle, star, etc.) are included in it. Most of the dance movements are based on various jumps, they are performed easily and plastically. The main movements of folk Krakowiak are:

  • gallop
  • bounces
  • main move
  • «kshesany» (carving)
  • triple flush
  • pigeon with a flood
  • dove with a step
  • side steps in place
  • double turn on the spot
  • key

2. Krakowiak ballroom

The ballroom version of Krakowiak, developed by N. Gavlikovsky, has undergone many changes during its existence and, as a result, has become a popular historical and everyday dance. People of the older generation still perfectly remember his simple figures, without which not a single dance evening of their youth could do. We will try to summarize them briefly here.

The dancers stand in pairs, legs in 3 positions, the guy holds the partner’s left hand with his right hand (arms are moved to 2 position), free hands on the belt. On the first measure of the first figure, 1 pas de basque (the girl is on the right, and the guy is on the left foot) is performed with their backs to each other. The joined hands at this time are brought forward through the bottom. On the second measure, pas de basque is repeated with the other foot in a turn facing each other (a 90-degree turn). On the third and fourth measure, the movements are repeated. During the fifth and sixth measures, the couple takes three dance steps along the line of dance with their hands forward, ending the last step with a stomp. On the seventh and eighth measure, the steps are repeated against the line of dance. The next 8 measures (the second figure) are four waltz turns to the right with access to the starting position. At the same time, the musical size and fast tempo do not interfere with the waltz movement softly and smoothly. However, it should be noted that there are other ballroom treatments of Krakowiak.

Features of Krakowiak

The Krakowiak dance is performed with a taut body and a slightly proudly raised head. Clear poses not only decorate the Krakowiak, but are also its characteristic features. The jump in Krakowiak is small, landing after the jump is done on the balls of both feet, with a light hit on the floor.

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