The basic step of the Polka consists of an up-clock-pulse "Hupf" and a change-step with respectively a half right rotation. The steps 1 to 4 are danced with shoulder leadership gentleman to the right, lady to the left, while in the steps 5 to 8 the shoulder leadership changes: Gentleman to the right, lady to the left. The Polka basic steps can be repeated as often as desired according to the music.
Polka is danced in 2/4-time with 46 to 50 beats per minute.
Past and Present
Thinking of Polka makes someone smile, to oneself, involuntary. Even confirmed fans think of the stereotype pictures of dotty brass bands and folksy dancers. The chord sequence is simple but for all its ease, Polka is no dance without draft. What sounds so lively and vivid is often about an unsuccessful love and the supposed best medicine against heart ache: alcohol. Melancholy is a part of the harmonies overcome by rhythm: linking arms, turn around, gallop away.
The origins of this two-four time dance are really unknown. It's roots may be in Poland or Bohemia. It's first boom began in Central Europe of the 19th century. Parallel to political affairs, the bourgeoisie in a one-two-step rushed along the dance floor and the style had street credibility, even among workers and peasants. No other dance than the impetuous Polka showed more promises for body touch. It's export forced the speed, as well as the ardent moment. Many immigrants felt homeless, when the dance together with Germans, Polish, Bohemians and Moravia came to the United States more than hundred years ago. In the straight-laced America they were thirsty for the joys of life. The thirst was extinguished with beer and the gloomy thoughts were wiped out with Polka.
Today, this dance movement is a mass phenomenon in the United States. Every year 100.000 fans meet in the "Polka belt" between Milwaukee and Texas to celebrate "sausage festivals". All clichés are endorsed: Blond Polka-girls and lederhosen-boys celebrate their European roots. Over all, Polka has a kind of 'pop-appeal' because of its simplicity and its straightness. But in the meantime Polka has become widespread. On the border area between Texas and Mexico a particularly charming variant came into being, the whirling Conjunto. Rhythmically its more complex than the eastern New York style, where bird whistles accompany lightning accordion plays.
Even the social significance of Polka varies in a considerable way. Humpa with its excessive 'log house' festivals is very popular in the sparsely populated Finland. The Tsigane brass bands from the Balkans have an understanding of craftsmen: play, play, play - at name-days, weddings, pruning ceremonies or harvest festivals.