How to dance mazurka

What is the Mazurka? (with pictures)



Fact Checked

As a wonderful example of Polish dancing as well as a genre of music, the mazurka has an illustrious history as well as continuing to be a popular part of Polish culture that is appreciated by people all over the world. Here are some basic facts about the mazurka and why it is so popular.

As a form of instrumental music, the mazurka is characterized by a tempo that is both fast and upbeat, featuring a unique triple meter. Generally, there is a very heavy emphasis on the second or third beat of the rhythm. Tracing the origins of the mazurka as a music art form back to the 19th century is not difficult at all.

Tchaikovsky composed six known mazurkas intended for presentation on the piano, including one that was included in the score of Swan Lake. Chopin is known to have composed no less than 58 works that were known as mazurkas. The Polish composer Henryk Wieniawski created two mazurkas that were scored for both piano and violin.

Even as far away as Brazil, the mazurka made an impact, with Heitor Villa-Lobos composing a mazurka that was intended for presentation with a classical guitar. Mazurka compositions continue to be popular in many places around the world, although perhaps not with the degree of devotion that is found in Poland. In fact, the Polish National Anthem is classified as a mazurka.

The mazurka is also classified as a Polish folk dance as well. Developed especially for the upbeat tempo of the music, the mazurka made its way to the United States during the immigrations of the middle 19th century. The fast pace of the dance quickly won over fans both young and old, and established itself as not only the premiere type of Polish folk dancing, but also as a powerful influence on other forms of dancing as well. Some of the movements translate very well into the barn dancing of yesteryear as well as the line dancing of more recent vintage. In fact, the mazurka is often referred to as a masurek or mazuka in the southern portion of the United States.

Both the dance and the music derive their name from the Masuria district in Poland, where both art forms were first conceived and popularized. Today, various forms of the mazurka can be found in music trends in such far-flung locations as France, the United States, South America, and Africa. As both a form of instrumental music and as a dance, the mazurka will continue to influence the cultural richness of the world for many years to come.

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including MusicalExpert, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including MusicalExpert, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Young urbanites help revive Poland's mazurka folk dance

Issued on:

Warsaw (AFP) –


Couples spin to the lively tempo of Poland's mazurka folk dance in scenes reminiscent of peasant life from centuries past.

To rhythmic violin and accordion, they could almost be back in the simple cottages of Mazovia, the region around the Polish capital, Warsaw, for which the dance and music were named.

Taken across Europe and beyond by Polish soldiers and migrants some 200 years ago, the traditional mazurka evolved, before later almost vanishing.

But now it is making a comeback and not only in Poland, putting a spring in the step of urban youngsters and getting pulses racing and hearts pumping.

"It was forgotten, but when I see all these young people who come to learn from me, I forget I'm old," says fiddle player Jan Kmita, 83, one of the last surviving masters of the mazurka.

He has spent hours teaching youngsters the up-tempo rhythms and steps at workshops in Warsaw.

The Polish mazurka, also known as the mazur, mazurek or oberek, "doesn't really have much to do with the ones we know in France", says Nicolas Roche, a French violinist keen to learn from Kmita.

"It has a very specific sound, rhythmic subtleties and a manner of conveying rhythm that is completely different, with slowdowns, accelerations, a whole swing, a feeling that's very different," Roche told AFP.

- 'Like discovering Atlantis' -

Choreographer Piotr Zgorzelski, who specialises in Polish folk dances, describes the dance steps of Polish mazurka as "minimalist, with no jumps".

Couples stay very close, twirling "like a whirling dervish, but they do it together... a good dancer can even spin with a full glass on their head without spilling a drop," he says.

Zgorzelski also said that he had seen interest in mazurkas burgeon among young urbanites keen to reconnect with the rural origins of their ancestors.

Among the mazurka's ardent new fans, Agata Kotlicka, a 27-year-old professional speech therapist, says: "We enter a trance, we can forget ourselves, we don't need alcohol to feel it."

Self-taught Kmita received his first violin at age six and played his first wedding when he was 12.

Forgotten about over the years, his talent was re-discovered by a group of folk enthusiasts, who have spent 30 years crisscrossing Poland in a quest to find and preserve traditional music.

Janusz Prusinowski, a 50-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist, is one of those who stumbled across Kmita nearly three decades ago.

"We came across these old musicians, it was like discovering Atlantis, a Poland doomed to disappear," he told AFP, of his first encounters with elderly mazurka masters.

It turned out that "Poland wasn't a land of musical illiterates but a people able to speak with an original musical language that (Frederic) Chopin himself drew on," says Prusinowski.

He co-founded Warsaw's annual Mazurkas of the World festival that has been leading the mazurka revival for 10 years, now also in evidence in dance halls and other organised events.

- Soldiers and refugees -

Mazurkas are dynamic and bold, with accents often placed on the second or third beat and tempo changes that can take dancers by surprise.

Some experts believe that their earliest traces can be found in transcriptions of religious music dating to the 15th century.

According to Warsaw University musicologist Tomasz Nowak, the term itself first appears in 1708 in a musical notation at a Bernardine cloister in Lowicz, central Poland, where a Catholic nun suggests interpreting a passage like "a real mazur".

Around the beginning of the 19th century, Polish soldiers fighting for French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte took their music wherever they were deployed, even to the Caribbean.

Similarly, a couple of decades later, Polish insurgents who lost the struggle against the army of the Russian tsar fled to France, taking the mazurka.

In France, the dance became fashionable, changing and evolving as it was adapted to local tastes.

Meanwhile, back in the Polish countryside, the mazurka could be heard at wedding parties until the 1950s.

But it was all but forgotten with the advent of radio and the new music it broadcast into villages.

- From shame to pride -

Poland's communist authorities tried to transform folk dances like the mazurka into "national dances", making them elaborate stage shows to tour at home and abroad.

The 2018 film, "Cold War" by the Polish-born Oscar-nominated director Pawel Pawlikowski, focuses in part on how these stage shows were developed.

The last vestiges of the mazurka survived until the 1980s in the depths of the Mazovian region, despite the indifference and even contempt of locals.

After the 1989 collapse of communism, Poles embraced synthesiser-based pop music, turning their backs on some of the music of the past. "We started to be ashamed to play these old tunes," Kmita told AFP.

But shame has turned to pride, as young mazurka enthusiasts have begun flocking to dance halls giving a new lease of life to the music and dances of their heritage.

"It's only just beginning, the mazurkas are going to survive, they were nearly dead and now they're coming back," Kmita says.

"They must like it, I think," he adds, modestly.

? 2019 AFP


Mazurka is a popular Polish folk dance. For the first time, it was danced in Mazovia by local residents - Mazury. That's where the name came from. The history of this dance dates back more than one century, but it was especially popular in Europe in the 19th century. In the 17th century, the Mazurka was still a peasant dance, and in the 18th century, during the reign of Augustus III, the dance received the status of a court dance. The music of the mazurka belongs to the composer Frederic Chopin. In total, he wrote more than 60 compositions of this type.

Description of the dance

Original and unique Polish musical culture has always attracted the attention of the world community. The fame did not bypass the "mazurka", which quickly fell in love with the regulars of dance balls. To be precise, there is not one, but three varieties of this Polish dance:


The latter is the classic Mazurka. But the first two have significant differences from the standard version. Oberek has a more complex rhythmic pattern and a corresponding accent on the third beat of every second bar. But kuevyak has a slower pace, in this it is similar to a waltz. Kujewiak can be called a ballroom version of the mazurka. This look combines calmness and ease, but at the same time grace and grace. Many figures and movements were brought into the kuevjak from the gentry dance, the result of which was a touch of aristocracy and sublimity in the dance.

Classical dance has the following characteristics: time signature 3/4 or 3/8, accelerated tempo. Also, the mazurka is characterized by bright and noticeable accents, shifted to the second or third beat of the bar.

The development of the mazurka dance

Throughout the years of its existence, the mazurka has undergone various changes and transformations. People tried to ennoble the dance in their own way, improve or bring something completely new to it. So, gradually, the mazur continued to fill up and change, new figures, “stuffed cabbage rolls”, “kshesan”, etc. were added to the dance. Dramaturgy within the dance is very bright and may consist of several contrasting episodes.

An integral part of the mazurka for any dancer is artistry in the process of performing it. Technique is also important, but this Polish dance is too energetic and "alive" to push emotions into the background. Now, in the 21st century, all types of mazurka are widespread. For some time, the folk version went into oblivion, but recently, on the contrary, in dance schools there is more and more demand for folklore and dance culture with a rich history. Now the basis of the national anthem of the Polish state is precisely the mazurka.

Who else wrote the Mazurka

Besides Chopin, there were other composers who appreciated the beauty of this dance and wrote music for it. Of the Poles, one cannot help but recall Alexander Tansman, Boleslav Wojtowicz and Karol Szymanowski. Among Russian composers, the mazurka was written by such eminent figures as Glinsky, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Glazunov, Lyadov and Grechaninov. The latter, by the way, wrote the original mazurka in two tribes. The first sounds like the ringing of bells, and the second is consonant with the song "We are two shores with you."

By the way, Frederic Chopin himself put forward his own classification of the mazurka, which included three varieties: “sketches”, “brilliant” and “lyric”.

How to dance correctly

The pattern of the mazurka dance is not as complicated as it might seem at first glance. First of all, you should learn how to make a “jump step”, because. it is the basis of all dance. You will also need to learn the key step and the mazurka step. "Keys" are sharp movements of the feet, characteristic of the mazurka, accompanied by the impact of the heel on the heel.

Learning how to dance the mazurka is easy in a dance studio with professional choreographers. But you can start with simple video tutorials on the Internet.

Dance "Polonaise-Mazurka"

Author - I.N. Kusov.

"Polonaise-Mazurka" - Russian ballroom dance created by Ivan Kusov, the author of such classical ballroom dances as:

- "Figured Polka"

"Polonaise-Mazurka" created on the basis of two Polish dances - Polonaise and Mazurka.

Polonaise - a solemn procession dance. Polonaise, as a rule, was performed at the beginning of the balls, emphasizing the sublime nature of the holiday.

Mazurka is a Polish folk dance, the name of which comes from the name of the inhabitants of Mazovia - the Mazurs, who first had this dance. The dance is active and energetic.

The dance is included in the competition program for classical (domestic) ballroom dancing for the following age categories of performers:

6th group - "Youth", (17-24 years),

7th group - "Adults" (25 years and older, the total age of the couple is up to 70 years),

8th group - " Seniors" (35 years and older, the total age of the couple is up to 100 years),

9th group - "Grand Seniors" (the total age of the couple is over 100 years).


Polonaise time signature - 3/4, moderate tempo.

The time signature of the Mazurka is 3/4, the tempo is fast.


Dance "Polonaise-Mazurka" has a combined composition and consists of two parts:

1st part - Polonaise, occupies 16 measures of musical accompaniment, time signature 3/4.

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