Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 6
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VI.
STEPS OF THE POLKA.

The polka is danced in two four time to a march movement, and rather slow.

I shall now endeavour to give an idea of the step, but I must again pray my readers to excuse the dryness of these details, as of all others of the same kind. Here, more than ever, I must lay aside all pretensions to elegance of style, and attend only to clearness and exactitude.

The step of the polka is divided into three measures.

For the first, the left heel should be raised to the side of the right leg without passing it behind, and so as to slightly touch the calf. In this position you jump upon the right foot, in order to give the spring to the left, which makes a glissade forward, in the fourth position.

The second and third times are composed of two short steps made lightly by either foot, care being taken that both feet should find themselves nearly in the same line.

At the second short step, the right leg is raised, the heel being near the lower part of the left calf, and the fourth bar is suffered to pass, which occasions three bars only to be marked. You then recommence with the other foot, and so on with the rest.

The gentleman should always begin with the left foot, and the lady with the right, as in the ordinary waltze.

The polka presents in execution many peculiar evolutions, which contribute much to vary it, and which a skilful dancer will not fail to be thoroughly master of. He must in every sense turn his partner, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left, and make her retreat from, or advance upon him, in a straight line, by help of that well-known movement, which in the language of the waltze is called a redowa; he must even in certain cases, and when the crowded state of the ball-room scarcely leaves space for each couple to move, make his partner pivot on the same spot, shortening the step so as to form it entirely under him. I need scarcely observe that these variations are entirely left to the gentleman, who introduces them according to his fancy or the exigencies of the locale.

In the first movement of the polka, that, which is termed the figures, was executed. The gentleman sets out, holding the lady by the right hand, as in the old allemande, and then turning towards hers, alternately turned his back to her. With the ordinary step was also mingled the step termed Bohemian, or double polka, which was executed with the left leg in the second position, the heel on the ground, and the toes pointed upwards precisely as in the pas de polichinelle.

The small size of the ball-rooms, and perhaps also the good taste of the French, which always maintains its rights, has suppressed these various accessories of the polka, upon which I have not insisted, since from the beginning they have fallen into desuetude. The only figures of the polka, that are executed, consist in the final cotillon, and we shall see, when on that subject, what are those which are proper to it. This dance preserves all the foreign paces of the waltze, with which as we have seen, it has more than one point of resemblance, or even of fraternity, as regards the direction and the attitudes.

The polka, presented at first to the French ball-room under the auspices of fashion, has seen its success confirmed from day to day. We may affirm without hesitation, that it is now thoroughly established, since it has descended to inferior assemblies, and been travestied and disfigured by unfaithful interpreters, without losing any of its name for distinction and elegance. At the time when I now write, some celebrated waltzers indeed affect somewhat to despise the polka, and to look upon it as a dance already well nigh antiquated, the execution of which they would leave to novices. But this, I imagine, is only a transient prejudice, the almost certain forerunner of a great re-action. Without having the fascination of the waltze à deux temps, nor the fire and variety of the mazurka, the polka possesses other advantages peculiar to itself. By its easy, graceful movement, the nature of its step which readily accommodates itself to every fancy of the dancer, the character of its airs inspired for the most part by so happy a musical feeling, it is sure to maintain its place in the ball-room, where it procures for the waltzers a time of repose that is absolutely indispensable amidst the fevers of the waltze.

The imagined facility of the polka had perhaps by vulgarizing it, produced, if not its complete fall, yet its banishment from a certain class; but people soon abandoned the notion that in five or six lessons they could rank amongst its skilful executors. In this dance, as in so many others, there are shades of peculiar delicacy to be seized, and even real difficulties that are only to be surmounted by constant practice. Whoever pretends to execute the polka in a ball-room without being sufficiently prepared, will almost to a certainty appear ridiculous, or at least awkward, constrained, and in any case will be quite incongruous with more accomplished dancers. The polka in bad taste is the only one which can be extemporized; the polka of good society will ever require teaching and study.


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Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 6

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