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The Polish folk dances are a tradition rooted in ten centuries of Poland's culture and history. Many of the dances stem from regional customs and historical events, but also include formal ballroom elements or ballet, and are distinct from Czech, Slovak and Germanic styles. Nowadays, the dances are only performed during major events, holidays or in tourist-oriented public spaces.
The most notable and renowned dances of Poland include the Krakowiak, Mazurka, Oberek, Polonaise and Bohemian Polka. A great promoter of Polish folk music abroad was pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, who often incorporated folklore into his works.
Polish folk dances (singular: taniec ludowy, pronounced [ˈtaɲɛts luˈdɔvɨ]; plural: tańce ludowe [ˈtaɲtsɛ luˈdɔvɛ]) tend to be lively, energetic, and joyful. Hops, twirls, and athletic movements are common. Many dances involve a circle (Polish: koło [ˈkɔwɔ] "circle", kołem [ˈkɔwɛm] "in a circle") but also partners.
The Polish national dances are the Krakowiak, Kujawiak, Mazurek, Oberek, and Polonaise. These dances are classified as National, because almost every region in Poland has displayed a variety of these dances. Many of these dances were brought to the ballroom floor following Napoleon's expansion into Central and Eastern Europe, which brought French nobility imitating the Polish peasants style of dance, and adding flavors of ballet.
The Kujawiak [kuˈjavʲak] is a dance from the region of Kuyavia in central Poland. The most romantic of the national dances, the Kujawiak is a slow dance in 3
4 metre, danced with couples.
The Mazur is a faster dance in which pairs glide across the floor. The dance is laced heavily with French influences and the dancers move with grace and speed. The Mazur was one of Chopin's biggest influences when composing his music.
The Oberek is a fast, vivacious dance in 3
8 time. The word "oberek" is derived from "obrot" meaning, "to turn". Great leaps and feats of athleticism are demonstrated by the men.
The Polonaise is the most stately of the national dances. Danced in triple (3
4) metre, the Polonaise is often the first dance at large events. In Poland, the Polonaise is called the Polonez, or less often the Chodzony (literally, "walking dance").
Polish regional dances are ones specific to a given region or city.
Southern Poland features the culture of the Gorals, Polish highlanders and people ethnic to the mountainous regions. These dances were brought by Vlach settlers in the 17th century. Very similar versions can be found at the Gorals in Slovakia and in Czech Republic. The rhythm of their music is different for the otherwise duple or triple-metre of the lowlands.
Silesia was a German-controlled region at one point, with a thriving Polish majority in Upper Silesia. Its songs and dances are simpler, yet very similar to their southern counterparts; Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The Beskid regions, Silesia and Żywiec, are located in the South Western Poland.
Warmia and Kashubia
These sea and lake regions have songs and dances which were performed by sailors, fishermen and merchants.
The songs and dances from the Rzeszów area involve fast-paced, joyful and colourful aspects. The eastern border of the Voivodeship had a great influence on western Ukrainian styles.
The Lublin area is the most colorful of all the Polish regions. Its dances contain fast polkas like the Cygan ("Gypsy") and Polka Podlaska ("Podlachian Polka").
Polish Folk Song and Dance groups (in Polish: Zespół Pieśni i Tańca or ZPiT) include: