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Polka Music and Dancing: Then and Now

Released in 1959, you can even obtain this album through iTunes today!

Released in 1959, you can even obtain this album through iTunes today!

Come on in . . . let’s have some fun!

When you hear polka music and see people dancing the polka, don’t you just simply grin from ear to ear? I certainly do.

Polka music is fun, happy and lively. It reminds me of great times as a child; laughing and dancing at parties, weddings, church picnics and festivals.

Dancing the polka is pretty easy. The simple version is done in 2/4 time; three quick steps and then a hop. Even those that may never ever think of stepping one foot on a dance floor have been known to try dancing the polka.

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Example of the early clothes, polka music and dance.

History of the Polka

It’s difficult to determine the facts about the history of the polka. It seems many people want the credit of where and when the polka began. Is the polka Bohemian? Czech? Slovenian? Polish?

  • It is documented that a Czech farm servant named Anna Slazak invented the “polka step” in Prague around 1830. They say the term Polka was derived from the Czech word “pulka” meaning “half step.”
  • But don’t tell the Polish that story. They believe the polka dance was actually invented by the Poles in a small Polish village where a Czech just happened to be passing through and saw the dance. Therefore, the Czechs did not create the polka, they just helped make it popular. Besides, the word “polka” means polish woman.
  • Then there’s the notion that the Odeon Theater in Paris is said to have introduced polka music and dance in 1840. Soon after, the polka became a favorite dance at private and public balls spreading quickly throughout Europe and the United States.

Do we know for sure where the polka originated? No. Just as with many other things on the internet today, documented history can be “foggy” at best.

Personally, I am ¼ German, ¼ Bohemian, ¼ Ukranian and ¼ Polish! Polka music and dance was part of my upbringing beginning when I was still little enough to stand on my father’s feet while dancing. It was always one of the main highlights at all of our church picnics as we spun around and slid across the wooden dance floor. And I don’t think I have ever been to a wedding where polka music was not a main feature.

Polka dancing at the Gibbon Ballroom in Gibbon, Minnesota, Circa 1975

Polka dancing at the Gibbon Ballroom in Gibbon, Minnesota, Circa 1975

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What Instruments are Used in a Polka Band?

Polka band instruments can vary depending on the band and the song. Traditional instruments used include trumpets, clarinets, trombones and tubas. Accordions, electric basses, guitars and even percussion are more common in contemporary bands today.

Sample of Vintage Polka Song Titles and Artists

Researched and compiled by Sharyn's Slant
Note: Other artists may have performed the same songs as well.

TitleArtist

Beer Barrel Polka

Bobby Vinton

Blue Skirt Waltz

Jimmy Sturr

Clarinet Polka

Jimmy Dorsey

Doghouse Polka

The Babe Wagner Band

Helena Polka

Jimmy Dorsey

Hey Hey Farmer Gray

Walt Solek

Hop-Scotch Polka

Bob Crosby

In Heaven There is No Beer

Frank Yankovic

Let's Have A Party

Frank Yankovic

Licorice Stick Polka

Jimmy Dorsey

On Your Toes

The Babe Wagner Band

Orange Blossom Special

Osborne Brothers

Pennsylvania Polka

Dick Contino

The Bird Dance

The Emeralds

Too Fat Polka

Frank Yankovic

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Do You Know Who Found the Kishka and Brought it Back?

If you are not sure, you'll have to listen to this video to find out!

Did You Steal the Kishka?

Well, someone did!

Written by Walter Dana and Walter Solek, Who Stole the Kishka is a traditional polka tune recorded by a variety of bands, the most popular version performed by the Grammy award-winning artist Frankie Yankovic.

A kishka is a stuffed intestine type of sausage. Every time I hear this song, it makes me giggle to think of dancing to these lyrics, but I did, many times, especially at weddings. Have you?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Partial Lyrics to Who Stole the Kishka

Someone stole the kishka
Someone stole the kishka
Who stole the kishka
From the butcher's shop?

Who stole the kishka?
Who stole the kishka?
Who stole the kishka?
Someone call the cops!

Fat and round and firmly packed
It was hanging on the rack
Someone stole the kishka
When I turned my back.

Who stole the kishka?
Who stole the kishka?
Who stole the kishka?
Someone bring it back!

You can take my shinka
Take my fine kielbasi
You can take my pierogi
But give me back my keeshka!

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Polka Music and Dance Today

Preserving the cultural heritage of polka music is extremely important to many people.

  • In Chicago, Illinois, we have the International Polka Association.
  • The National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, is located in Euclid, Ohio.
  • The Polka America Corporation is based in Ringle, Wisconsin, where the polka has been the official state dance since 1993.
  • A large variety of Polka bands can still be found, especially with a more country flair.


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Learn How to Polka Here With a Few Extra "Fancy Steps"

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Variety of Polka Music Styles

Compiled by Sharyn's Slant through various resources.

StyleCharacteristics

Cajun

Often includes a fiddle and washboards, sung in a Cajun French dialect.

Chicago

Slower style polka with 5 or 6 musicians.

Eastern

Big band era with 15-20 musicians.

Honky

Offshoot of Chicago style with an even slower tempo.

Progressive

Combines the beat of a polka with modern instrumentation.

Push

A faster tempo with a steady drumbeat that appeals to younger crowds.

Slovenian

Also known as "Cleveland style" was popularized by Frankie Yankovick.

Tex-Mex

Distinct southwestern flavor often featuring horns, a fiddle, and at least one guitar.

history-of-the-polka-dance-past-and-present

Fun Facts About the Polka?

  • Did you know the Grammy Awards used to include Best Polka Album from 1986 until more recently in 2009 when it was ditched as a category causing quite an uproar by polka musicians and fans.
  • According to the Texas Polka News, a current day publication: “Polka adds years to your life, and life to your years!”
  • Polkaholix is a popular polka-rock band from Berlin, Germany, founded in 2001.
  • Many dances that have become outdated are now popular once again in the country-western scene, including the polka.

I haven't had a wedding to attend in quite a few years. Therefore, I am really looking forward to all my nieces and nephews getting married. I'm positive my family will insist on polka's being played, adding so much fun to the atmosphere.

This is Sharyn's Slant


How about entering a country western polka contest? Fun, fun!

Comments

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 17, 2012:

Hi Tammy ~ Now how does one know there is no beer in heaven? ha

I lol'd about the polka door bell, so fun! Sounds like something my Mom would have had. And I'm jealous, you had polka in gym class, wow. I wasn't that lucky! Thanks so much for the fun feedback!

Sharyn

Tammy from North Carolina on October 15, 2012:

In heaven there is no beer. That's why we drink it here. Ooohhh the memories. I grew up in PA where polka is very popular. My grandmother had a polka doorbell that played many polka favorites. We had to polka in gym class. It is definatley a big part of my heritage. This is a wonderfully informative and well written hub!

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 09, 2012:

Hi Glimmer ~ aww, sounds like so much fun with your daughter. Every once in a while here in Cleveland, our local broadcasting station has a Polka special. My father blasts it, and I enjoy it too. And yes, it's great exercise, ha. Thanks so much for your feedback.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 09, 2012:

Hi Brenda ~ Well, as I told someone else - I really believe you can still dance the Polka with two left feet. The Polka is fun and not a dance that has to be done perfectly. I really appreciate your sincere comments. Thank you so much.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 08, 2012:

Hi Maria ~ The Polka is so much fun, isn't it. I don't think I've ever been to a wedding when some Polka's weren't played. And the line dances, those are fun at weddings too. Thank you so much for your comments and votes.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 08, 2012:

Hi Marissa ~ Yes, the Polka is pretty popular in PA. You have "the Pennsylvania Polka" and in Ohio, we have the Polka Hall of Fame, ha. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 08, 2012:

Hi Paula ~ so glad you loved this :) I agree, I've danced the Polka with my dad as well. But never any other dance. It was always so much fun. I love the memories of both my parents dancing the polka together. I miss that too. Now the "Rhinelander" I have never heard of. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for your feedback!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 08, 2012:

Hi Simey ~ now don't you know that even people with two left feet can dance the polka. It's true. Just get out their and have some fun. And it's been awhile since you posted this comment, so I'm hoping Weird Al in not still stuck in your head :) Thanks for stopping by.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 07, 2012:

Hi Dr. BJ ~ Nope, the word Polka has not been banished from our vocabulary. In fact, it's used more often again. I know it is popular now in Pennsylvania and Texas for sure. I'm so glad you felt this was a treat to read. I too hope I get the chance to Polka again at family weddings. Come on kids, tie the knot! ha I appreciate your feedback Dr. BJ :)

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 07, 2012:

Hi aethelthryth ~ gosh, haven't seen you around in a long time. Great to see you. I'm sure there are still places around that you can learn the Polka. And you might just be able to join in at a "country dance" where it has become popular once again. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 07, 2012:

Hi Pras ~ it's great to see you here! I'm so glad this hub was inspiring to you. Thank you so much for stopping by.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 07, 2012:

My dear Sunnie ~ You said it perfectly, which is what I was trying to convey "the joy and life that surrounds those who dance the Polka."

I think that is SO true. Can you ever remember being around Polka music and/or dancing the Polka where people were in a bad mood. Never. It's really brings out fun and laughter. I appreciate your feedback, thank you so much!

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 07, 2012:

Hi Karen ~ Oh definitely, polka music at a "beer garden" can be great fun. And kids love dancing the polka too. I always did. We would get so silly and laugh for hours. Thanks so much for your feedback.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 07, 2012:

Hi Judi ~ I had dance lessons when I was a child but we never danced the Polka. I think that is cool that your lessons included the Polka. I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Sharyn

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 03, 2012:

Hi Chrissie ~ I agree, I don't think the polka will fade away for good either. At least I hope not.

Hi Janis ~ I haven't dance a polka in years either. I hoping some of my nieces and nephews get married soon, ha.

Hi Susan ~ I'm so glad this brought back good memories. It does for me too.

Thank you all, sorry I'm so behind on my comments lately :)

Sharon Smith (author) from Northeast Ohio USA on October 03, 2012:

Hi Mike ~ I'm sorry it's taking me so long to get to my comments lately. I'm so glad you learned a lot about polka here. I really appreciate your compliments. You always say the nicest things. Thank you so much.

Sharyn

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on September 30, 2012:

This is such a fun Hub. I have no coordination and two left feet but love to dance. The polka is forgiving and generous, making it easier for me to dance. I thought I knew a little about polka music but no, I certainly did not. Thanks for a most interesting Hub. I mean that sincerely. It is really cool.

Claudia Mitchell on September 30, 2012:

Great hub! When my daughter was younger there was a polka tv show on one of the cable channels and we would dance around the living room. I love to Polka and try to any chance I get. Great exercise too!

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 29, 2012:

Fun, interactive and very interesting to read up on the history of this dance.

At today's family weddings, it is a nod to us elders as the youngsters do their electric sliding... Voted UP and UABI. Hugs, Maria

Marissa from United States on September 29, 2012:

This is a very interesting history of the Polka! It's pretty popular here in Pennsylvania. In fact, we have our own program around here called 'The Pennsylvania Polka' where you can watch other people from the area dance the polka. :)

I've only had to polka at weddings, thank goodness!

Suzie from Carson City on September 29, 2012:

Sharyn...Thanks so much for this Hub! I love it. The "Polka" was the dance I could always count on my Dad to take me out on the dance floor and we'd twirl and hop and spin and laugh.....I miss that.....I miss him. We also did the "Rhinelander!!" LOL.........Great history on this fun-dance!

Simon Cook from NJ, USA on September 29, 2012:

Very interesting - shame I have two left feet. For some reason I now have Weird Al Jankovic in my head!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 29, 2012:

Sharon - I haven't heard anyone even say the word, polka, for so long, I thought the word had been banished from our vocabulary. It was a genuine treat to read this and learn so much new about the polka. I enjoyed the videos, too.

Hope you get the opportunity to dance the night away doing the polka at upcoming family weddings.

aethelthryth from American Southwest on September 29, 2012:

I would like to learn polka. It sounds like a fun kind of dancing, like swing dancing, as compared to those dances where you had better be exactly in the right place at the right time and I'm usually not!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 29, 2012:

Very inspiring hub. I love dancing. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Best wishes, Prasetio

Sunnie Day on September 28, 2012:

Wonderful hub about the joy of Polka! I remember living in Germany as a child attending many festivals where the Polka was enjoyed. I loved the joy and life that surrounds those who dance the Polka. Thank you for an interesting and informative hub, reminds us of the finer things in life.

Love,

Sunnie

Karen Lackey from Ohio on September 28, 2012:

I am German and love going to beer gardens with polka bands! When our kids were little, we took them too one and they had so much fun dancing around. This was a fun read. :)

Judi Brown from UK on September 28, 2012:

I learned to do a polka in my dance classes when I was a child, but I've never actually seen anyone dance it outside of a dance lesson, which is a shame. Good to learn the history of the dance.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on September 28, 2012:

This was fun to read as it brought back some good memories.

Janis Goad on September 28, 2012:

I love polka. Haven't done it for years.

chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on September 28, 2012:

Lots of new dances come out but I think the Polka is one that will never truly fade away...nice hub!

Mike Pugh from New York City on September 28, 2012:

Sharon I just learned a great deal about the shady facts about Polka dancing, and so much more here wow!

Your research skills are so on cue, and I guess many other things like this in terms of old historical facts are the same, yup your on to something here indeed.

I heard of Polka dancing for sure though in the past, but never really got into watching anything related to it, or listening to that music, but I do know that your hub was sensationally well put together.

I love the write up, its so clear. accurately expressed and its very easy to read.

Your content is also well balanced, I love the tables you chose to create and all. WOW! nice job on all the formatting this hub is wonderful!

4 Thumbs up! and out.