National dances

For every Polish man or woman the most famous national dance is the polonaise. Beautifully performed by dancers dressed in historical costumes, testifies to the proud past of this nation.

All the Polish national dances – polonaise, mazur, oberek, cracovienne, kujawiak – are folk dances that have become known and danced throughout the whole territory of Poland.

  POLONEZ  (polonaise)

The most representative dance is the polonaise, whose name derives from the French language [Polonaise = Polish]. In the folk form called “chodzony” (chodzić = walk). Gradually the polonaise has become a popular courtly dance, traditionally performed at the beginning of balls. – “It is a time for the polonaise!” – was announcing by a dance leader.

Pan Tadeusz, music by Wojciech Kilar

The Polonaise is a stately dance of nature, with graceful movements of dancers and slidings steps. The first two steps are to put your leg forward, while in the third step the knees should be gently bent. During the dance different figures are performed (pair for pair, fours march, march quavers, the bridge, snake, snail, a maze), and therefore the procession of dancers should be lead by an experienced dance leader.

 National Folk Ensamble Mazovia

Nowadays the  polonaise is a compulsory dance starting traditional “hundred days” school balls (studniówka), organized in high schools 100 days before the abitur exam:
 A school polonaise

MAZUR (mazurka)

The second court dance of the folk origin. It originated in Mazovia (central Poland). Its main features are: quick tempo, accented jumps, time signature 3/4, scoring a lot of rhythms, sweeping turns and pirouettes, therefore it is one of the most difficult Polish dances. During its heyday it was eagerly danced by the nobilities and young officers of the Polish Army. The greatest role was played during the partition, when mazur became – alongside polonaise – a symbol of patriotism. Mazur was spread in Europe in 18th/19th century thanks to officers of Polish Legions who fought alongside Napoleon Bonaparte.

There are two types of mazur:

  • Polish robe mazur (kontusz, national men’s dress)  – more impulsive:
    Opera “halka”, music by Stanislaw Moniuszko
  • uhlan mazur  – it is a salon version, being a show of masculine skill and temperament, yet elegance, grace and charm of women:  National Folk Ensamble “Mazovia”


 KRAKOWIAK (cracovienne)

A very lively folk dance from the vicinity of Cra-cow, dating from the 16th  century. It is danced in a time signature 2/4, in a characteristic synco-pated rhythm. Krakowiak requires dancers with an ability to jump high with grace. This dance was initially performed only in villages, but over time it reached salons and became fashionable throughout the country.

Folk ensamble  Wiwaty from  Pobiedziska

 National Folk Ensemble Silesia



The fastest of the five national dances, also called “obertas”. The Polish name refers to rotation. In oberek dancers make a rapid turnovers staying in one place or spinning on the dance floor. Its features are: speed, time signature 3/8 and accents similar to mazur. At the end of the 19th century oberek lost it’s folk character and became a dance of the higher social classes.

Oberek by the village dancers, Lublin

Oberek from Łowicz  Folk Ensemble “Silesia”.



The name of this dance refers to the region from which it derives – Kujawy (northern Poland). This is a free dance in 3/4 time signature. The basic dance steps are based on rotation and soft walk, sometimes with stronger foot-tapping. Kujawiak is always danced along the line of the wheel. As it derives from the wedding dance, it is shown in its figures, themes and flirtatious nature. The musical tune is very lyrical.

Ensemble Komorno

Private wedding version  



pictures: Zofia Stryjeńska

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