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Polka Music and Dancing: Then and Now

Updated on February 9, 2013
Released in 1959, you can even obtain this album through iTunes today!
Released in 1959, you can even obtain this album through iTunes today! | Source

Have you ever danced the Polka?

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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.

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 | Source

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

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

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

Was it:

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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!

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.


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

Variety of Polka Music Styles

Style
Characteristics
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.
Compiled by Sharyn's Slant through various resources.

Which sentence best describes how you feel about Polka music?

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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

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    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      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!

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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 :)

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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      Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      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

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      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.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      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!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      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

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      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!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      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!

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 4 years ago from NJ, USA

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

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      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 profile image

      aethelthryth 4 years ago from American Southwest

      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 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

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

      Best wishes, Prasetio

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 4 years ago

      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

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 4 years ago from Ohio

      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 Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 4 years ago from UK

      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.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 4 years ago

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

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

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

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 4 years ago from New York City

      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.