You may not know it, but the Polka is not one of Poland’s National Dances. Polkas are regional dances found in some of the 43-plus ethnographic regions of Poland. The American polka music is our own creation, having taken Polish folk songs, and turned them into pop dance tunes.
However, Polish Americans have also adopted one of Poland’s National Dances as well: the Oberek. And it still retains its original folk characteristics.
Before we talk about the Oberek, however, let me explain that there are actually 5 National Dances in Poland:
The Polonez (Polonaise)
The Mazur (Mazurka)
and the Oberek
These dances will be explored in another blog, but here I’d like to take a look at the Oberek, with its quick tempo, ¾ timing.
Going back to central Poland in the 17th century, the Oberek was played by small village bands dominated by the violin, along with an accordion or bass, and a drum.
Popular in almost all of the regions of Poland, the Oberek is a lively dance with turns and twirls, and the occasional lifting of both women and men !
And while it is a much tamer, slower dance on the social scene on this side of the pond, young and old still dance the Oberek with turns and a bounce.
Of course, the very young still enjoy a more energetic form of the Oberek, like the so called “Swing Kids” dancing on the streets of Chicago.
Taking it even further is a dance competition held in Poland. Very much like a ballroom dance contest, it is not your grandmother’s Oberek !
The same can be said for the music. The Oberek performed by this polka band is as far removed from the farm, as Texas is from Opoczno!
And then there is this soccer promo which features the Oberek.