Arthur Murray Dance Centers offer an incredible array of dance classes. From the rumba to the cha cha and more, there is a dance class for every person and every dance style. We offer ballroom dance classes for weddings, country western classes for fun, and everything in between. In today’s blog, however, we will be focusing on a dance that is not always as well-known: the polka!

The polka (poke-UH) is similar to other aforementioned dance styles, in the sense that it originates from a specific region and gained popularity in the United States. While younger generations might not be as familiar with the polka, it is a spirited dance that has withstood the tests of time. Read more about the polka, and contact

The History of Polka

The polka is originally a Czech peasant dance, thought to be invented by a peasant girl named Anna Slezak. As PBS states, “the word ‘pulka’ is derived from the Czech phrase ‘half-step’, which refers to the dance pattern of lightly stepping from one foot to the other.” It grew in popularity throughout ballrooms in Prague in the 1830s, then eventually made its way to Paris a few years later. From there, polka spread like wildfire in ballrooms across western Europe, and was brought to the United States during the immigration boom of the mid-19th century.

Polka has maintained its popularity in places where large concentrations of German and Czech immigrants settled upon arrival to the United States. Particularly in the Midwest, polka bands can still be found in bars and dance halls. Oktoberfests around the country are another venue for polka and its popularity. A celebration of German culture and heritage, Oktoberfests will take place in the fall and are an event where polka will undoubtedly be showcased.

Polka Music

The music is lively and upbeat, maintaining a 2/4 beat, even if the lyrics themselves are more melancholy. Polka is nearly almost performed live, with a band including an accordion, bass, trumpet and/or clarinet, and drums. The instruments used largely depends on the style of polka. The most common styles of polka are the German, Czech, and Polish varieties but there have been many other styles and forms that have evolved from polka’s roots.

One of the most common polka songs is “Beer Barrel Polka,” which has become an icon for modern polka music. Not only for the polka itself, but the song even serves as a symbol for sporting events and more. In Wisconsin, for example, “Beer Barrel Polka” is played during professional football and baseball games, for the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers, respectively.

The Dance

Like its native name suggests, polka is a very lively dance consisting of smaller hops. Traditionally danced with a partner, the pair of polka dancers will hop in tandem from one foot to the other. The style consists of small hops on one side, to a larger hop to the other side, giving the appearance of jumping in a fluid manner. For an extension and more advanced form of polka, it can be performed in a group setting and/or include twists and turns.

The hops that take place with the polka make for an incredibly upbeat dance, and the performance itself is rooted in overall happiness. As professional polka dancer John Wirtz once said, “We dance close. We dance together. We find the music’s so happy that we’re smiling, looking at each other and enjoying each other’s company. It’s the synergy of all the people dancing.”

Particularly in the Midwest, the polka can still be found at weddings. It’s a tradition that has carried over from generation to generation. The basic moves for the polka are easy enough for anyone to learn, and the extension of learning this dance is equally enjoyable.

If you are wanting to learn an upbeat dance that makes for a fun and vivacious time, the polka is the way to go. You’ll be able to keep up at weddings, dance halls, or even just places with a live polka band, and have a blast while doing so. Learn more about the rich history of the polka through Arthur Murray Dance Centers, and sign up for a class today!