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Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 5
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V.
THE POLKA.

We have now to treat of one of the oldest and most popular of modern dances, the polka, which in spite of its foreign origin may now be considered as French, for it is to France that it owes its fashion and character of universality. I need not repeat here all that has appeared in regard to the polka in books, pamphlets, poems, dramatic pieces, and music, nor dwell upon the numberless attacks to which from its origin it has been subject, and over which it has so gloriously triumphed. I have only to occupy myself with the fundamentals, and, if the word be not too ambitious, with the technical part of the dance.

The position of the lady and gentleman is almost the same in the polka as in the ordinary waltze, the gentleman nearly facing his partner. He must support her with the right hand extended about the waist. The arm destined for this purpose is the only part of the body, into which there should be flung a certain degree of vigour; self-abandonment, flexibility, and extreme ease, should be perceptible in all the movements.

Theleft hand which sustains that of the lady, should be half extended away from the body, the arm neither too stiff, nor too much bent, which would be affected in the one case, and awkward in the other.

The gentleman should hold the lady, neither too close nor too far from him. Too close an approximation would be alike opposite to the laws of grace and of decorum; too great a distance would render very difficult, if not impracticable, the turns and evolutions, that form so considerable a part in the execution of the dance. It is for the gentleman according to his own taste to settle the distance between his partner and himself.

The lady should have her right hand placed in the left of her partner, and the other upon his shoulder. She should keep her head in its natural position, avoiding either to raise, or sink, or turn it whether to the right or to the left, the most simple attitude being that which best suits the polka, as indeed it does all the waltzes and dances already spoken of. She should also allow herself to be entirely guided by her partner, who alone has to direct, to conduct her to such and such a part of the room, and to fix the commencement or the cessation. A lady is considered the better dancer or waltzer in proportion as she yields with confidence and self-abandonment to every impulse of her partner.

I shall have occasion, when speaking of the waltze à deux temps, to return to these details of attitudes, for which the help of a master is indispensable. A bad habit, once taken, becomes very difficult to conquer, and a false attitude is often sufficient to spoil a dancer for ever, who in consequence of it will remain stiff, embarrassed, and ungraceful, for want of having received a proper direction in the commencement.


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Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 5

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