Polonaise: Dance, Jacket, or Sandwich Spread?

OK, probably not the third option, but one never knows. There’s also a French sauce polonaise, just to further muddy the waters.

All these things are derived from the French adjective form of Poland. The music, a form of the sauce, and the jacket all derive from Polish folk music, cuisine, or folk costume.

A polonaise gown from the 1700s. Fair Use from: https://www.costumecocktail.com/2016/05/30/winged-robe-a-la-polonaise-ca-1778-1780/
Eighty years later . . . Image source: https://cdn0.rubylane.com/_pod/item/1903041/5591/Antique-Victorian-1869-polonaise-bustle-dress-full-2o-2048-61a3115b-r-a2a2a2-2.jpg

From the front:

Source: https://cdn0.rubylane.com/_pod/item/1903041/5591/Antique-Victorian-1869-polonaise-bustle-dress-full-6o-2048-0f368201-r-a2a2a2-2.jpg

The original form was a dress with a trim bodice that opened into an over-skirt. The back and sometimes sides were looped up into a bustle, revealing the color and details of the underskirt. I suspect the idea was to keep the outer skirt away from whatever you were working on, and you had an apron on over the dress. Or it was a way to show off embroidery and lace or ruffles on the under-skirt.

The polonaise musical form is a march in 3/4 time, or so it sound like. It is stately and does not have the intimate feel of a waltz. (Keep in mind, the waltz was scandalously intimate when it first debuted. His hand was where?!? They were how close?)


As you watch the video, note that under the faster beat is a slow 1-2-3, 1-2-3. It’s a very different feel from the 1-2-3, 1-2-3 accented pattern of a waltz or minuet.

This is a concert polonaise rather than one intended for dancing, but you hear the same tension between the march feeling and the three beats to the bar. Chopin is famous for his polonaises, but other composers did and do write them.
In some ways, the polonaise reminds me a bit of a quadrille and other group dances (Irish, American) with the lines and movement. All hands are accounted for at all times. 😉

5 thoughts on “Polonaise: Dance, Jacket, or Sandwich Spread?

  1. I always assumed it was a dance, but that’s a matter of cultural exposure.
    … And, some years ago when “pole dancing” was suddenly trendy, I could feign confusion by inquiring which traditional Polish dance was back in fashion….

  2. What if the Italians had learned of this at the time they were developing some of their more famous national dishes? How about “Spaghetti Polognaise”??? And, would the French Sauce Polonaise benefit from a large dollop of Parmesan cheese?

    Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .


    • There is a polonaise variation in Ives’ Variations on America. It can be played rather stridently, and EPBiggs did so. I had those variations on the car cassette player while driving a coworker back from lunch during the Cold War days. He declared that this was the !Russian! Variation on America. (https://youtu.be/XP3E5EwUM0U , about 2:20. Not quite as dramatic as Biggs played it.)

  3. Peter… Really? Re the dance, yes, all ‘hands’ are accounted for, and due to the lack of AC and bathing, it could also have been a self defense issue… 😉

Comments are closed.