Origin of Polka

The origin of the polka goes back to 1830, to the town of Kostelec, Bohemla, where a young glrl, named Anicka Chadlmova, while taking care of her master’s children, teaching them to sing and dance, invented her own dance in 2/4 time. Soon the village heard about this, including the village teacher Josef Neruda. He was the first to write the tune down in music and called the dance “Pulka”, which means “half” (of 4/4 time) and “krok” which means “step”. Soon the Pulka got to be called POLKA, the same as today. Its popularity was introduced to Prague about 1835, and in 1839, was brought to Vienna by the musical band of the Prague Sharpshooters, a military unit. The music and dance met with extraordinary acceptance. .In 1840 it was received with tremendous applause at the Odeon Theatre in Paris and was soon the favorite dance at all the private and public balls. It spread rapidly into every country of Europe and is now popular allover the world. It was brought to America by the immigrants. It survived many other dances-and is much danced today, 179 years after its invention. The polka tempo is much used by Czech composers, but is not found in the works of classical Polish composers nor those of other nationalities. Websters New World Dictionary of the American Language says:  “POLKA -Czech ‘pulka’ -fast dance for couples, developed in Bohemia in the early 19th century.”

As often is the case, Anicka Chadimova did not benefit in any way from her dance step. After an unhappy marriage, she died as a pauper. The teacher, Josef Neruda’s life was also unhappy, and during the night of April 8, 1876, was murdered in his home. The murderer was never found.

~Submitted by LaVerne Benda


The Beer Barrel Polka comes from a Czech love song by Jaromir Vejvoda, of Zbraslav, Czechoslovakia named “Škoda Lasky”. The words to Škoda Lasky are of a sad love song. The Beer Barrel Polka was brought to England by Czechoslovak airmen during World War II. The translated lyrics became General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s favorite melody. He had the author come to England to thank him personally for the morale building effect of the song.

~Submitted by LaVerne Benda