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Representation of a mazurka from the Journal des Demoiselles, 1845

The mazurka (obsolete alternative spelling: Masurka[1]) is a stylized dance originating from Poland in moderately slow to very fast triple time.


The name Mazurka is derived from the Polish countryside of Masovia (Polish: Mazowsze). Other names are Warschauer (Varsovienne), Air en Polonaise (Leipzig 1736), Polka Mazurka, Masollka (Tyrol), Flohbeutler (Styria), Tramplan (Carinthia), Wiener Walzer (Upper Austria), Cevvee (Lower Austria), Flohschüttler und Baaschlenkerer (Germany), Mistträppeler, Masollke (Switzerland) and many others.


The dance name Mazurek is documented for the first time in 1345. Favoured by the personal union Saxony-Poland (1697 to 1763) under August the Strong and August III, Polish dances were promoted in Saxony. These dances penetrated only very sporadically into the peasant population.

From 1840 onwards, the mazurka was once again taken up in Germany, this time via Paris, as a ballroom dance in the salons of the bourgeoisie, and now spread rapidly through town and country. The political background was: Poland was fighting for its national independence. At about the same time the Varsovienne (Warsaw) also spread. Towards the end of the 19th century the Mazurka appeared in the dance booklets of alpine musicians, it became more frequent from 1900 onwards.


In general, the mazurka is in 3/4 time. A particular distinguishing feature from a musical point of view is on the one hand the subdivision of the first beat (e.g. dotted quaver or quaver triplet) and on the other (resulting from this) the shift of emphasis to the second beat.

Further characteristics are the typical waltz accompaniment with a low quarter note (bass) and two following higher quarter notes (chord). Also typical is the frequent repetition of single motives and themes up to the repetition of whole parts separated by a contrasting middle section. These differences concern accompaniment (often in the form of a drone), dynamics (mostly in piano) and key (by cancelling accidentals).

The mazurka became internationally known through Frédéric Chopin, who composed 51 mazurkas for piano and thus also introduced this dance into art music. Other piano mazurkas were composed by Alexander Scriabin, and later also by Karol Szymanowski. The members of the Viennese Strauss dynasty composed numerous orchestral mazurkas, usually called polka mazur – e.g. Ein Herz, ein Sinn! op. 323 by Johann Strauss (son). Furthermore, Alexandre Tansman and the founder of the modern guitar technique Francisco Tárrega composed mazurkas. In Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Suite populaire brésilienne for guitar, the first movement, a choro, is a mazurka.

The Polish national anthem Mazurek Dąbrowskiego is also a mazurka.

The melody is originally often in a minor key. In alpine folk dance, however, melodies are usually in major, as they are in Switzerland, although in three-part pieces the second part is sometimes in minor.

Dance figures

The mazurka is a folk dance which, like most folk dances, has been passed down in a wide variety of dance forms, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Lithuania, the Canary Islands[2] and even among the Boers in South Africa.

In Austria, three main forms are distinguished:

  • Polka-Mazurka (Masur)
  • Warsaw (Varsovienne)
  • Free mazurka form (Ländler type)

The basic Mazurka step is explained in Dance Terms in Folk Dancing.

Dance Descriptions

Polka-Mazurka from Germany

In the “Handbook of German Folk Dancing,” Aenne Goldschmidt documents the following mazurka form with the note: “This ‘one-step Warsaw’ has the form of the so-called ‘polka-mazurka,’ which was also formerly common in the city’s ballroom dancing.”
Aenne Goldschmidt gives the following dance description:

Ordinary round dance setting

  1. 1 Mazurka step with the outside foot
  2. 1 waltz step with the outside foot, half right turn

The repeated figure begins in the opposite direction. The turn can be the
Maintain direction of rotation.

Rhythm scheme:

Dancers: lrr lrl rll rlr

Dancer: rll rlr lrr lrl

Goldschmidt, Aenne: Handbuch des Deutschen Volkstanzes. Text volume, Berlin
1966(4th ed., Heinrichshofen 1981.), p. 208

Mazurka de Samatan (French Mazurka)

A mazurka form originally from Gascony called Mazurka de Samatan is also often danced in Germany in the BalFolk scene (and beyond) as a French mazurka. It consists of four parts:

Ordinary round dance setting

  1. the 1st mazurka step to the left of the dancer, with a slight hop on the 3rd step
  2. a waltz step with a quarter turn to the left
  3. the 2nd mazurka step with a right turn and directly connected
  4. a waltz step with a full turn to the right.

The special thing about this Mazurka is that in its course the couple dances a quarter turn to the left and then a 5/4 turn to the right.

There are similar forms, for example, from the Black Forest.


  • Gerlinde Haid Mazurka. In: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon. Online edition, Vienna 2002 ff, ISBN 3-7001-3077-5; print edition: Volume 3, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-7001-3045-7.

Web links

Wiktionary: Mazurka– Meaning explanations, word origin, synonyms, translations

Individual references

  1. The 1996 reform of German spelling also introduced the spelling masurka, which was deleted with the implementation of the Report of the Council for German Orthography on the performance of its tasks in the period 2011 to 2016 was deleted again on 29 June 2017.
  2. José Carlos Delgado Díaz: The Folkore Music of the Canary Islands. Publicaciones Turquesa, Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2004, ISBN 84-95412-29-2, p. 134 f.