THE RUSSIAN MAZOURKA QUADRILLES
Reconstructed and choreographed by Richard Powers, based on a description by Charles Durang
in his FASHIONABLE DANCER'S CASKET, Philadelphia 1856
This is the short two-figure version, with many modifications to serve as a performance for an audience.
Richard's reconstruction of the unmodified five-figure original quadrille is here.
See notes on the history and reconstruction of this dance at the bottom of this page.
For Jason Chuang's description with video clips, click here.
Honor partners and corners.
Kolo: Take hands-8 and CIRCLE LEFT with 4 coup de talon (heel clicks); CIRCLE RIGHT with 4 more. (8 bars)
Turn to face corners and GRAND CHAIN R & L without hands, men folding arms. Pas Glisse (skating step) to the left, right, left and right. (4 bars)
Promenade partners to places with 4 Pas de Basques (mazurka running step). (4 bars)
Figure: In open waltz position, both head couples PROMENADE forward with 4 Pas de Basques, once-and-a-quarter around the inside of the set (gents hook left elbows), approaching right-hand corner couples. (4 bars).
Facing partners, TIROIR with side couples by executing Whale's side step (ladies pass through the center).
For the men: 1) Stamp L to the left side; 2) Hold L, extending R to the right side; 3) Cross R behind L; 4) Stamp L farther to the left; 5) Swing R over L, rapping the floor; 6) Swing R back to the right side.
1,2,3) Repeat the first three counts to the right side; 4) Stamp R to the right side; 5) Close L to R with a stamp.
For the women, same step starting to the right side, without stamps. (4 bars)
Heads take hands-4 in the middle and CIRCLE RIGHT with 4 Pas de Basques, beginning his L, her R. (4 bars)
Head couples face partners and REDOWA to places. (4 bars)
SIDE COUPLES execute the figure.
Four bars of intro music.
Kolo 1: All couples PROMENADE halfway around the set. (4 bars of Pas de Basques); All 4 gents GENUFLEXIONS to one knee and lead their partners to circle around them once. (4 bars); PROMENADE halfway around the set. (4 bars); REDOWA to cross over to opposite places. (4 bars).
Kolo 2: All face partners and do the TIROIRS figure simultaneously straight across the set with 4 Coup de Talon.
All return to places by the same path with 3 Coup de Talon and a cadence.
Figure: Partners TWO-HAND TURN (open hands) once-and-a-half around CCW with 4 Coup de Talon to the right. (4 bars); Continue turning CCW with ALLEMANDE of left elbows, with 4 Pas de Basque beginning R, turning once-and-a-half until he is on the outside facing LOD and she is on the inside of the set. (4 bars); He then leads his partner back toward the gent behind him as he progresses on the the next lady and PASSES her by the right shoulder. (2 bars); TURN your vis-a-vis (opposite partner) by 2-hands a full turn clockwise. (2 bars); PROMENADE with this partner halfway around the set. (4 bars).
REPEAT all four parts of the figure beginning with this partner.
REPEAT the first two parts of the figure with your original partner in your original places.
All 4 MEN ADVANCE to the center of the set and take hands-4 high (2 bars); all 4 WOMEN CIRCLE individually out away from the set, around to the left, and into the center, to take take each other's hands behind the men's backs, as the men drop their held hands down behind the encircling ladies, into a basket (2 bars); the basket circle breaks somewhere toward line of direction and OPENS into a line facing line of direction (4 bars). Gents raise arms and ladies ESCAPE forward; gents wait a measure then chase their partners, ending with a promenade with partners. (8 bars); all tour sur place and holubiec (turn in place). (8 bars).
A brief history of the Mazurka
The ancient Polish Mazur was a fast running dance, danced to strong, driving 3/4-time music of a unique accent, about 170 beats per minute (that's fast!) and is still danced in Poland today. Some say the dance was inspired by the horses of the Polish cavalry racing across the steppes of Central Europe. The Polish Mazur is composed of (1) promenades with turns in place, and (2) figures. The original running steps were widely varied and marked the individuality of the dancer. Dancers invented their own running and setting steps and were discouraged from copying others' steps. The figures were also widely varied, from sets like quadrilles (but not always with four couples), to lines facing lines, spirals, and dance games, sometimes to win the prize of a favored partner.
Several countries conquered Poland during the 18th and early 19th centuries, most notably the Germanic empires and Russia. The various conquerors then brought back the Mazur as a favorite souvenir from Poland, and danced it in their own countries. Descriptions of the Mazur can be found in very early German dance manuals.
Russian conquerors brought the "Mazur-Dance" (as they called it) back to St. Petersburg. Russians added "-ka" to foreign words to "Russianize" them, so in Russian, the term for "Mazur-dance" was "Mazur-ka". Note: Unfortunately, many sources, including Wikipedia, state that in the Polish language mazurka is the feminine form of mazurek, or that mazurka means Masovian woman in modern Polish. But since Mazurka as a dance is a Russian word, it's meaning in Polish is an unrelated and irrelevant etymology.
The Russians danced the Mazurka as a very powerful dance, keeping true to both the spirit and the technique of the Polish original. The men danced in a very masculine manner, the women were spirited, and all were bold, strong and fast when they danced it, exactly as in the Polish Mazur.
In 1818 the Englishman Thomas Creevey described mazurka being danced at a ball given by Count Woronzow, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian troops. Then William Cavendish, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, was sent on a mission as English Ambassador to Czar Nicholas' coronation in St. Petersburg. He fell in love with the "Mazur-ka" which he danced at the Russian balls, and he brought it back to England for his estate balls during the 1820s and 1830s. This is how England, and later France, came to know the Mazur as "Mazurka", because it was first brought back from Russia, with it's Russianized name, not directly from Poland. "Hart's First Set of Mazurkas" was published in London around 1829.
In 1844 the Polkamania craze swept western Europe and America. Young people fell madly in love with couple dancing, and wanted more partnered dances to do, for variety and for fun. After embracing the Bohemian polka and German waltz, dancers revived the French galop from the 1830s, imported Der Schottische from Germany (not Scotland), the Scotch Reel (yes, from Scotland) and as the ultimate challenge and terpsichorean thrill, the Polish mazur, which they were now calling mazurka.
In mid-1840s Paris, many dancers from Poland attended Henri Cellarius' dance academy, and thus brought a fresh Polish influence into the dance. Cellarius admired the Polish spirit - their daring, powerful, inspired and improvisational style of dancing, their "vigor and originality" in dancing the mazurka, "composed of impulse, majesty, enticement and freedom from all restraint." Cellarius was an important player in this evolution because in 1847 he wrote the most widely published and copied dance manual of the era, so his descriptions influenced far more dancers than most dance masters.
Quotes about the Mazurka
The 19th century German dance master Friedrich Albert Zorn:
The Mazurka is, beyond question, the most beautiful social dance of our time, and I know, from more than fifty years of experience, that everyone who has learned the dance prefers to all others.
The Mazurka is a combination of exaltation, boldness, knightly gallantry and the most graceful devotedness.
There is in this dance a certain inspiration not to be found in any other. Nearly every Mazurka dancer feels an incredible sensation entering his very soul and driving away all fatigue, the moment the strains of Mazurka music fall upon his ear.
The Parisian dance master Henri Cellarius:
The mazurka is composed of impulse, majesty, enticement and freedom from all restraint.
Of all the new dances which have been introduced into our ball-rooms, there is none whose character is more marked with vigor, spirit and originality than the Mazurka.
The mazurka is a dance of independence, truly of inspiration, and which has no rule but the taste and peculiar fancy of the dancer, the performer being, so to speak, his own master.
I do not hesitate to assert that only a part of the mazurka can be taught, the rest being invented, improvised in the course of its execution; and it is this constant inspiration which renders the mazurka so attractive, so varied, and which has won for it the first rank among the dancers of our ball-rooms.
Notes about Durang's Russian Mazourka Quadrilles:
Although the Mazurka was the ultimate challenge for 19th century dancers, Charles Durang's Russian Mazourka Quadrille raised the bar even higher.
Most Mazurkas had easy kolos (choruses), usually just circle left & right, then promenade around the set. And the same kolo was done before each figure. Durang had a different kolo before each figure, with some kolos being quite complex. Then Durang mixed the Redowa into both the kolos and figures, which was unique in mazurka quadrilles.
Durang's mazurka quadrille had five figures, like most quadrilles. Richard Powers reconstructed and staged all five figures, which were taught at the Cincinnati Vintage Dance Week and performed by the Flying Cloud Vintage Dance Troupe. The above version is condensed, selecting some of the favorite kolos and figures from the full version, keeping something from each of Durang's five figures.
If you wish to find these kolos and figures in Durang's original description, which is online here...
The first kolo is from Durang's first figure, p. 128.
The first figure is from Durang's second figure, p. 129.
The second kolo is from Durang's third figure, p. 130.
The continuing kolo is from Durang's fourth figure.
The second figure is from Durang's fifth figure (the figure is #2 and 3).
(Note: Quadrille fifth figures often involved all four couples dancing simultaneously.)
To finish out the music, the dance is concluded with a popular mazurka figure described by Cellarius called "The Intermingling of Arms" (Cellarius' figure #56).
Choreography, description and historical synopsis by Richard Powers.
© 1986, 2007 Richard Powers
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