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From Ban To Honor: Poland’s Polonaise Dance On UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List

Originally stemming from a folk tradition, the polonaise gained popularity across Europe, opening royal balls and inspiring classical composers. Despite being banned during periods of foreign rule, it endured as a symbol of national identity.

Aanchal Sharma

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From Ban To Honor: Poland's Polonaise Dance On UNESCO's Intangible Heritage List
Dancers of the WARSZAWIANKA ensemble of the University of Warsaw dance Poland's national polonaise dance in 18th century costumes during dress rehearsal in Warsaw, Poland, on Feb. 8, 2024. (Image: AP)

POLAND’s elegant 18th-century dance, the polonaise, once forbidden by communist rulers, has now received recognition from UNESCO. This dance, which sustained Poland’s spirit during its partition, has been celebrated from aristocratic gatherings to village festivities, influencing composers like Bach and Chopin. Recently, it was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list as a symbol of unity and cooperation in family and community life.

The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, backed by widespread public support, advocated for its inclusion. The dance holds deep significance, passed down through generations, embodying dignity and grace. Its simplicity allows for profound emotional expression.

Originally stemming from a folk tradition, the polonaise gained popularity across Europe, opening royal balls and inspiring classical composers. Despite being banned during periods of foreign rule, it endured as a symbol of national identity, especially for exiles like Chopin. Revived after World War II, it became a cherished tradition at school events and national celebrations.

Participants, like Gabrysia Kosmal and Natalia Bernat, emphasize its unifying power, fostering moments of harmony and connection. As Janusz Wielgosz, organizer of a street dance in Lodz, reflects, the polonaise’s beauty lies in its simplicity, music, and attire, making it a tradition worth preserving and experiencing.

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