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Helena Polka moves dancers around the floor

Joyce Walter writes about polka, dancing, and a conversation with an old friend
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

A long-time friend of ours was reminiscing with us via telephone the other day and curiously the conversation got around to the polka.

“Do you still do the polka?” I asked this gentleman who at one time was an expert at twirling his partners round and round the hall, their feet seldom touching the floor. At his 6 foot five plus inches, and my 5 foot two inches, it was all I could to to hang on for dear life as we dazzled those on the sidelines.

In response to my question he replied: “No one knows how to do the polka anymore,” he lamented from his Quebec home where he has lived for more than 40 years. He noted the new styles of dance do not come close to the finesse required for a well-balanced turn around the floor.

I agreed somewhat, having seen some interesting styles of dance at various functions, from hockey games to wedding dances and dancing on the street.

I also pointed out that various health issues have ganged up to remove the last bit of rhythm we in this household had enjoyed. I admitted to trying to two-step in the kitchen just recently and having difficulty getting my feet to move properly. Plus getting my breath never, ever used to take some long.

Then Housemate came home a few days later and asked if we could go to a mini polka party at the Cosmo Centre — just to listen to the music, to watch the dancers and most importantly, to enjoy homemade lemon pie. 

I agreed that this might be entertaining, although it would be more fun to be on the dance floor ourselves. But alas, that would not happen.

So off we went, found ourselves seats with a view, were joined by friends and we settled in to watch and enjoy. At the end of the first set of music, I wished our other friend could be there too for he would see that polka is alive and well and being enjoyed by dedicated followers during the polka fest season, which we learned runs from April to October.

In the four hours we watched, listened, tapped our feet, drummed on the table and observed some of what must be polka festival protocols. Many dancers carry their own towels and place them on the tables at which they sit. Some towels had names embroidered on them. Some gentlemen wear headbands to catch the perspiration.

At some point during the evening, many of the women leave the hall and return later having changed their clothes, producing a dancing fashion show of apparel unlikely to be found in regular stores — maybe there is a catalogue for polka party attire. I felt a bit under-dressed, even to sit there and watch.

It was a delight to watch many of the couples gliding together in perfect harmony — no water-pumping arm movements for most of them. And it was obvious that they were not novice partners.

After a second slice of pie for Housemate, we decided we were worn out from watching the dancers and we headed home, polka music buzzing in our heads. I will be sure to tell our friend that folks in this neck of the woods still know how to dance a polka and do it very well.

Now if only the dance cam at the hockey games would feature a polka occasionally. Wishful thinking at the very best.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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