2012 – Dance in the life of the Polish Nobility from the 16th to the 18th Centuries

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Dance as an element of life for the Polish nobility hasn’t been the subject of a detailed study. In historical sources we can find only short passages about dance, usually with descriptions of various events such as balls, soirees, weddings. This paper is an attempt to present all kinds of dancing activities of Polish szlachta based on written sources as well as literature.

In the Polish territories dance was a part of culture since Slavic times. The earliest mentions can be found in the chronicles of Jan Długosz dating back to the 15th century.

Thanks to the numerous contacts of the Polish noblemen with the Western courts, Italian and French dances were brought to Poland. Were they adapted or transformed afterwards? Did Polish folk dances make it to the courtrooms?

Dance in Old Poland was a result of borrowings from European courts and a blend of the traditional dance. The specificity of the Polish gentry ensured connections between higher and lower classes of the hierarchical society, which had an impact on the shape of social and cultural life of this class.

In this paper I would like to take a closer look at the specific character of the Polish szlachta (nobility), with reference to customs, plays and dance. Using quotations from the source materials I would like to present the customs of dance in Poland between 16th and 18th centuries until the emergence of the Polish national dances.

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Marianna Jasionowska