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The mazurka began as a Polish folk dance from the region of Mazovia around Warsaw. It is in triple time with the accent on the second or third beat and usually danced by, four, eight or twelve couples. There can be a degree of improvisation in the step, which can vary from the “refined” and formal to a certain wildness with stamping of spurred heels on the accented beat. It began spreading to other European capitals during the first half of the nineteenth century.

It entered the salon, then recital hall, when Chopin began writing mazurkas for the piano in the 1820s. They would become a symbol of “Polishness” during and after the uprising against Russians in 1830. Chopin would write over 6o of them.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the piano form was taken up by many Slav composers – the Russians Glinka, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin, the Czechs Smetana , Dvorak and Martinu. The Pole, Szymanowski, wrote many of them.

Tchaikovsky introduced mazurkas into his ballets and the ball scene of his opera, ‘’”Eugene Onegin”’’. The form has since reached most parts of the globe, including South America and Australia and needs no Polish context to be enjoyed.

Reference: The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music 1988 p. 475