Hundred-year-old Polka Instructions

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, October 15, 1914: << no entry>>

Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1914)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

There was a hint in a diary entry last summer that Grandma may have had a boyfriend—and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’s having lots of fun (and is too busy to write in the diary).

Maybe Grandma went dancing. Here are directions in the October, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal for the polka:

Before I explain the polka it might be well to tell why I think it should be revived and modernized—not to take the place of the other dances so popular now, but to add variety to all dance programs. We have at present a leaning toward things old-fashioned. This is most noticeable in the quaintness of the fashionable woman’s attire. In fact my wife is wearing at parties the dress you see in these photos.

1914-10-38 b

Possibly the most important excuse for a revival and modernization of the polka is because it is easy to learn and so enjoyable to dance. In the polka you hop rather than slide, which exactly the opposite to the usual steps in our other present-day dances. The hop, if not exaggerated, is most graceful. The counting for this dance is 1 -2 – 2 – hop, 1 – 2- 3 – hop. You do the hop after the third step. . .

1914-10-38 c

18 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Polka Instructions

  1. Maybe Helena was doing the “Pennsylvania Polka”!

    Strike up the music the band has begun
    The Pennsylvania Polka.
    Pick out your partner and join in the fun
    The Pennsylvania Polka.
    It started in Scranton, it’s now No 1
    It’s bound to entertain you
    Everybody has a mania
    To do the polka from Pennsylvania!

  2. I always liked to polka, but could never get anyone to do it with me. Who knows. Maybe they just knew how clumsy I am. As for the guy in the picture. I think maybe standards of handsomeness have changed …? Or is it just not my taste. But I must say, I never thought of the polka as bringing the dancer’s bodies so close.

    1. The pictures are of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castles (and Vernon wrote the article), Your comment made me curious about who they were, so I googled it. According to Wikipedia:

      “Vernon and Irene Castle were a husband-and-wife team of ballroom dancers of the early 20th century, who appeared on Broadway and in silent films. They are credited with reviving the popularity of modern dancing.”

  3. Okay I’ve finished hopping around trying to follow his 1-2-2 and 1-2-3 instructions and I’m just confused…Mostly you should hop, have a laugh and try to stay off each other’s feet!

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