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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Dances of Polish Rzeszów
By Ada Dziewanowska, 1975

Ada Dziewanowska


Rzeszów Dancers, Dolina Polish Folk Dancers In the southeastern borderline of Poland there is an area of picturesque beauty with vast uninhabited terrains, where sheep graze on rolling hills. These are the Bieszczady Mountains, part of the Rzeszów region, named after the main town, and have been inhabited by Polish people since the early Middle Ages. The folk culture flourished there during the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. It is still vey rich and varied. One reason for this is that it seemed to concentrate around specific localities (Rzeszów, Láncut, Przeworak, Przemyśl, Krosno, and Tarnobrzeg), each locality maintaining separate and varied traits of their own, and hence, even now, one can see distinctive characteristics in the folklore of different areas.

Another reason for this richness and variety is that the Rzeszów region, situated near the border, has absorbed influences from her neighbors and other ethnic groups. For instance: (1) The southern belt of the region until the end of World War II was inhabited by the Ukrainians; (2) for centuries a large Jewish community, with their specific culture in Eastern Europe, made up a large percentage of the population, participating actively in the economic, social, and cultural life of the province; (3) when in 1880 crude oil was discovered near Krosno and Jasło, Hungarian specialists were brought into the Polish population; (4) in the northern part of the Rzeszów region (around Tarnobrzeg) we see influences of the culture of Central Poland, as workers came from there, mainly in order to clear the Sandomierz virgin forests. These people have been named the Lasowiaks, from the word las (forest); Lasowiak is also the name of one of their dances.

Another reason for this variety in Rzeszów folklore is that in the eighteenth century, when Poland was partitioned, the region was divided between Austria and Russia. Communication between different centers became difficult and specific characteristics were preserved. The partitions brought poverty to people. As a consequence, many emigrated abroad, especially to the United States.

The Rzeszów dances, varied as they are, have some common characteristics. They are all lively and dynamic. They are usually done on bent knees and there is often some jerky movement of the arms going on at the same time. They leave room for on-the-spot improvisations, as, for instance, wide opening of the arms, fluttering of the hand high in the air, sudden high jumps combined with kneeling, etc. Squeaky giggles done by women and shouting comments done by men ("evenly, boys, evenly," "to the left," "Kathy, hold on to my buckle") accompany the dances. Men and women often gather in their own groups and dancing is then intermingled with teasing songs.

In the Rzeszów region there exist now many singing, dancing, and acting amateur groups and folk orchestras, some of them very old. Several of them have participated and won prizes at international festivals in Europe. Because of their beauty Rzeszów dances, more than the dances of other regions, are studied and performed in other parts of Poland. And the Polish State Folk Ensemble of Song and Dance, "Mazowsze," has included them in their repertoire.

The traditional Rzeszów folk orchestra consists of two violins, a clarinet, a cymbały (a dulcimer typical to that region), and a three-string bass. The music is often played slower in the beginning and then speeded up.

From 1975 Texas Camp syllabus.