The polonaise is a dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time. Its name is French for “Polish.”
The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska, and the two dances have a common origin.
Polonaise is a widespread dance in carnival parties. Polonaise is always a first dance at a studniówka (“hundred-days”), the Polish equivalent of the senior prom that occurs approximately 100 days before exams.
Influence of Polonaise in music
The notation alla polacca (Italian: polacca means “polonaise”) on a musical score indicates that the piece should be played with the rhythm and character of a polonaise (e.g., the rondo in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto op. 56 and the finale of Chopin’s Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” have this).
Chopin: Polonaise No. 1 in A major, Op. 40 “Military”
Chopin: Polonaise No. 6 in A♭ major, Op. 53 “Heroic”
Chopin: Grand Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22
Frédéric Chopin‘s polonaises are generally the best known of all polonaises in classical music. Other composers who wrote polonaises or pieces in polonaise rhythm include Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Maria Agata Szymanowska, Franz Schubert, Vincenzo Bellini, Carl Maria von Weber, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Moritz Moszkowski, Friedrich Baumfelder, Mauro Giuliani, Modest Mussorgsky, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Alexander Scriabin.
Another more recent prolific polonaise composer was the American Edward Alexander MacDowell.
John Philip Sousa, who wrote the Presidential Polonaise, intended to keep visitors moving briskly through the White House receiving line. Sousa wrote it in 1886 at the request of President Chester A. Arthur who died before it was performed.