Dance in the Salons: Waltzes, Polkas and Quadrilles in Serbian Piano Music of the 19th Century




Serbian salon music, piano, waltzes, polkas, quadrilles


As public events, balls had an important role in social life among the Serbs in the Habsburg monarchy in the 19th century. They were organised by the aristocracy and citizens, various associations and ethnic groups. The most prestigious were the so-called “nobles”, id est aristocratic balls, while the civil ones were less elegant. A repertoire of dances was to some extent conditioned by the type of the ball. Waltz, polka and gallop were very popular at civil balls, as well as stylised Serbian folk dances, such as kolo. At noble balls, on the other hand, besides waltzes, polkas and gallops, it was quadrilles and cotillions that enjoyed special popularity. On the other hand, in the young Principality of Serbia, the organisation of the balls began in the 1860’s, both at the prince’s court and in better hotels in Belgrade. In the 1860’s, the ball season in Belgrade was opened by Prince Mihailo Obrenović. The dancing repertoire included Serbian folk and civil dances, as well as modern European dances. Following the example of larger European cities, a trend of dancing in salons was as well widespread among the Serbs. Socialising could spontaneously grow into dancing, and sometimes dancing was the expected grand finale of the evening. In salons one could dance for family entertainment, without guests. In court and civil salons in Belgrade, the gatherings, almost as a rule, ended with dancing of popular international and Serbian folk dances. International salon dances make up about a third of the salon music repertoire for piano. The polka is one of the most frequent international dancing genres in the Serbian piano music of the 19th century. Besides the polka, there are other subtypes of this dance: the polka-mazurka, the polka française, the schnell polka, the polka tremblante, the galopp polka, the polka valse and the polka caprice. After the polka, the waltz is the most frequent international dance genre in the Serbian piano music. Besides the waltzes originally written for the orchestra, numerous waltzes were composed for the piano. The popularity of quadrilles in ballrooms is also reflected in the albums of salon music for the piano. This dance genre, which was composed in a potpourri manner, was especially suitable for having the melodies of popular folk and civil songs arranged in it. While in the first half of the 19th century melodies in the quadrilles were either transcribed from popular operettas or operas, or were originally written by composers, in the second half of the century composers mostly resorted to melodies of Serbian or Slavic folk and civil songs. In the second half of the 19th century, Serbian folk dances, such as kolos, took over the ballrooms and the albums of salon music alike. The approval of the Serbian identity was sought in the kolo, and the emphasis on national characteristics through music was politically dominant in the 19th century.

Author Biography

Marijana Kokanović Marković, University of Novi Sad

PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Music Academy of Arts


Junk, V. (1930). Handbuch des Tanzes. Georg Oleus Verlag. 264 р. [in German].

Kattfuß, J. H. (1800). Taschenbuch für Freunde des Tanzes. Leipzig, 208 p. [in German].

Klemm, B. (1901). Katechismus der Tanzkunst. Leipzig: J. J. Weber, 223 р. [in German].

Kokanović, M. (2004). „Sources“. In: Kornelije Stanković — Collected Works, Piano Music. Book One, ed. D. Petrović and M. Kokanović-Marković, Institute of Musicology, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade; Institute of Culture Vojvodina, Novi Sad, pp. 23–28 [in English].

Kokanović Marković, M. (2020). Forms of Sociability and Entertainment in the Principality of Serbia: Princess Anka Obrenović’s Salons. In: Musicology Today. Journal of the National University of Music. Vol. 10, Issue 4 (40), pp. 263–276 [in English].

Kuhač, F. (1897). Josif Šlezinger. Prvi srpski kapelnik knjaževske garde [Josip Šlezinger, the first Serbian conductor of the prince’s guards]. In: Vienac: zabavi i pouci [The Wreath: To Delight and Educate]. No. 8. Zagreb: Dionička tiskara, pp. 125–126 [in Croatian].

Salmen, W. (1989). Tanz im 19. Jahrhundert. Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik. 178 р. [in German].

Waldau, A. (2003). Böhmische Nationaltänze. Prague: Vitalis, 188 S. [in German].

D. D. (1846). In: Serbske Narodne Novine [Serbian National Newspapers]. No. 9, on 31st January. Pest, pp. 34–35 [in Slovak].

Vuletić, A. and Mijailović, J. (2005). Između posela i balova [From Neighborhood Gatherings to Balls]. Institute for Textbooks and Teaching Aids. Belgrade, 142 р. [in Serbian].

Gikić-Petrović, R. (ed.). (2007). Dnevnik Anke Obrenović (1836−1838) [Anka Obrenović’s Diary (1836−1838)]. Novi Sad, 198 p. [in Serbian].

Ignjatović, J. (1966). Memoari (Rapsodije iz prošlog srpskog života) [Memoirs (Rhapsodies from Past Serbian Life)]. Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga, 576 p. [in Serbian].

Kokanović, M. (2009). Igrački repertoar na srpskim balovima u Habzburškoj monarhiji — društvo i politika na plesnom podijumu u XIX veku [Repertoire of Dances on the Serbian Balls in the Habsburg Monarchy — Society and Politics on the Dance Floor of the 19th Century]. In: Zbornik Matice srpske za scenske umetnosti i muziku [Matica Srpska Journal of Stage Arts and Music]. Issue 41. Novi Sad, pp. 55–65 [in Serbian].

Kokanović, M. (2008). Igre i marševi u srpskoj klavirskoj muzici 19. veka. Kulturna povezanost u javnom i privatnom životu [Dances and Marches in Serbian Piano Music of the 19th Century. Cultural Association of Public and Private Lives]: master’s thesis, Academy of Arts, University of Novi Sad. Novi Sad, 219 р. [in Serbian].

Kokanović Marković, M. (2014). Društvena uloga salonske muzike u životu i sistemu vrednosti srpskog građanstva u 19. veku [Social Role of the Salon Music in the Life and the Value System of the Serbian Citizens in the 19 Century]. Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Belgrade, 273 р. [in Serbian].

Kokanović Marković, M. (2011). Srpski i slovenski balovi u Beču i Štrausova gostovanja u Dunavskim zemljama [Serbian and Slavic Balls in Vienna and Strauss’ Stays in the Danube Countries]. In: Zbornik Matice srpske za scenske umetnosti i muziku [Matica Srpska Journal of Stage Arts and Music]. Issue 44, pp. 115–129 [in Serbian].

Marjanović, N. (2019). Muzika u životu Srba u 19. veku: iz memoarske riznice [Music in the Life of Serbs in the 19th Century: From the Treasury of Memoires]. Novi Sad: Matica srpska; Belgrade: Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 264 р. [in Serbian].

Srbski dnevnik [Serbian Daily News]. (1863). No. 161, Tuesday, on 23rd July, рр. 1 [in Serbian].