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