The polonaise is a dance which first originated in Poland, with the name ‘polonaise’ being the French word for Polish. The dance has a rhythm that is very similar to the Swedish semiquaver or the Polska; it is highly speculated that the dances all share a common origin, although the precise history is unknown.
The polonaise dance is widespread at carnival parties, and is always the first dance which takes place during the Polish equivalent of the senior prom; an event that takes place around 100 days before final school exams.
The composer Frederic Chopin is probably the most famous of all composers who wrote music for polonaise dances in all of classical music. While there were many, only Chopin’s work was the most extensive. On rare occasions, polonaise dance music has also been used for practical effect. The composer John Philip Sousa wrote the Presidential Polonaise, whose sole goal was to keep the visitors to the White House moving quickly through the receiving line. It was written at the request of President Chester A. Arthur who died before it was finished, but it was performed several times afterwards.