Bohemian Polka

(Heel and Toe Polka, Bohemienne)

Contemporary Description

The Position

Waltz position throughout.

The Footwork

In the following descriptions, "heel" means straightened leg extended to the side, heel to the ground, toe raised. "Toe" means toe to the floor, close to the supporting foot, knee slightly bent.

Polka Version: Heel-toe along LOD (1-2), turning polka (3-and-4), repeat opposite, followed by four turning polkas.

Sources: Dodworth 1879, Wilson 1899

Galop Version: Heel-toe along LOD (1-2), turning polka (3-and-4), repeat opposite, followed by two four-slide galops.
Sources: Gilbert 1890, Brown 1891, Witherspoon 1894 & 1897
Casting Version: Heel-toe along LOD (1-2), cast Follow from right arm to left arm with Reverse Polka footwork (3-and-4), repeat opposite, casting Follow from left arm to right arm with Polka footwork.
Sources: Fashionable Ball Room Polka 1844
Long Polka Version: Heel-toe along LOD (1-2), polka x 3.
Sources: Newman 1903
For another version that repeats opposite, see the Combination Polka.

The Music

Polka music.

The Fashionable Ball Room Polka Elegant & Grotesque (1844) gives this music:

Dodworth 1879 gives this music:

© 2015 Nick Enge

(Click to expand)

Historical Descriptions

Second Step (The heel & toe) (The Fashionable Ball Room Polka Elegant & Grotesque, 1844):

1 - Hop on the right leg (a little one) dropping your left heel close to the right toe.

2 - Repeat the little hop on the right, pointing your left toe close to the right heel.

3 - Again the little hop on the right leg, advancing one step forward with the left foot.

Bring up the right foot, turn at the same time and pass your partner over to your left arm. (see figure 4).

In repeating this, substitute the one foot for the other, and one arm for the other, in reading it, and the directions are explicit.



With the heel and toe step Valse up and down passing your lady over from your left arm to your right & from your right to your left alternately.

Bohemian or Heel and Toe Polka (Dodworth, 1879):

The description as here given, is for the lady. The gentleman has simply to substitute the words, left for right, and right for left wherever found; it will then answer for his part.

Right foot: Heel. Toe.* Polka half round. Left foot: Heel. Toe. Polka half round. Polka. Polka. Polka. Polka.

Right foot: Heel. Toe. Polka half round. Left foot: Heel. Toe. Polka half round. Polka. Polka. Polka. Polka.

* At the word heel, place the right heel in a direct line to the side, say twelve or fifteen inches, toe raised—at the same time slightly hop on the other foot. At the word toe, place same foot directly behind the left, with heel raised, at the same time hopping a second time upon the left.

Bohemian Polka (Gilbert, 1890):

First Part:—Hop on the right foot, and at the same time place the left foot to the side (2d), the heel upon the floor, the toe turned upward, 1; hop on the right, and at the same time place left behind (5th), the toe upon the floor, the heel raised, 2; one measure.

Polka, one measure, 1, 2, 3. Repeat the above, making heel and toe with the right foot and following with the polka to the right; in all, four measures.

Second Part:—Glide Polka, four measures. Recommence at first part.

Heel and Toe Polka (Gilbert, 1890):

For description see Bohemian Polka.

Heel and Toe Polka (Brown, 1891):

The features of the Heel and Toe Polka step are best shown in tabular form:

1 2 3 4
Heel and toe, left foot Heel and Toe and
Polka Left Right Left and
Heel and Toe, right foot Heel and Toe and
Polka Right Left Right and
Two side glide steps to left (similar to glide polka) One and Two and
Polka turning Left Right left and
Two side glide steps to right (as before to left) One and Two and
Polka turning Right Left Right and
At the count "heel" the foot is extended to the second position, but with the heel down and the toe raised, and at count "toe," the moving foot is moved to the fifth position, behind the stationary foot, or in other words, starting with left foot, the foot is extended to second position, heel down, and at count "toe," the left foot is moved to fifth position for right foot, except that the weight of the body rest on the right foot. In actual dancing these fifth positions are not conformed to strictly, and often the foot is extended to second position without putting the heel down, and while this leaves out one of the features whence the name of the dance is derived, it does not detract from the elegance of execution.

The lady dances the same steps except that the dance is commenced with the right foot.

From time to time, slight differences in the style of the polka step are introduced for variety; a name is given the innovation, and after a temporary popularity it makes room for something newer. These inventions are so closely allied to the varieties of polka already described that they can be learned at short notice and without difficulty.

The Bohemian or Heel-and-Toe Polka (Witherspoon, 1894 & 1897):

First Step.—Place the left heel on the floor in the second position, resting on the right foot; count one. Bring the toe of the left foot behind the right; count two. Then take the full polka step; count one, two, three.

Second Step.—Place the right heel on the floor, resting on left foot; count one. Bring the toe of the right foot behind the left; count two. Then take the full polka step, count one, two, three.

Third and Fourth, Steps.—Then take three long galop slides with the left foot on accent, and as the right foot is brought up to the left foot for the third time, rest and raise the left foot slightly from the floor. Repeat by sliding with the right foot. The music is in 2/4 time.

Heel-and-Toe Polka (Bohemienne) (Wilson, 1899):

The lady hops slightly on the left foot, and at the same time extends the right to second position with the heel touching the floor and toes raised (1); then hops again, bringing the right foot to fifth position behind the left, toes touching the floor (2).

This occupies one measure of the music, and is followed by one measure of the plain polka, after which the heel-and-toe is repeated with the left foot.

The steps for the gentleman are the same, substituting left for right, and vice versa.

The Heel-and-Toe an the plain polka are thus alternated throughout the dance, or four measures of these two movements combined may be alternated with four measures of the Esmeralda.

Heel and Toe Polka (Newman, 1903):

Left heel to 2d Pos. (1), 1/2 B. Toes of L.F. to 5th Pos., with heel raised (2), 1/2 B. Then three polka steps; turning, starting with L.F., 1 B. Repeat all with R.F., 2 B's. Then finish with the Esmeralda (two slides and three polka steps left and the same right, 4 B's.

For more, including descriptions of 25 different waltzes and hundreds of variations thereof, see Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living a book by Richard Powers and Nick Enge.

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