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Dignified ceremonial dance in time, frequently employing dotted rhythms, that often opened court balls in the 17th–19th century. It likely began as a warrior's triumphal dance and had been adopted by the Polish court as a formal march as early as 1573. The dancers promenaded with gliding steps accented by bending the knee slightly on every third step. It often appeared in ballets, and it was used as a musical form by composers such as George Frideric Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven, and especially Frédéric Chopin, whose piano polonaises were martial and heroic.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on polonaise, visit Britannica.com.