stara baba

This and similar names are applied to a few dances from different regions of Poland. The baba is performed in a different way in Warmia, Opole, Kurpie or Spisz regions; in fact, these dances share nothing but the name. The stara baba from Kurpie region is the most complex in terms of choreography.

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Stara baba (old woman) was probably brought to Kurpie by Olender settlers from the neighbouring Mazury region. It is a fast dance, 2/4 metre, performed in sets of four pairs who are called to the middle of the room by the party host or dance leader. The pairs form a square, standing at its corners. The dance is named after the first words of the accompanying song about an old woman (przyśpiewka): Stara baba, a dziod młody, pognali byśki do wody. Od wody, od siana, moja babo kochana! The dancers move in closed dyszlowe handhold with a sideways gallop (cwał) toward the centre of the room and back. When two pairs approach each other along the room’s diagonal, the other two pairs stand in place or rotate once in place and next, they move toward the centre of the room and back. They rotate in place, moving from one foot to another, and end with accentuated stamping and outward arm swinging like in olender dance (sometimes just with double stamps, without disconnecting the hands). While dancing, the pairs may pass each other along the square’s diagonals or sides. While passing, they may switch partners, and later, return them or give over when the pairs meet again in the room centre or at the side. The dance ends with double or triple stamping in place after the last rotation in place in the square’s corners.

In Warmia and Mazury regions, baba was a mocking dance performed at both rural and town parties. The dancers moved quite slowly and sluggishly, with stamping and exaggerated swaying to the sides (bukanie), imitating the walk of an old woman. In Spisz region, stara baba used to be part of the bride’s unveiling ceremony (oczepiny) and involved the bride dancing with different wedding guests. In Opole region, staro babo was danced to the accompanying song (przyśpiewka) about an old woman: Powiedz, stara babo, po czym grabie są? Powiedz, stara babo, po czym grabie są? Po dwa, po trzy i po cztery, kiere lepsze są. The pairs in open hold (for example, like in polonez), formed two rows that slowly performed several (most often, six) steps toward each other and then walked backward to their original place. Returning to place was accentuated with three stamps in place followed by the pair’s full turn to the left, then again three stamps in place, and a full turn to the right.


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