[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] With an animal-like natural rhythem, John Bartyczak moved his wife Marge up and down the floor, their faces sweating, Marge's skirt flying, their shoulders bobbing up and down.
As they strutted across the floor, John spun Marge in a pretzel-like step, while other couples watched in envy.
But wasn't this supposed to be the Harvest Polka Dance?
Am I in the right place, a reporter asked an elderly woman sitting next to him.
"You sure are, sonny," she said, whisking the reporter onto the dance floor.
Ah, the polka . . . what a wonderful dance.
To do a dance that at least resembles the polka, a novice learns, you first put one foot in front of the other, and then add a lot of right-left-right and quick, quick, slow motions. Thankfully, there were a lot of willing teachers at the Harvest Polka Dance held recently by the Polish-American Club of Woodbridge at the Lorton Fire Hall.
But disco music?
John and Marge Bartyczak, of Oakton, were not even slightly fazed by the infusion of disco music at a polka dance. They have been doing the polka for most of their 40-plus years and have watched it change through several styles of music.
"We do a more Americanized polka than most people," Bartyczak conceded between numbers. "You have a variety of different ethnic groups here. Some are Polish, some German, some Czechoslovakian, some French, others Hungarian. They're all here to dance the polka. And they all do it differently."
Many of the older couples danced the traditional style, generally characterized by a hop step-step-step, or a heel-and-toe variation, done to 2/4 time.
Although most people were dressed casually, several men, like Chet Marciniak, were dressed in traditional Polish red blazers. His wife Elayne was beautifully outfitted in an embroidered vest and a full skirt, called a krakowiaki, and had a wreath of flowers in her hair.
The band -- "The Boys from Baltimore," -- alternated traditional polkas with upbeat disco numbers, and nearly everyone stayed on the floor.
"For a lot of people, dancing the polka is a way to remember their heritage, a way to go home," Bartyczak said. "Most polka dancers find American ballroom dancing boring, but with the polka, everyone can work out their own style."
Band member Steve Matousek, 23, said the band's steady employment demonstrates that the polka is in step with the times. "The polka is a lot bigger than people realize. We play every weekend, sometimes two or three times a weekend."
"As a matter of fact," interrupted bandleader Ted Borzymowski, "we just got back from a polka convention in Ocean City, where there were thousands of people."
Ray Bazan, founder of the Woodbridge Club, said, "If you wanted to, you could find a dance every weekend in the Washington area. And if you stretch it up to Baltimore and Pennsylvania, you could dance the polka every night. In the last 10 years, it's really blossomed in the Washington area."
In fact, you might call it a rebirth. In the early 1840s, just as the waltz craze began to decline, Europe was struck by "polkamania."
As one historian recounted, "All did not die of it, but all alike took the disease. Society resisted for a time . . . but the fame of this dance became so widespread and its popularity so immense that, at last, a duchess opened the doors of her reception rooms to admit it."
The London Times of 1844 wrote: "Our private letters state that politics are now for the moment suspended in public regard by the new and all-absorbing pursuit, the polka."
Newspapers were filled with polka stories: page upon page devoted to representations of the grotesque experiences of would-be learners. Books, novels, plays, poems and even a Polka Almanac surfaced in 1845.
Now, nearly a century and a half later, it seems that polkamania is back.
"Polka dances are booming," said Bazan, "because we get bands that play everything. A lot of rock and roll bands and country western bands aren't flexible."
"I've been dancing the polka since I could walk," said one woman. Carol Weitz, 15, of Lorton, said, "My dad taught me last year. I think it's a change of pace. You can really dance to it. There's a basic step and once you get it, it's easier than rock and roll and disco."
But one dancer, Millie Magyar, seemed to sum it up best: "Every Polish dance is like going to a wedding. Everybody's happy."