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Archive for November, 2009

After the fall of the Berlin Wall

November 9, 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event that precipitated the collapse of the communist-run Soviet Union and signaled the end of a division that had separated Europe for decades.

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(Video hosted on Youtube & PBS)
After the fall of the Berlin Wall

he Berlin Wall was the concrete barrier between West Germany — governed by democratic Western powers — and communist-ruled East Germany. It also separated the city of Berlin into two parts, split families and created hardships on both sides. To mark the occasion, current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a trip to the United States, thanked Americans for helping Germany reunite after the wall fell. “Today’s generation needs to prove that it is able to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Merkel said, “and that, in a sense, we are able to tear down walls of today.” Leaders and officials from around the world will gather in Berlin for official anniversary celebrations.

On November 9, 1989, as communism began to decline in many countries in Eastern Europe, a government official mistakenly announced that visa restrictions would be eased effective immediately. Crowds of Berliners from both sides of the city began to storm the wall and during weeks of euphoric celebration, the wall was destroyed. East and West Germany reunited in October of 1990. “It was one of those moments when you know this is a turning point in history, just as the beginning of the building of the wall in 1961 was a turning point,” MacNeil said.

The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer) was a concrete barrier built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) that completely enclosed the city of West Berlin, separating it from East Germany, including East Berlin. The Wall included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) that contained anti-vehicle trenches, “fakir beds” and other defenses.

The separate and much longer Inner German Border (the IGB) demarcated the border between East and West Germany. Both borders came to symbolize the Iron Curtain between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc.

Before the Wall’s erection, 3.5 million East Germans had avoided Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions and escaped from the GDR, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin. From West Berlin, emigrants could travel to West Germany and other Western European countries. During its existence from 1961 to 1989, the Wall stopped almost all such emigration and separated the GDR from West Berlin for more than a quarter of a century. After its erection, around 5,000 people attempted to escape over the wall, with estimates of the resulting death toll varying between around 100 and 200.

Form: PBS

Polka Time

Minnesota’s Gibbon Polka Fest hosts thousands of polka-loving partiers in this high-spirited doc. Polka originated as a Czech peasant dance. Historic folklore has it that a peasant girl named Anna Slezak invented the steps one day for her own amusement. The word “pulka” is derived from the Czech phrase for “half-step,” which refers to the dance pattern of lightly stepping from one foot to the other.

The polka dance was first introduced to Prague ballrooms in 1835, and to Paris ballrooms in 1840. French dancers took to polka immediately, and it soon grew wildly popular. Polka eventually reached England and the United States by the late 1840s. In the twentieth century, Polish American immigrants adopted the polka as their national dance. Today, polka is one of the few dances that originated during the nineteenth century that is still popular worldwide.

This text will be replaced

(Video hosted on Youtube & PBS)
Polka Time

rom accordionist Lawrence Welk to the bands seen in POLKA TIME, live music remains an integral part to any polka dance. The standard polka song has a 2/4 beat and is structured around four verses and a chorus, which is sung after each verse or after every two verses. Many polka songs are about loss, love and even food.

A standard polka band might include bass, trumpet, clarinet, saxophone and drums, although different varieties of Polish polkas include different combinations of instruments, such as the accordion and the concertina. The two other kinds of mainstream polka are Czech and German. Newer polka stylings such as Texas Polka and even punk polka further blend other instruments and genres with classic polkas.

The Dance

Polka dancers perform in pairs or couples, either in the face-to-face waltz position or while standing side by side, with the man’s arm around the woman’s waist and her hand on his shoulder. One characteristic of dancing the polka is the half-step, or hop, that precedes the first step. Some dancers omit the hop entirely, while other simply reduce it to a quick rise and fall of the weighted foot before beginning the first step.

The basic polka step is done in four counts. Begin with standing with your weight on your right foot. Give the preliminary hop on the right foot, then step forward on your left foot. Close the right foot to the left, taking weight on the right foot, and step again on the left foot. Then hold for a beat, keeping weight on the left foot. Repeat this series of steps again, except using the opposite foot—using the left foot for the hop and the right foot as the one that steps forward, for instance.

Now you can move backwards, forwards, left and right. Polka dancers move across the floor in all directions while dancing, and not in any strict line or formation, as seen at the Gibbon Polka Fest in POLKA TIME.

Sources :

Polka History of Dance

Polka Interview

How to Dance the Polka


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