Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.6

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Poland has nominated Polonaise, traditional Polish dance (No. 01982) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The polonaise is a joyful Polish group dance, which can be enacted by a few to even several hundreds of pairs marching in procession, following a trajectory proposed by the first pair. The basic step involves bending one leg while taking a step forward with the other. During the dance, the pairs perform various figures, such as raising joined hands to create bridges under which other participants can pass. As the tempo of the polonaise is moderate, participants with no prior experience can observe others and join in on the dance. Today, the tradition of dancing the polonaise is inextricably linked with prom – a ball for high school students. In some communities, the polonaise is also danced at weddings, new year’s or carnival balls and other celebrations. The practice is typically transmitted within families and in educational institutions, dance groups and local communities. As it is widely present in Polish culture, general awareness of the dance and its social meanings are increased by literature, music and film. A form of joint celebration, the polonaise commemorates important moments in family and community life and symbolizes cooperation, reconciliation and equality. Because it is often danced by people of all ages and backgrounds, it also promotes unity, solidarity and dialogue.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:  Students, teachers, instructors and members of amateur and professional dance groups are involved, as is the general public. The dance is performed in cultural centres, dance clubs as well as in high schools and universities. Local communities and governments play an important role in organizing manifestations of the dance in urban streets and squares. Transmission takes place through participation and instruction within families and communities, in educational institutions and dance groups. Physical education teachers play a large part in its transmission, as it is inextricably linked to the school prom. The polonaise has widely recognized social relevance, representing the values of cooperation, reconciliation, harmony and equality. It is also associated with hope and optimism for the future. It has a strong commemorative and celebratory character and is a means of building community, forming cultural identity and increasing awareness of family and local history. The element is open to anyone who wishes to participate.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription would strengthen collaboration between schools, cultural centres, dance groups and local authorities, while also fostering reflections about the role of intangible cultural heritage in identity building and intergenerational collaboration. The media attention resulting from inscription would increase general interest in dance as a form of cultural identity, improving the visibility of other similar elements. With dialogue, equality and cooperation as core features of the Polonaise, its inscription would lead, at the national level, to increased collaboration, including among minority groups such as people with disabilities and people from migrant backgrounds. Since all social, religious and ethnic groups living in Poland are engaged in the polonaise, its continuous reinterpretation reflects the diversity of the people involved as well as individual and group creativity. At the international level, inscription will inspire closer cooperation between dance groups from different countries, as well as among research institutions operating in the fields of dance and music.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include formal and informal education, workshops, tournaments and research. Local government entities provide institutional, organizational and financial support. The proposed safeguarding measures, which include educational and promotional activities, are aimed at tackling challenges affecting the transmission of the element. A main driver for safeguarding is the continuation of support to local organizations, especially dance groups. Measures also include establishing new collaborations between different types of institutions and knowledge circulation, such as through a dedicated website, publications, events and social media promotion. The proposed measures however, provide limited information on long term safeguarding measures.

R.4:   Communities were involved in the nomination process in two phases. First, through participating in workshops, consultations and conferences; and second, through contributing to the actual preparation of the nomination file. The Nationwide Conference on Culture, held in 2018, was an important component that resulted in the inclusion of Polonaise in the national inventory of intangible cultural heritage. A series of meetings between practitioners, community representatives and safeguarding experts took place in 2021. An information campaign was launched, and the communities, groups and individuals concerned were involved in drafting parts of the nomination and selecting photos and videos. Polonaise dancers were also involved in and informed about the nomination during public and outdoor events. The consent letters, in the form of petitions, are accompanied by many signatures from dance groups, students, institutions and NGOs, among others.

R.5:   After their participation in the 2018 Nationwide Conference on Culture, bearers involved in safeguarding the Polonaise worked to inscribe the element on the Polish National List of intangible cultural heritage in 2019. The national inventory is updated three to four times a year and is monitored by the National Institute of Cultural Heritage. Applicants or representatives of the communities, groups or organizations concerned must submit periodic reports on the implementation of safeguarding plans every five years.

  1. Decides to inscribe Polonaise, traditional Polish dance on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party of the importance of ensuring the most active possible participation of the communities concerned in every aspect of the safeguarding measures;
  3. Further reminds the State Party of the importance of developing long term safeguarding measures.