Heel toe polka

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A very common dance and melody in Central Canada, named for the heel-toe step that is typically performed during the refrain.

The dance is sometimes associated with Канадо, канадо, яка ти мні мила and Гоп-стоп Канада.

From "New Ethnicity and Ukrainian Canadian Social Dances" by Andriy Nahachewsky:

The heel-and-toe polka is a popular dance across the prairies in Ukrainian settled areas, although not all early settlers agree that it originates from pre-emigration times. This polka seems suddenly to have become a popular dance around 1900, both in the Ukrainian source areas and in the Canadian destination areas, perhaps introduced there simultaneously in similar forms by several immigrant groups. In Canada, Ukrainians know this dance only by the names “heel-and-toe polka” or “toe-heel polka.” In Ukraine, one of the popular names for this dance is Kanada (Canada). The dance is associated with a song text from the Turn of the Century dealing with the early migrants’ experiences in Canada.

Khodzhu po Kanadi tai myli rakhuiu
De nia nich zakhopyt, tam perenochuiu.

As I walk through Canada, I count the miles
Wherever nightfall finds me, there I bed down.
[A reference to the scary wide-open prairie, searching for work, homelessness

... Kanado, Kanado, iaka zh ty zradlyva,
Ne odnoho muzha z zhinkov rozluchyla.

. . . O Canada, Canada, how deceitful you are,
You have separated many a husband from his wife.
[A reference to migrant workers/farmers who left wives and children in Europe].

The song became quite popular in several parts of western Ukraine, including the area of Borshchiv. It was not encouraged by the authorities during the Soviet period, but was never uniformly banned. After all, the text presents a negative description of the capitalist outmigration. Recently, the dance seems to have become somewhat more popular again. In its newer versions, however, one word of the first verse has been changed, and Canada is described as a land of riches:

Khodzhu po Kanadi, doliary rakhuiu
De nia nich zakhopyt, tam perenochuiu.

As I walk through Canada, I count my dollars
Wherever nightfall finds me, there I bed down.
[A light-hearted portrayal of the care-free attitude of a rich person who can afford to do anything s/he wants].
[Ukrainian Folklore Archives 1995.031]

Although the text of this song is rendered in the first person, this accompanying dance does not represent a direct expression of ethnic identification. The Ukrainians in Ukraine are not identifying themselves as Canadians, but rather they are parodying such an identity. Roman Harasymchuk conducted fieldwork in the Ternopil’ province in the 1950s and reported he had discovered a local narrative about the origins of this dance among Ukrainian migrants who learned it in Canada and then returned to Ukraine (Harasymchuk 1960:158). This story may or may not be historically justified, although the song and the dance were both known among Ukrainian settlers in Canada in several variants (Nahachewsky 1985:157–161). Whereas this dance and song combination had the potential to strike a chord among Ukrainian Canadians because it referred to their experiences in the New World so specifically, the opportunity was patently missed. The two were rarely, if ever, connected in Canada to make a statement in dance about identity. This situation, again, is consistent with the conclusion that participatory dances rarely involve statements about ethnic identity.

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