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The Polovtsian Dances, or Polovetsian Dances (Russian: Половецкие пляски, tr. Polovetskie plyaski from the Russian "Polovtsy"—the name given to the Kipchaks and Cumans by the Rus' people) form an exotic scene at the end of act 2 of Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor.

The work remained unfinished when the composer died in 1887, although he had worked on it for more than a decade. A performing version was prepared by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov in 1890. Several other versions, or "completions", of the opera have been made. The dances are performed with chorus and last between 11 and 14 minutes. They occur in act 1 or act 2, depending on which version of the opera is being used. Their music is popular and often given in concert as an orchestral showpiece. At such performances the choral parts are often omitted. The opera also has a "Polovtsian March" which opens act 3, and an overture at the start. When the dances are given in concert, a suite may be formed: Overture – Polovtsian Dances and March from Prince Igor.



The first dance, which uses no chorus and is sometimes omitted in concerts, is No. 8, entitled "Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens" ["Пляска половецких девушек"]: presto, 6/8, F major; it is placed directly after the "Chorus of the Polovtsian Maidens" which opens the act and is followed by "Konchakovna's Cavatina". The dances proper appear at the end of the Act as an uninterrupted single number in several contrasting sections listed as follows (basic themes are indicated with letters in brackets and notated in the accompanying illustration)

Theme from No. 8

  • No. 17, "Polovtsian Dance with Chorus" ["Половецкая пляска с хором"]
    • [a] Introduction: Andantino, 4/4, A major
    • [b] Gliding Dance of the Maidens [Пляска девушек плавная]: Andantino, 4/4, A major
    • [c + a] Wild Dance of the Men [Пляска мужчин дикая]: Allegro vivo, 4/4, F major
    • [d] General Dance [Общая пляска]: Allegro, 3/4, D major
    • [e] Dance of the Boys [Пляска мальчиков] and 2nd Dance of the Men [Пляска мужчин]: Presto, 6/8, D minor
    • [b’ + e’] Gliding Dance of the Maidens (reprise, soon combined with the faster dancing of the boys): Moderato alla breve, 2/2, A major
    • [e’’] Dance of the Boys and 2nd Dance of the Men (reprise): Presto, 6/8, D minor
    • [c’ + a’’] General Dance: Allegro con spirito, 4/4, A major

Themes from No. 17






Notable instrumental solos include the clarinet (in No. 8 and the Men's Dance [c]) and the oboe and English horn (in the Women's Dance [b]).


The text of the first stanza of this particular section in the opera is given below.


Улетай на крыльях ветра
Ты в край родной, родная песня наша,
Туда, где мы тебя свободно пели,
Где было так привольно нам с тобою.
Там, под знойным небом,
Негой воздух полон,
Там под говор моря
Дремлют горы в облаках;
Там так ярко солнце светит,
Родные горы светом заливая,
В долинах пышно розы расцветают,
И соловьи поют в лесах зеленых,
И сладкий виноград растет.
Там тебе привольней, песня,
Ты туда и улетай.
Пойте песни славы хану! Пой!
Славьте силу, дочесть хана! Славь!
Славен хан! Хан!
Славен он, хан наш!
Блеском славы
Солнцу равен хан!
Нету равных славой хану! Нет!
Чаги хана славят хана.
Хана своего.


Uletay na krylyakh vetra
Ty v kraj rodnoy, rodnaya pesnya nasha,
Tuda, gde my tebya svobodno peli,
Gde bylo tak privolno nam s tobyu.
Tam, pod znoynym nebom,
Negoy vozdukh polon,
Tam pod govor morya
Dremlut gory v oblakakh;
Tam tak yarko solntse svetit,
Rodnyye gory svetom zalivaya,
V dolinakh pyshno rozy rastsvetayut,
I solovyi poyut v lesakh zelyonykh,
I sladkiy vinograd rastyot.
Tam tebe privolney, pesnya,
Ty tuda i uletay.
Poyte pesni slavy khanu! Poy!
Slav'te silu, dochest' khana! Slav'!
Slaven khan! Khan!
Slaven on, khan nash!
Bleskom slavy
Solntsu raven khan!
Nyetu ravnykh slavoy khanu! Nyet!
Chagi khana slavyat khana.
Khana svoyego.

English translation[2]

Fly on the wings of the wind
To our native land, dear song of ours,
There, where we have sung you at liberty,
Where we felt so free in singing you.
There, under the hot sky,
The air is full of bliss,
There to the sound of the sea
The mountains doze in the clouds;
There the sun shines so brightly,
Bathing the native mountains in light,
Splendid roses blossom in the valleys,
And nightingales sing in the green forests.
And sweet grapes grow.
You are free there, song,
Fly home,
Sing songs of praise to the Khan! Sing!
Praise the power and valor of the Khan!
Praise the glorious Khan!
He is glorious, our Khan!
In the brilliance of his glory,
The Khan is equal to the sun!
There is none equal to the Khan in glory, none!
The Khan female slaves praise the Khan,
Their Khan!

The English translation of the remaining is:

Konchak [the Khan]
Do you see the captives
From the distant sea;
Do you see my beauties,
From beyond the Caspian Sea?
Oh, tell me, friend,
Tell me just one word:
If you want to,
I will give you anyone of them.

Sing songs of praise to the Khan! Sing!
Praised be his generosity, praised be his mercy!
Praise him!
To his enemies the Khan is merciless
He, our Khan!
Who may equal the Khan in glory, who?
In the brilliance of his glory,
He is equal to the sun!
Our Khan, Khan Konchak, is equal
In glory to his forefathers!
The terrible Khan Konchak is equal
In glory to his forefathers!
Glorious is our Khan Konchak!
Glory, glory!

All the Slaves
(Repeats the opening stanza)

Our Khan, Khan Konchak, is equal
In glory to his forefathers!
The grim Khan Konchak is equal
In glory to his forefathers!
Glory, glory to Khan Konchak!
Khan Konchak!
With your dancing entertain the Khan,
Dance to entertain the Khan, slaves!
Your Khan!
Dance to entertain the Khan, slaves!
Your Khan!
With your dancing entertain the Khan!
Entertain with dancing!
Our Khan Konchak![2]

Ballets Russes performancesEdit

As part of his first Saison Russe at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Sergei Diaghilev presented Polovtsian Scenes and Dances, consisting of act 2 of Prince Igor, with full orchestra and singers. The premiere took place on 18 May 1909. The choreography was by Michel Fokine and the sets and costumes were designed by Nicholas Roerich. In later seasons, without singers, the work was given as The Polovtsian Dances. For the 1923 season, it was partly re-choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska.[3]

References in popular cultureEdit

Most of the themes from No. 17 were incorporated into the 1953 musical Kismet, best known of which is the women's dance ("Gliding Dance of the Maidens"), adapted for the song "Stranger in Paradise". Thirteen years earlier, in 1940, Artie Shaw recorded "My Fantasy" (credited to composers Paul Whiteman, Jack Meskill, and Leo Edwards), which has a tune virtually identical to this dance. Paul Whiteman adapted the music from the Polovtsian Dances theme from Prince Igor (1890). The Paul Whiteman Orchestra recorded "My Fantasy" in 1939.[citation needed]

A hip-hop song version of the music was produced by Warren G and Sissel Kyrkjebø for the album The Rhapsody, simply entitled "Prince Igor". The single was released in 1997, along with the album.[citation needed]

The theme was also used in the Massive Attack song "Karmacoma", from the album Protection in 1994. The theme also appears on a 2015 music album entitled Classical Made Modern.[4]

The heavy-metal song "Lonely Winds of War" by Masterplan also uses the melody in the chorus.[citation needed]

More recent adaptations of the music include the following:

  • Dutch singer Petra Berger used "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" as the musical setting for her song about Mata Hari, "The Girl Looking into Me," from the album Eternal Woman (2001).
  • Julio Iglesias recorded the Polovtsian Dances under the title Quiéreme in his album Emociones, a Spanish homage to Borodin's masterpiece.[citation needed]
  • British string quartet bond recorded an instrumental version of the women's dance in their album Shine, renamed "Strange Paradise" to fit with Kismet's use of the melody.[citation needed]
  • Different adaptations of No. 17 "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" have been featured as background music in several Japanese animated TV series, including Princess Tutu, Noir, Kare Kano, Hibike! Euphonium and Blood Blockade Battlefront, while it is given a special significance in RahXephon. The track "The Garden of Everything" on the top 10 Maaya Sakamoto single "Tune the Rainbow" uses it as a sub-melody. Polovtsian Dance was also Hideaki Anno's original choice to open Neon Genesis Evangelion before A Cruel Angel's Thesis was produced.[citation needed]
  • An arranged version of the song was used in the Nintendo DS game Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times and played on clear summer evenings.[citation needed]
  • An arranged version of the song was created and used as the opening theme to the PlayStation 2 video game, The Sword of Etheria. The vocals are performed by Martha Matsuda. This arrangement was adapted for 'Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2.'[citation needed]
  • An arranged version of the song was used as one of the themes for the puzzle stages in the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 video game, Catherine.[citation needed]
  • A remixed version of the song is used in the level Sarumon's Castle in the PlayStation 2 game Ape Escape 3.[citation needed]
  • The opening theme of the 2012 Japanese anime series "Appleseed XIII" is an adaptation of the original melody.[citation needed]
  • A piano version of Polovtsian Dance #2 is used in the Burial at Sea, episode 1 expansion for Bioshock: Infinite.[5]
  • In the 1970s there was a television commercial for a classical music compilation set entitled 120 Music Masterpieces, that tried to hook viewers by arguing that many of their favorite tunes were actually classical pieces. The narrator (British actor John Williams) speaks at the beginning of the spot, with "Stranger in Paradise" playing in the background, and says, "I'm sure you recognize this lovely melody, A Stranger in Paradise. But did you know that the original theme was from the Polovetsian Dance Number 2 by Borodin?"[citation needed]
  • Polovtsian Dances was used a large number of times throughout the film Fire Maidens of Outer Space[citation needed]
  • The "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" section is played, to suggest loneliness and despair, during the pilot episode of the cartoon series "Ren and Stimpy" when Ren and Stimpy are jailed at the dog pound.[citation needed]
  • The "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" was performed at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.[citation needed]
  • The music was used in a Turf Builder commercial that aired during the 2016 NCAA broadcast on CBS.[citation needed]
  • The song 'Nomad' in the album 'Metamorphosis,' by the French composer/singer Luc Arbogast, utilizes a remixed version of "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" with rewritten lyrics. The album was released in 2016.[6] It was also featured in one of the promotional music videos for the album.[7]
  • The "Gliding Dance of the Maidens" is depicted as being played by the Minami Middle School concert band in season 2, episode 1 of the 2016 Japanese anime Sound! Euphonium.[citation needed]
  • American Figure skater Nathan Chen uses a shortened version of the song for his 2016-2017 free skate program.[8]


  1. ^   Russian Wikisource has original text related to this article: Князь Игорь (Бородин)/Либретто — Викитека
  2. ^ a b "Alexander Borodin : Prince Igor : Opera in four acts and a prologue; Libretto by the composer after The Lay of the Host of Igor" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  3. ^ Garofala, Lynn. Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. (New York: DaCapo Press, 1998). p. 384.
  4. ^ "Classical Made Modern – Contemporary music for the smart listener". Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ sabinfire (2016-12-11), 2016 GPF - Nathan Chen FS NBC HD, retrieved 2018-03-26
  • Borodin, A. Le Prince Igor. Partition pour chant et piano. Edition M.P. Belaieff. (Russian, French, and German text.)

External linksEdit