Today’s New York Times has a great article (“A Rural Dance Tradition in Twilight”) on the slow decline of polka in Nebraska. The piece explores polka’s place in Midwestern culture — “a music with little commercial viability but a strong social function” — and looks at the fans and musicians keeping the tradition alive. While the dwindling farming population plays a role in polka’s wane, some enthusiasts, like 68-year-old Darlene Kliment, blame themselves for not doing more to encourage the younger generation:
“It’s our generation’s fault… When we were growing up, our parents would take us to the dances. We’d fall asleep on the side of the stage, or in the booths. But then when our generation grew up, we got baby sitters.”
Of course, Nebraska isn’t alone; the same story is playing out in communities across the Midwest and East Coast. As the older, polka-loving generation fades, who will take their place on the dance floor?
Be sure to check out the excellent audio slideshow that accompanies the article. It includes photos from a polka dance at the Starlite Ballroom in Wahoo, as well as brief interviews with local Nebraska polka fans and musicians.