The Mazurka is a Polish country dance. It comes from an area called Mazovia near Warsaw where the people are called Mazurs. It was known in the 16th century. In the 17th century its popularity spread all over Poland and by the 19th century it was becoming known in England and then the United States. The Mazurka is very similar to the Kujawiak which is a dance from another district near Warsaw.
The Mazurka is a lively dance in 3/4 metre. It has lots of dotted rhythms and the fourth note of the scale is often sharpened. The dancers often click their heels on the 2nd or 3rd beat of the bar. The speed is not always fast, it can be slow, but it is a wilder dance than the waltz which is also in 3/4 time and had become very popular as a ballroom dance.
The composer Frédéric Chopin wrote more than 50 mazurkas for the piano. Chopin really shows his genius in these pieces. They are very beautiful and there is a lot of variety and interest in them. Many of them are not all that difficult to play. Some of them have very chromatic bits in them.
There were other classical composers who wrote Mazurkas, but none of them are as good as those of Chopin. Some Russian composers like Glinka and Tchaikovsky wrote several mazurkas. It was danced a lot in Russia in the 19th century and it is mentioned a lot in Russian novels. In the 20th century Karol Szymanowski wrote several mazurkas.