Jackie Donnan’s mazurka

Also known as Jackie Donnan’s Varsovienne.

There are 3 recordings of this tune.

Jackie Donnan's has been added to 27 tunebooks.

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Four settings

X: 1
T: Jackie Donnan's
R: mazurka
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:A>F D2 D2|F>A d2 d2|c>d e2 e>d|c>d E2- E>G|
(3GFE D2 D2|F>A d2 d2|c>d e2 e>f|g>e d4:|
|:a>f d2 d>e|f>g B2 B2|A>c e2 e>f|g>e a2- a>f|
a>f d2 d>e|f>g B2 B2|A>c e2 e>f|g>e d4:|
X: 2
T: Jackie Donnan's
R: mazurka
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:d/|B>A G2 G2|B>d g2 g2|f>g a2 a>g|f<g A2- A>c|
(3cBA G2 G2|B>d g2 g2|f>g a2 a>b|c'>a g2- g3/2:|
|:d'/|b>a g2 g>a|b>c' e2 e2|d>f a2 a>b|c'>a d'2- d'>b|
d'>b g2 g>a|b>c' e2 e2|d>f a2- a>b|(3c'ba g2- g3/2:|
X: 3
T: Jackie Donnan's
R: mazurka
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:A/|F>E D2 D2|F>A d2 d2|c>d e2 e>d|c>d E2 E>G|
F>E D2 D2|F>A d2 d2|c>d e2 e>f|(3gfe d2- d3/2:|
|:f/|a>f d2 d2|f>g B2 B2|A>c e2 e>f|(3gfe a2 a>^g|
a>f d2 d2|f>g B2 B2|A>c e2- e>f|g>e d2- d3/2:|
X: 4
T: Jackie Donnan's
R: mazurka
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:D/|B,>A, G,2 G,2|B,>D G2 G2|F>G A2 A>G|F<G A,2- A,>C|
(3CB,A, G,2 G,2|B,>D G2 G2|F>G A2 A>B|c>A G2- G3/2:|
|:d/|B>A G2 G>A|B>c E2 E2|D>F A2- A>B|c>A d2- d>B|
d>B G2 G>A|B>c E2 E2|D>F A2 A>B|(3cBA G2- G3/2:|

Twelve comments

A matter of endings and choice - a sample:

alternate endings +
A part:

|1 ge d3 a:| -

back into a simple bar 1 variant:

|(3gfe D2 D2| - etc…

and finally the second ending

|2 ge d3 f||

and for part B:

|1 ge d3 f:|2 ge d4||

That Hornpipe/Mazurka thang - - -

While it seems we’re not notating it, these mazurkas/Varsoviennes and hornpipes share the skip, that is, as an example:

|G>A B2 D2| - or - |b>c d>G B>d|

Rhythm - Tempo

These are really nice sounding tunes (Mazurka’s in General - Varsovienne’s in particular) but - how fast are they normally played and are they still a dance tune?

Are they common in any particular region?

The syncopated 3/4 time is tantalizing …

DONNAN not Doonan

Having spent 4 years trying unsuccessfully to get the INS to spell my name correctly, I am sensitive to misnaming. It’s actually Jackie DONNAN. As far as I remember, Jackie is a fiddler from county Down in the north of Ireland. This was a very popular session tune with northern lads in the late 70s/ early 80s and I think they had a hand in spreading it.

Jackie Donnan

This was recorded by "Boys Of The Lough" as Jackie Donnan’s mazurka - nothing at all to do with the Doonans. And I’m fairly certain they played the parts the other way round.

Posted by .

Jackie Donnan’s

They’re played at normal waltz tempo,in a dotted rhythm.If they were played "straight" then the dancers couldn’t dance the mazurka.

Alright gang - it’s mia culpa again, sorry, all apologies - - - and the difference between Ms and Vs

Anyone stumbling across my meager offerings will have come across the word ‘DYSLEXIA’. I am a dyslexic, and sometimes I screw up on spelling, duh… Yes, much apology as I especially hate getting names wrong. I should look more than three times when I write these things - Donnan! - not Doonan…

There is sufficient information in my comments about the issues of Varsoviennes, and no, it isn’t the other way around, but if you’re just a session musician and unfamiliar with the dance, it probably really doesn’t matter does it, how you throw it together. The dance and the tunes that accompany them, Varsoviennes, are as I’ve given. I’ve tried to keep the tune comments I make to just the tunes I contribute, except for alternate tune names.

Names, so much of this stuff is just ‘GAN AINM’, without name, as I’d originally learned them, with the association with the dance and its name. I only conceded the use of the name ‘Jackie Donnan’s’ because he and his clan are responsible for so many folks knowing it as a mazurka, and others have recorded it by this name. I’m trying to avoid ‘Gan Ainm’ and to attribute with names in the future, at least the best known or my known source.

Mazurka, shmazurka, Varovienne, Versavianna - while they share a similar form, 3/4, they aren’t waltzes, and they are different from each other, and even while there is a close tie to the footwork and moves, there is a difference between the M and the V of it as well. But alas, sadly, not so much is acknowledged in some sessions, where everything in 3/4 times, sometimes even marches, can come out sounding too Strauss or Sousa for me, fun yeah, but it is nice to hear the differences, which aren’t all that subtle…

Another Addendum

Still tantalized with the rhythm, I ran across this on the internet … (Which ultimately has NOTHING to do with the way you end up playing it in a session.}

"—-The Varsoviana (Italy) or Varsovienne (France) is a slow dance in 3/4 time having an accented down beat in alternate measures. The Varsovienne was originally from Warsaw in 1850 in honor of Mount Vesuvius and was introduced to France by a young dance instructor named Désiré and America in 1853. The Little Foot Dance and Schottische are related. The Varsoviana was one of the smoothest and graceful dances known and it was the most popular of the dances done at the time.

—-Reilley’s Amateur Vademecum states:
"Music—3-4 or 3-8 time. This is a very pleasing and graceful Waltz, and is executed in two parts; the first part consists of the polka step repeated four times, and the second part of two mazourkas and one polka, repeated for the first time, and the polka-redowa for the second execution of the second part, and so on, using the mazourka and polka redowa in the second part."


Take partner in a shoulder waist hold. Face anti-clockwise round the circle. Men on the inside.

Lady turns in front the man, so that her right hand is on the man’s left shoulder, and the man’s left hand is round the lady’s waist.Put free hands in the air, and outside heels on the ground away from your partner.
Lady’s roll back to where they started the dance.Put free hands in the air, and outside heels on the ground away from your partner.
Repeat 1 and 2.
Starting on outside foot step forward, close with inside foot, step forward on outside foot, and hop on it. Step forward on inside foot close with outside foot, step forward on inside foot, and hop on it.
Repeat 1,4 and 2.
Waltz about 6 bars and then repeat 2.
Start dance again.


Webster’s 1913 Dictionary

Definition: \Var`so`vienne"\, n. [F., prop. fem. of varsovien
pertaining to Warsaw, fr. Varsovie Warsaw, Pol. Warszawa.]
(a) A kind of Polish dance.
(b) Music for such a dance or having its slow triple time
characteristic strong accent beginning every second

Vs - Ms - & Past Fantasies

Have I created a monster? Little do you know, or me for that matter. The monster is greater than the sum of its parts…


You have to take anything written in history, especially dance and music, with that ‘grain of salt’. They often didn’t document anything and tended to just write down the current gossip or fancy, or what was taken with ‘airs’ as ‘correct’, or ‘accepted’, whether or not there was any substance to back it. And then other writers use these fancies as their sources. Honest, I’ve read tons of this stuff, and the subject of things ‘Irish’ has generated a good share. I think that the Leprecauns should stick to making music and keep away from pen and paper.

Sometimes the material better represents itself than the stories that attach themselves to it. For example, when you are familiar with both the music and the dances associated with both the Mazurka and the Varsovienne, it is clear they are related, and not just by names. Both have that Polish association. Sometimes they even share bits back and forth - music, steps, figures. Getting really close, there’s only a matter of style and a slight difference between them, even as they survived and were danced in Eire.

No one seems to question the Mazurka’s origins. Hey, they were in love with all that pomp and circumstance back then, as much as we are now, loving fantasy, a man in uniform. Damned those Polish officers’ outfits are flash kit, eh? The ladies were especially taken by the tight trousers. Anyway, the Varsovienne shows up at virtually the same time as the Mazurka, around the early 1850s, and this we know from old dusty dance tomes and accounts. Paris seems to be the great launching pad for it all. From there it spread. There are even accounts of foreign dancing masters travelling around Eire teaching this stuff. Anyway, from different 19th century accounts, the Varsovienne has been attributed to an Italian, a Spaniard, and a Frenchman. There is also mention of a Pole, but that was mainly to do with the Mazurka. Like food, I suppose it depended on which ever was the flavour of the moment, that most acceptable to the group you were teaching it to, or writing for, or the particular myth you’d bought into. None of these, however, at least not so far, have been backed by any solid proof. I’m still waiting for some friends to check out sources in Paris for me, or to return back over there myself to continue the quest for truth. There’s also a particular French dance manual from the 1850s I’m chasing up but haven’t yet acquired, not that it won’t be equally guilty of fancy and fantasy. I’ll let you know when I’ve got any solid backing for any of these tales, but with a tune to start it off, out of respect for the spirit of this website.

Now, back to the music and dance. The Redowa or Polka Redowa was like an infection at the time, what’s new? As its popularity rose it ended up showing up in other dances, with dancers deciding to Redowa whenever they got a chance. There were dance instructors and writers who went with the flow and Redowa-ed with that bunch, and there were those that fought it in support of ‘the right and true way’. Similar things happened with the polka, and it hasn’t stopped there. You’ll find ‘Polka-Mazurkas’ and Mazurka-Waltzes’, and these hybrids were also found and danced and played in Eire, and I don’t mean just at the big balls of Dublin and Belfast, but in the countryside as well - along with other couple and group dances.

The Varsovienne is chunkier than the Mazurka, more emphatic in its phrasing. It may also account for why some of those long dead writers describe the Varsovienne step as if it were a ‘polka’, close, but no cigar. The Mazurka tends to be closer to the waltz, more of a flow to it, one of the reasons why movement between the two, Mazurka and Waltz, Mazurka-Waltz, weren’t and aren’t uncommon. That chunky quality of the Varsovienne is represented in the percentage of crotchets/quarter-notes and minims/half-notes, the chunky bits, over quavers/eighth-notes. While the Mazurka tends to pairs of quavers/eighth-notes with more of a roll and flow to the playing and dancing. AND - THE MONSTER IS - some tunes can easily be either, see my contribution to the Tommy Peoples’ Mazurka.

When you’ve the dancers in front of you it sort of just happens that you and they work it out together, enough times and it becomes natural. For most of us we’ve not had that pleasure, or not come to realize the ‘craic’ in that combination. Without that visual and physical connection the music loses its shape, which is why for some they are just another waltz. For me that’s sad.

I’ll contribute some Mazurkas later, with a dance or two. The similarities and differences are worth seeing and feeling… There are some great Mazurka-Waltzes out there too, tunes and dances, and the rhythmic change is fun, for the musician and the dancer, or at least I enjoy both ways…

With love and shmaltz

Nice Contribution Marco - I haven’t done one like that in ages

I’m a bit unclear as to what you mean by "Repeat 1,4 and 2"? What was #4?.

Here’s something similar, another one with the chance to waltz if you want that variation as a ‘Varsovienne-Waltz’. Another may show up later under one of the other ‘Varsoviennes’:

Music: Varsovienne/Mazurka

Formation: Couples facing forward, in Line-Of-Direction - ACW=CCW=Anti-Clockwise around the dancing space

Partners are side-by-side, as usual, man on her Left and the woman on his Right.

Hold: Cross-back hold with the man’s right over the woman’s left - around each other’s backs. The height of this can vary from shoulder blade to waist. A ‘shoulder-waist hold’ could also be used, the man’s right arm around the woman’s back, her left hand on his right shoulder or upper Right-arm.

(Now the ‘free-arms-in-the-air’ you describe, assuming you mean man’s Left and woman’s Right to start, sounds like something I’ve done in Southern Europe, I think it was Italian? I may have also come across this on the Istrian Penninsula, or somewhere down the Croatian coast? It was a kick, fun, as was the music for it, great rhythm and verve. I’ll go with this one I know that has similarities, but without the arms in the air. But hey, take your options.)

This has a ‘long’ part and a ‘short’ part, the usual, but there are always exceptions in everything.

A-part of music, the ‘long’ part of the dance

- Moving forward, LOD/ACW
- less start-stop, more a continual movement forward, ‘one-foot-in-front-of-the-other’ rather than ‘step-together’…

Count 1 - hop(skip forward) on the inside foot foot, M-R/W-L
Count 2 - step forward on outside foot, M-L/W-R
Count 3 - step forward on inside foot, M-R/W-L

REPEAT that, continuing in LOD

Counts 1-3 - REPEAT the step turning on the spot
- drop hold and make a half turn in toward your partner, M-CW/W-ACW, to end up side-by-side and facing CW back the way you’d come, the man on the Right/woman on his Left - HOLD: man’s left arm around the woman’s back, her Right-hand on his Left-shoulder.

BAR 4 -
Count 1(-3) - stamp or point foot in the new direction your facing, CW, outside foot, Man’s Left/Woman’s Right, without giving weight, pause…

BARS 5-8
REPEAT ALL THAT - in opposite direction with opposite footwork.

Part AA - BARS 9 -16 - REPEAT

Part B - the ‘short part’

BARS 1-2
Counts 1-3 - REPEAT ‘the step’ exchanging sides but remaining facing the LOD/ACW
- drop hold, the man moves to the right behind the woman, hop R, step L behind R, step R to the R, step L besides R, point or stamp R forward (BAR 2) without weight/the woman turns once around ACW and to her left in front of the man, to change sides, Hop on L, step RLR, point or stamp L forward (BAR 2) - they end up side-by-side and remain facing LOD/ACW , the man on her Right/woman on his Left -
HOLD: man’s L-arm around the woman’s back, her R-hand on his L-shoulder.

BARS 3-4
REPEAT with opposite footwork back to place
(It tends to be always the woman that turns, in this instance once around CW in front of the man, but there is no reason why this can’t be alternate, some men having a fondness for the occassional turn themselves, and some women welcoming a pause in the usual gyrations.)


PART BB - BARS 9-16 (25-32)
HEY - CHOICE! You could continue with the ‘short part’ of the dance, as given above, PART B BARS 1-8, or you could waltz…
7 X 123 waltz-step, ballroom/waltz-hold or ‘barrel-hold’ -
Man starts LRL/Woman RLR, beginning on the second count as I’ve tended to favour in notating a Varsovienne:
|:NN N2 N2|
If a waltz is the choice taken then there is a tendency to play that part with more of a waltz feel, and the barring that would show that would be as has happened in other transcriptions:
NN|N2 N2 NN| - 3|1 2 3|
The finish and final waltz step, to prepare for the beginning of the dance, would be:
1234 - pause (Man - LRLR/Woman - RLRL) - ready to begin the Varsovienne again, with a hop/skip.

(This ‘1234’ can be what the Irish call the ‘double’, the German’s the ‘dreher’, and others a ‘pivot’ step, twice round and moving in the Line-of-Direction/ACW around the dancing space.)

Transcriptions as a Varsovienne-Waltz could show a gained or lost beat between such change, the bar finishing either |1 2 3 4(hop/skip)|| or |1-2(pause)|| where the barring and feel of the music goes from Varsovienne to Waltz and back again… I have seen this at least once in an early notation. The change is more natural from a mazurka to a waltz and back, with no need to doctor the barring.

BARREL-HOLD: as if you were grasping a barrel or beach ball, partners are facing and parallel, though slightly to the left of each other, with the mans arms below the woman’s and his hands around the back holding her shoulder-blades, her arms above his where they can just lie, or take a more active roll by her hands going over and holding behind his shoulders. Personally I think both should have control…