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Anyone can learn to polka at Janesville's Moose Lodge

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Ann Fiore
March 26, 2014

JANESVILLE—Mary Knippelberg loves Wisconsin's state dance so much, she's willing to fly more than 1,500 miles to polka.

The lure is this weekend's annual Polkafest at Janesville's Moose Family Center.

It's one of the few times a year that the Moose Lodge opens its doors to the public. Four polka bands will play two- to three-hour sets from noon Friday through 10 p.m. Saturday.

Knippelberg, who's is originally from Johnstown and went to school with polka king Verne Meisner, said it's not unusual for polka fans to travel. She and her 80-year-old husband, Bob, didn't bat an eye about driving seven hours from their Carlsbad, Calif., home to dance with Mollie Busta—host of TV's “Mollie B. Polka Party”—in Mesa, Ariz., in January.

“The music is great for keeping us young—or making us think we're young,” said Knippelberg, 75.

So maybe you want to check out Polkafest but aren't sure how to dance.

Don't be shy, Knippelberg advised. There are many ways to polka, and the easiest is to do a two-step.

That's the quick-quick-slow-slow step. The two partners face each other, with the lead moving forward and the other stepping backward.

If you want to try something fancier, watch the styles of the couples on the floor. Some might be doing the Wisconsin style of polka known as the “polka hop,” which involves energetic hopping and skipping.

“People have different styles,” Knippelberg said. “We do a lot of turning. Some just do the straight hop.”

Knippelberg said her husband is so good that he has a small fan club.

People are always happy to teach beginners, Knippelberg said, so ask if you can borrow one of the dancers after the floor has cleared.

Bob Knippelberg's advice on dancing? “When I met him, he just said, 'Do what the music tells you.'”



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