Many people confuse the Polka russe with the Troïka. I will say all the same that, at balls, when the Troïka is announced, almost everyone dances the Polka russe. If the rhythm of the two dances is the same, the manner of executing them differs, in the sense that the one is danced by two people and the other by three...the word Troïka means three, which should prevent all confusion.
-- Professor Barthélemy Bottallo, Paris, c1910-12 (my translation)
In the late 1890s and early 1910s a trio of French dancing masters included descriptions of the Troïka, a simple polka sequence for three, in their works on modern social dance. This Parisian Troïka is not the same as the Russian folk dance of the same name, though obviously inspired by it, and the choreographic link with the Polka Russe further emphasizes the connection. I have previously discussed the many variations of the Polka Russe found in late 19th and early 20th century dance manuals, but for those who wish to actually dance the Troïka, I will give a quick summary of that dance.
First, and least usefully, one G. Desrat, in his Traité de la danse (Paris, c1900) actually lists the Troïka and the Polka Russe in combination, with a single description, giving no information to distinguish the two. I have discussed Desrat's sequence in my previous post on the Polka Russe and will not repeat the information here.
The two better sources describe below both incorporate the earlier "heel and toe" or "Bohemian" polka which dates back to the earliest polkas of the mid-19th century.
The ever-verbose Eugène Giraudet, in the 1900 edition of his twin volumes La danse, la tenue, le maintien, l'hygiène & l'éducation and Traité de la danse, is more helpful. His Troïka is subtitled "Polka Russe" (and in the index is listed as "polka russe à 3") and is a sixteen-bar sequence for one gentleman and two ladies, the gentleman being placed in the center with his arms around his two partners. The ladies place the hand next to the gentleman on his shoulder and with their other hand gently lift the skirt of their gown. All three start on the right foot, moving forward along the line of dance.
La Troïka (sixteen bars of 2/4 time)
2b four-slide galop, starting right foot (slide-close-slide-close-slide-close-slide; 1&2&3&4)
2b four-slide galop, starting left foot (ditto)
4b repeat previous four measures
heel & toe then polka with right foot (right foot to the side on
heel, then touch right toe next to left foot, then slide-close-slide;
1, 2, 3&4)
2b heel & toe then polka with left foot (ditto)
4b repeat previous four measures
The heel part of the heel & toe sequence is poetically described as "with the toe facing the sky." Giraudet notes that the sequence can also be danced by a couple, doing the same steps and figures.
Despite the subtitle, it reverses the Polka Russe sequence, which starts with the heel and toe and ends with the galop, along with doubling its length (though he notes that it can be shortened to eight bars by omitting the repeats.) He dates this choreography to 1895, attributes it to one Delamarre, and offers the name of the composer, G. Hausser. A recording which I believe to be this tune may be found on the album Carnet de Bal, by the Orchestre Symphonique de la RTBF, which is conveniently available for download as an album or by individual track here; the Troïka is track 15. A short snippet is below.ï
The third source for the early 20th-century Parisian Troïka is the Guide du Bon Danseur, published in Paris around 1910-1912 (judging from the gown of the woman on the cover) by Professor Barthélemy Bottallo. He gives a detailed description of the sequence, noting that it has "musique spéciale," possibly referring to the Haus(s)er tune given above. I have quoted above (in my translation) his discussion of the tendency of dancers to confuse the Troïka and the Polka Russe. He also speaks amusingly of the habit of dancers to impose "plusieurs fantaisies" (many fantasies) on the Troïka: that it is new, that it is ancient, that it comes from different countries, etc.
Unlike Giraudet, Bottallo allows that the Troïka may be danced by either one gentleman with two ladies, one lady with two gentlemen, or even three ladies, but he states firmly that the first combination is the best. The position of the dancers is the same as given by Giraudet, but Bottallo starts the sequence on the left foot and alters the order of the dance, making it much more like the Polka Russe:
Troïka (eight bars of 2/4 time)
2b Heel (out to second) & toe (close) with the left foot, then polka forward (1, 2, 3&4)
2b Heel (out to second) & toe (close) with the right foot, then polka forward (1, 2, 3&4)
2b Four-slide galop starting with the left foot (1&2&3&4)
2b Four-slide galop starting with the right foot (1&2&3&4)
Both the starting heel-toe and polka sequence and the galops are done "obliquely" to the left and then to the right. The essentials of the dance are the same as in Giraudet and once one is dancing it is unimportant which part is performed first. It is important that all involved agree on the starting foot, however!
As with the Polka Russe, it is open to question whether the dancers should hop slightly on the back foot when heeling-and-toeing. Aesthetically, I prefer a small hop, since it lets the dancers' momentum continue, but it is not specified in any of the sources and it is unclear whether this is because it should not be done or because "everyone knows" that it is required, as was the case earlier in the nineteenth century.