Kansas Czech-Slovak Princess Brooklyn Webb encouraged legislators Thursday to support a bill declaring polka the state's official dance.
She said the style of dance had its roots in European culture and the heritage of immigrants to Kansas and the United States.
"The polka has really had an influence on me and really my family," Webb said. "I feel like we are in a way keeping some of that Czech heritage alive through dance."
Webb, 10, of Ellsworth, joined her brother Remy in traditional dance costumes for an appearance before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. The hearing on Senate Bill 158 generated endorsements from folks from Topeka, Grantville, Baldwin City, Rossville and Ellsworth.
The legislation, if adopted by the House and Senate and signed by the governor, would add the polka to the list of Kansas designations that include the bison as the state animal, the western meadowlark as the state bird, the sunflower as the state flower, honeybee as the state insect, the ornate box turtle as the state reptile and cottonwood as the state tree.
Douglas Martinek, president of the Moravan Lodge 128 of Rossville, said more than one-half dozen cultural or dance clubs were supportive of the Senate bill. He invited the senators to participate in the annual polka celebration in April at Bohemian Hall in Shawnee County.
"The polka dance has always been an important part of my heritage as I know it is for many other ethnic Kansas groups crossing many cultures," he said.
Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka, said the selection of an official state dance didn't equate to consideration of other public policy issues discussed in the Capitol. Still, he said, making Kansas the 33rd state to select an official dance is meaningful to many people.
"Why a state dance? Why not," Miller said. "Does anyone not feel better when they have had the opportunity to partake in their favorite style of dancing? There is a reason most celebrations include dancing as an integral part of those celebrations. Dancing is therapeutic. It makes us feel good. It makes us happy."
Polka is the official state dance of Wisconsin, while square dance is the official dance of Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska.