Waltz

 

Home
Up
Waltz

Waltz: from the old German word walzen = to roll, turn, or to glide.

Waltz: a ballroom dance in 3/4 time with strong accent on the first beat and a basic pattern of step-step-close, or 1-2-3.

Waltz: to move or glide in a lively or conspicuous manner (to advance easily and successfully).

Waltz: a dance born in the suburbs of Vienna and in the alpine region of Austria as early as the seventeenth century.  Many of the familiar waltz tunes can be traced back to simple peasant yodeling melodies.

Many people consider Tango to be the world's first "forbidden dance." This is not so. The first dance to earn this distinction was the waltz, due to its nature and origins.

The Waltz itself is Viennese, and it evolved in Austria and Bavaria under such names as the Dreher, the laendler and the Deutscher. It was created as a peasant dance in early Austria, and involved robust moves and lots of space. Often, partners were hurled into the air in moves that occasionally led to injury and miscarriage. Because peasants wore loud, thick shoes, it was also very noisy. When it first became popular in Viennese dance halls in late eighteenth century, these aspects began to change.

The Waltz was termed the "forbidden dance" for one reason. When it moved into Viennese dance halls, partners were allowed to touch! This was unheard of, and led to the dance being slandered by many officials of the church and leaders of the Austrian community. Because it was a favored dance of the young, however, it continued to be danced. Because of its transition to dance halls and city gathering, it evolved into a light dance for polished floors and parties. Its music also changed, becoming more refined and orchestrated. Notable instruments used to play it were the piano, the violin and the bass. In 1787, it was brought to the operatic stage, inviting huge debate. Mozart was a huge fan of the waltz, and in one of his operas, Don Giovanni, three waltzes are played at once in one scene! Clearly, the dance could not be stopped.

By the 1800's, Paris had fallen in love with the Waltz. It did not arrive in England until later, where it was first denounced, and then accepted. In 1816, the Waltz was included in a ball given in London by the Prince Regent.   A lot of disapproval was voiced by the older generation, but seldom mentioned is the fact that the reigning Queen (Victoria) was a keen and expert ballroom dancer with a special love of the Waltz!  A final public acceptance of it in 1819 allowed the Waltz to reach the popularity that it still has today.

Music plays an important role in dance, and every dance is dependent upon the availability of the appropriate music. The Waltz was given a tremendous boost around 1830 by two great Austrian composers - Franz Lanner and Johann Strauss. These two composers were by far the most popular during the nineteenth century: they set the standard for the Viennese Waltz, (a very fast version of the Waltz). By 1900, a typical dance program was three quarter waltzes and one quarter all other dances combined.

Around the close of the nineteenth century, two modifications of the Waltz were developed. The first was the Boston, a slower waltz with long gliding steps. Although the Boston disappeared with the first world war, it did stimulate development of the English or International style which continues today. The second was the hesitation, which involves taking one step to three beats of the measure. Hesitation steps are still widely used in today's Waltz.

Fortunately, the violent opposition faded out and the Waltz weathered an exciting and varied career, emerging today in two accepted forms, both reflecting the main characteristics of the dance. They are known as the Modern Waltz and the Viennese (Quick) Waltz.

Today, the Waltz is danced in all corners of the world. Its predecessors have mostly died away, but in their place the waltz is acclaimed in Asia, Australia, America, Canada and South America as a favorite dance. Its label as the "forbidden dance" has been taken instead by the Tango, a dance that arose from the slums of Argentina.