A Dance with a Scandalous Back Story

vienwaltzNOTE: This is a conversation with a less than enthusiastic conversationalist...until secrets are revealed….

So you think you can Waltz??

Sure. Yeah, (YAWN.) 

OK, which waltz? Yes, there’s more than one.

Oh? Really? More than one waltz?

Yes. We mean the Viennese Waltz.

Not to be confused with the “waltz,” also known as the “Slow Waltz”. 

OH. Sure. That one. 

For the record, what we now refer to as the Viennese Waltz is the original form of the waltz. In several languages, the word for ‘waltz,’ such as walzer (German), vals (Danish, Norwegian and Sweden) and valse (French), all refer to the Viennese Waltz. It made its initial appearance in Germany and Austria in the late 18th century, and spread to England, under the name of the “German Waltz” in the early 19th century.

Not only is it the oldest of all ballroom dances, the Viennese Waltz is known for its distinctly graceful and constant, wide-sweeping turns and a fast tempo. It’s the waltz that is featured in dizzying ballroom dance sequences in 18th and 19th century European period films.

With its fast pace, the Viennese Waltz has an upbeat, purposeful feel -- in contrast to the Slow Waltz which is characterized by a dreamier, romantic ambiance. It is the tempo and form that differentiate the Viennese Waltz from the Slow Waltz.

The Viennese Waltz is swift with a high number of turns, illustrating a unique characteristic specific to this waltz: no pauses. The Slow Waltz gives dancers enough time to occasionally pause for dips. The Viennese Waltz moves just too fast for such breaks! 

Today, the Viennese Waltz is held in great esteem. It is considered the pinnacle of all ballroom dances, embodying elegance and swiftness in equal measure. 

A Dance with a Scandalous Back Story

We all know that there’s nothing better than a good juicy story to attract attention and create intrigue and interest. The Viennese Waltz has all that and more. In fact, it’s a dance with a reputation.

According to historians, “when the Viennese Waltz made its initial appearance, it had its share of scandal. In fact, backlash was so harsh that several magazine articles and pamphlets immediately appeared, denouncing the dance as lewd and immoral, while criticizing such shocking displays as the ankles of women, visible as they danced in dizzying circles across the ballroom floor. 

In 1797, a pamphlet entitled “Proof that Waltzing is the Main Source of Weakness of the Body and Mind of our Generation” made the rounds, as it demonized the dance due to the fact that waltzing women would often lift their gowns and dresses up (mainly to prevent them from being stepped on) and hold them like cloaks, shielding their and their dance partners’ bodies from public view.

The controversy helped the Viennese Waltz rise above popular disapproving sentiment and it gained enthusiastic and devoted supporters. Famous musical compositions also helped increase its popularity. By the 1920s, more modern dances became popular, but it made a comeback in the 1930’s with a few modern embellishments. Today, it is adapted to many different musical genres and choreographed in dynamic ways.

While Arthur Murray’s professionally trained dance instructors enjoy teaching all forms of dance, the Viennese Waltz’s rich history, unique characteristics and intricacies make it a favorite of instructors and students. Our expert ballroom dance instructors teach all of the basic footwork to this, and each ballroom dance. Since the Viennese Waltz is so fast-paced, the basics of rhythm and timing play an important part, too. 

Now that you know a bit about the Viennese Waltz, learning the steps and the moves will have even more meaning.

Contact Arthur Murray at one of our nine Boston Area locations to schedule a free introductory lesson.