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Viennese Waltz

Most people associate Viennese Waltz with "The Blue Danube" of Johan Strauss and they are not so far away from the truth. Here you will find some information about the elegant dance and its specific spins...

Viennese Waltz - a short history of the dance

Viennese Waltz
Viennese Waltz

Beat: 3/4.
Temp: 58-60 measures per minute.
Count: "1 - 2 - 3".
Developed around 1775.

Viennese Waltz (German origin, Wiener Walzer) is a genre of a ballroom dance.
At least three different meanings are recognized. In the historically first sense, the name may refer to several versions of the waltz, including the earliest waltzes done in ballroom dancing, danced to the music of Viennese Waltz.

The first dance of a three-fourth beat on record was danced to folk music called the Volta. The dance was a peasant folk dance from a provincial area in France in 1559.
The Volta, however, is also claimed to be a folk dance from Italy during this time.
The word "Volta" is an Italian word that means "the turn". This shows that even in its earliest form, the waltz involves a couple turning while dancing.

The Volta became well-known in the royal courts of Western Europe during the 16th century. It was described as similar to the Galliard, which is a dance performed to music with a 3/2 beat, but instead danced to a slower 6/4 beat. They are similar because both dances make five steps to six beats, therefore the dancers need to alternate feet in alternate measures.

Click for the original size The partners in the Volta are in a closed position but the lady is positioned at the left of the man and is held by the waist. The lady places her right arm on her partner's shoulder and holds her skirt with her left hand. Holding the skirt is an important part of the dance because the frequent turning and lifting may cause the skirt to fly up. The lifting was done by the man using his left thigh which is positioned under the lady's right thigh. This lift is demonstrated in the famous painting (on the left) where Elizabeth I of England is dancing the Volta and is lifted by the Earl of Lancaster.

There is also a contemporary Norwegian Waltz which is a folk dance similar to the Volta because it is also a turning dance. Although, in this dance, the couple is required to do a step around their partner and doing this would mean that each would have to take large steps to be able to get around from one side of their partner to the other.
In this waltz, the man assists his partner in the big step by lifting her as she takes the step therefore accommodating gracefully the difference in leg length between partners.
When this lift is incorporated in the Volta, the couple was required to hold each other in a very tight embrace. The level of intimacy produced was deemed immoral by Louis XIII and banned the action from court on this account.

What is now called the Viennese waltz is the original form of the waltz and the first ballroom dance in the closed hold or "waltz" position. The dance that is popularly known as the Waltz is actually the English or slow waltz, danced approximately at 90 beats per minute with 3 beats to the bar (the international standard of 30 measures per minute) while the Viennese Waltz is danced at about 180 beats (98-60 measures) a minute. To this day however, in Germany, Austria and France, the words "Walzer" (German for "waltz") and "valse" (French for "waltz") still implicitly refers to the original dance and not the slow waltz.

The fist dance performed in a measure of 3/4 that was registered (in 1695) is called "Hole in the Wall".

The Volta evolved from a three-time and became a five-time. One of the first dances in three-time that were published was the "Hole in the Wall" in 1695. The first music played for the actual "Waltzen" was in Germany in 1754. However, any link between the Volta ad the Waltzen is unclear, although the word "Waltzen" also means "to revolve" in German.

The Waltzen, as written in a magazine from 1799, is performed by dancers who held on to their long gowns to prevent them from dragging or being stepped on. The dancers would lift their dresses and hold them high like cloaks and this would bring both their bodies under one cover. This action also required the dancers' bodies to be very close together and this closeness also attracted moral disparagement.
Wolf published a pamphlet against the dance entitled "Proof that Waltzing is the Main Source of Weakness of the Body and Mind of our Generation" in 1797.

But even when faced with all this negativity, it became very popular in Vienna. Large dance halls like the Zum Sperl in 1807 and the Apollo in 1808 were opened to provide space for thousands of dancers. The dance reached England in 1812 and was introduced as the German Waltz and became a huge hit. Throughout the 19th century, the dance gained further fame with the music of Josef and Johann Strauss.

The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either in a clockwise (natural) or anti-clockwise (reverse) direction interspersed with non-rotating change steps to switch between the direction of rotation. A true Viennese waltz consists only of turns and change steps. Other moves such as the fleckerls, American-style figures and side sway or underarm turns are modern inventions and are not normally danced at the annual balls in Vienna. Furthermore, in a properly danced Viennese Waltz, couples do not pass, but turn continuously left and right while travelling counterclockwise around the floor following each other.

The competitive style Viennese Walts has reduced amount of steps: Change Steps, Passing Changes, Hesitations, Hovers, the Contra Check, Natural и Reverse Turns.

The "Flecker" is one of the moves of the Viennese waltz that is performed at dancing competitions. It is a very ancient move that originated from the primitive folk dances of Austria and Germany. (For several centuries pairs have danced, spinning round on the same spot while holding each other very closely.)

This dance is performed third on competitions.

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