The History Of The Viennese Waltz

By Melanie LaPatin

The product of a more elegant age, the Viennese Waltz was introduced in Vienna in the early 1800s and was roundly condemned in England. The Times of London had this to say about the Prince Regent's grand ball in 1816, We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressor on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females.

So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.

Of course, such condemnation did not deter the upper crust from eventually indulging in the Viennese Waltz. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, Never have I moved so lightly. I was no longer a human being. To hold the most adorable creature in one's arms and fly around with her like the wind, so that everything around us fades away. When Lord Palmerston of England gave the royal stamp of approval by dancing the Viennese Waltz in public, the rest of English Society joined in " at least until 1914.

When World War I broke out, the waltz orchestras left England due to the fact that they were largely made up of Austrians. Nothing of Germanic origin was in vogue due to the war. The Viennese Waltz pretty much died out as England and Germany battled each other and the entire world joined in the fight. Austria kept it alive as a folk dance. Only the Slow Waltz variation that originated in England continued beyond the Austrian borders.

After the end of the Second World War, however, the original Viennese Waltz made a resurgence, and it remains one of the staples of ballroom dance to this day. It is a dance that requires a great deal of stamina as the dancers twirl constantly around the floor at a dizzying pace.

In America, Dr. Lloyd Pappy Shaw, who revived the Square Dance in the early 1900s, wrote, In close embrace, the dancers turned continually while they revolved around the room. There were no steps forward or back, no relief, it was all a continuous whirl of pleasure for those who could take it. If youve got the stamina, the same can be said today.

The Viennese Waltz is performed in time. Although it takes a bit of practice at first, the basic steps can be fairly quickly mastered. The original difficulty comes from starting on the alternate foot at the beginning of each bar. Once a dancer becomes comfortable with this arrangement, however, the dance becomes very fluid and elegant.

The Viennese Waltz remains essentially the same today as when it was introduced two centuries ago, and some of the greatest composers have written the most beautiful music in the world to accommodate the dancers. For this reason, the dance echoes the glories and the romance of a more genteel age. - 30231

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