The waltz (from German Walzer [ˈvalt͡sɐ̯]) is a ballroom and folk
dance, normally in triple (help·info) time, performed
primarily in closed position.
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There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance that would
evolve into the waltz that dates from 16th century Europe, including
the representations of the printmaker Hans Sebald Beham. The French
Montaigne wrote of a dance he saw in 1580 in Augsburg,
where the dancers held each other so closely that their faces touched.
Kunz Haas (of approximately the same period) wrote, "Now they are
dancing the godless Weller or Spinner." "The vigorous peasant
dancer, following an instinctive knowledge of the weight of fall,
utilises his surplus energy to press all his strength into the proper
beat of the bar, thus intensifying his personal enjoyment in
dancing." The peasants of Bavaria, Tyrol, and Styria began dancing
a dance called Walzer, a dance for couples, around 1750. The Ländler,
also known as the Schleifer, a country dance in 3
4 time, was popular in Bohemia, Austria, and Bavaria, and spread from
the countryside to the suburbs of the city. While the eighteenth
century upper classes continued to dance the minuet, bored noblemen
slipped away to the balls of their servants.
In the 1771 German novel Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim by
Sophie von La Roche, a high-minded character complains about the newly
introduced waltz among aristocrats thus: "But when he put his arm
around her, pressed her to his breast, cavorted with her in the
shameless, indecent whirling-dance of the Germans and engaged in a
familiarity that broke all the bounds of good breeding—then my
silent misery turned into burning rage."
Describing life in
Vienna (dated at either 1776 or 1786), Don
Curzio wrote, "The people were dancing mad ... The ladies of
Vienna are particularly celebrated for their grace and movements of
waltzing of which they never tire." There is a waltz in the second act
finale of the 1786 opera Una Cosa Rara by Martin y Soler. Soler's
waltz was marked andante con moto, or "at a walking pace with motion",
but the flow of the dance was sped-up in
Vienna leading to the
Geschwindwalzer, and the Galloppwalzer.
In the transition from country to town, the hopping of the Ländler, a
dance known as Langaus, became a sliding step, and gliding rotation
replaced stamping rotation.
In the 19th century, the word primarily indicated that the dance was a
turning one; one would "waltz" in the polka to indicate rotating
rather than going straight forward without turning.
The Viennese custom is to anticipate slightly the second beat of each
bar, making it sound as if the third is late and creating a certain
buoyancy. The younger Strauss (Johann Strauss II) would sometimes
break up the one-two-three of the melody with a one-two pattern in the
accompaniment along with other rhythms, maintaining the 3
4 time while causing the dancers to dance a two-step waltz. The
metronome speed for a full bar varies between 60 and 70, with the
waltzes of the first Strauss (Johann Strauss I) often played faster
than those of his sons.
Shocking many when it was first introduced, the waltz became
Vienna around the 1780s, spreading to many other
countries in the years to follow. According to contemporary singer
Michael Kelly, it reached England in 1791. During the Napoleonic
Wars, infantry soldiers of the
King's German Legion
King's German Legion introduced the
dance to the people of Bexhill, Sussex from 1804.
It became fashionable in Britain during the Regency period, having
been made respectable by the endorsement of Dorothea Lieven, wife of
the Russian ambassador. Diarist Thomas Raikes later recounted that
"No event ever produced so great a sensation in English society as the
introduction of the waltz in 1813." In the same year, a sardonic
tribute to the dance by Lord Byron was anonymously published (written
the previous autumn). Influential dance master and author of
instruction manuals, Thomas Wilson published A Description of the
Correct Method of Waltzing in 1816. Almack's, the most exclusive
club in London, permitted the waltz, though the entry in the Oxford
English Dictionary shows that it was considered "riotous and indecent"
as late as 1825. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë, in a
scene set in 1827, the local vicar Reverend Milward tolerates
quadrilles and country dances but intervenes decisively when a waltz
is called for, declaring "No, no, I don't allow that! Come, it's time
to be going home."
The waltz, and especially its closed position, became the example for
the creation of many other ballroom dances. Subsequently, new types of
waltz have developed, including many folk and several ballroom dances.
Jazz waltz rhythm.
In the 19th and early 20th century, numerous different waltz forms
existed, including versions performed in 3
8 or 6
8 (sauteuse), and 5
4 time (5
4 waltz, half and half).
In the 1910s, a form called the "Hesitation Waltz" was introduced by
Vernon and Irene Castle. It incorporated "hesitations" and was
danced to fast music. A hesitation is basically a halt on the standing
foot during the full waltz bar, with the moving foot suspended in the
air or slowly dragged. Similar figures (Hesitation Change, Drag
Hesitation, and Cross Hesitation) are incorporated in the
The Country Western
Waltz is mostly progressive, moving counter clock
wise around the dance floor. Both the posture and frame are relaxed,
with posture bordering on a slouch. The exaggerated hand and arm
gestures of some ballroom styles are not part of this style. Couples
may frequently dance in the promenade position, depending on local
preferences. Within Country Western waltz, there is the Spanish Waltz
and the more modern (for the late 1930s- early 1950s) Pursuit Waltz.
At one time it was considered ill treatment for a man to make the
woman walk backwards in some locations.
In California the waltz was banned by Mission priests until after 1834
because of the "closed" dance position. Thereafter a Spanish Waltz
was danced. This Spanish
Waltz was a combination of dancing around the
room in closed position, and a "formation" dance of two couples facing
each other and performing a sequence of steps. "Valse a Trois
Temps" was the "earliest" waltz step, and the Rye
Waltz was favoured
as a couple dance.
In contemporary ballroom dance, the fast versions of the waltz are
Viennese Waltz as opposed to the Slow waltz.
In traditional Irish music, the waltz was taught by travelling dancing
masters to those who could afford their lessons during the 19th
century. By the end of that century, the dance spread to the middle
and lower classes of Irish society and traditional triple-tune tunes
and songs were altered to fit the waltz rhythm. During the 20th
century, the waltz found a distinctively Irish playing style in the
Céilidh musicians at dances.
Camille Claudel (1893)
Waltz has only closed figures; that is, the
couple never breaks the embrace.
The American Style Waltz, part of the
American Smooth ballroom dance
syllabus, in contrast to the International Standard Waltz, involves
breaking contact almost entirely in some figures. For example, the
Syncopated Side-by-Side with Spin includes a free spin for both
partners. Open rolls are another good example of an open dance figure,
in which the follower alternates between the lead's left and right
sides, with the lead's left or right arm (alone) providing the lead.
Waltzes were the staple of many American musicals and films, including
Waltz in Swing Time" sung by Fred Astaire.
The Scandinavian Waltz, performed as a part of Scandinavian folk
dance, can be fast or slow, but the dancers are always rotating.
Waltz is called and recognised in Peru as vals criollo.
Waltz (vals mexicano) follows the same basic rhythmic
pattern as the standard waltz, but the melodies reflect a strong
Spanish influence. Mexico's
Juventino Rosas wrote "Sobre las Olas" or
"Over the Waves", commonly known in the U.S. as a circus song played
during a trapeze show.
Waltz is danced progressively around the floor, and is
characterised by the subtle swaying of the hips and step very close to
ordinary walking. It is danced entirely in the closed position.
The Cuban (or Tropical)
Waltz follows the pattern of the standard
waltz throughout the song.
Venezuelan waltz provided a basis for distinctive regional musical
Waltz (Freeform Waltz), included in most contra dance
evenings, uses both open and closed positions, and incorporates moves
from other dances such as swing, modern jive and salsa. Basically the
dancers progress around the dance floor with a waltz step, but with no
constraints on what moves they can use.
The Valse Musette, a form of waltz popular in France, started in the
late 19th century.
The cross-step waltz (French Valse Boston) developed in France in the
early 20th century and is popular in social waltz groups today.
In folk dance from the
Alsace region, waltzes in odd metres such as 5
4 and 11
4 are found. In modern bal folk, waltzes in even higher metres are
played and danced.
Estonian folk dance Labajalavalss (flat of the foot waltz) performed
Today both the faster Viennese Waltz, made forever popular by the
Strauss family, and the slower American and International style
waltzes are extremely popular with dancers of all ages.
Sama'i (also known as usul semai) is a vocal piece of Ottoman Turkish
music composed in 6/8 metres. This form and metre (usul in Turkish) is
often confused with the completely different Saz Semaisi, an
instrumental form consisting of three to four sections, in 10/8 metre,
or usul aksak semai (broken semai in Turkish). Semai is one of the
most important forms in Ottoman Turkish Sufi music.
The Tsamikos (Greek: Τσάμικος, Tsamikos) or Kleftikos (Greek:
Κλέφτικος) is a popular traditional folk dance of Greece,
done to music of 3/4 metre.
Man and woman dancing a waltz by Eadweard Muybridge. 1887.
^ a b Nettl, Paul. "Birth of the Waltz." In
Dance Index vol 5, no. 9.
1946 New York:
Ballet Caravan, Inc. pages 208, 211
^ Sir George Grove, John Alexander Fuller-Maitland, Adela Harriet
Sophia (Bagot) Wodehouse. A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (A.D.
1450–1880) Published 1889. Macmillan
^ The History of Lady Sophia Sternheim, trans. Christa Baguss Britt
(State University of New York Press, 1991), p. 160.
^ a b Jacob, H.E. (2005). Johann Strauss: Father and Son a Century of
Light Music. pp. 24–25. ISBN 1-4179-9311-1.
^ Wechsberg. The
Waltz Emperors. 1973. C. Tinling & Company. page
^ Grove's Dictionary, page 385
^ Wechsberg, pages 59–61
^ Gutman, Robert W. (1999). Mozart: A Cultural Biography. Harcourt.
^ Scholes, Percy. The Oxford Companion to Music. 10th edition, 1991.
^ Sussex Weekly Advertiser, 21 January 1805
^ Hilton, Boyd (2006). A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? England
1783–1846. Oxford University Press.
^ Raikes, Thomas (1856). A Portion of the Journal Kept by Thomas
Raikes from 1831 to 1847: Comprising Reminiscences of Social and
Political Life in London and Paris During that Period.
pp. 240–243. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
^ "Introduction to 'The Waltz'". Readbookonline.net. Retrieved 20
^ Childers, William (1969). "Byron's "Waltz": The Germans and Their
Georges". Keats-Shelley Journal. Keats-Shelley Association of America,
Inc. 18: 81–95. JSTOR 30212687.
^ Fullerton, Susannah (2012). A dance with Jane Austen: how a novelist
and her characters went to the ball (1st Frances Lincoln ed.). London,
England: Frances Lincoln Ltd. pp. 110–111.
^ Penguin edition 1964, page 42
^ a b Blatter, Alfred (2007). Revisiting music theory: a guide to the
practice. p. 28. ISBN 0-415-97440-2.
^ "The History of Ballroom
Dance in America". Archived from the
original on 2011-03-06. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
^ Shaw, Lloyd (1939). Cowboy Dances. The Caxton Printers.
^ a b Czarnoski, Lucile K (1950). Dances of Early California Days.
Pacific Books. p. 44.
^ Czarnoski, Lucile K (1950). Dances of Early California Days. Pacific
Books. p. 121.
^ "Information on Styles of
Waltz include American, International,
Viennese Waltz and others!". Dancetime.com. 2012-09-09.
^ Vallely, F. (1999). The Companion to Traditional Irish Music. New
York: New York University Press. pp. 431–433.
^ "Rhythm Definitions - Irish Traditional Music Tune Index".
Irishtune.info. 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
^ "The Whirling Dervishes". Retrieved 30 December 2016.
^ "AllMusic Review by James Manheim". Retrieved 30 December
^ "yamahamusicsoft". Archived from the original on 1 January 2017.
Retrieved 1 January 2017.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Waltz.
Waltz video example
Dance Steps & Moves
Waltz within traditional dances of the County of Nice
Scroll to "Five Step Waltz" for notes about probable 1847 origin and
associated music published the same year.
Thomas Wilson's 1816
Dance of Death at
Project Gutenberg (1877 Book critical of the
The Regency Waltz
Waltzes under CreativeCommons licence on BalLibre.org
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