The prime contribution of the waltz, historically
is that it would be done in a closed position rather than an open or separated dance
position. This positioning of the dancers was determined very scandalous (lewd)
for the woman at the time by all whom seen it danced. Touching each other in public
under the masquerade of dancing was frowned upon. It would take centuries to triumph
The waltz has a lengthy line of history that
slightly goes back to the 13th. Century with the Westphalia from
Province. The 1520s approximately brought the Dreher or Walzer (turning) from Germany . In the medial 1500s, the Volta
(two steps and a leap) appeared and consisted of waltz type behavior with high
leaps in the air by the follower, assisted by the leader. Vienna came onto the scene
with the Weller in 1580 and around the 1590s, the Nizzarda
from France had waltz similarities.
These dances were frequently preempted with another
dance (usually 2/4 time) and at the conclusion, the music would shift to ¾
time (known as NachTanz or After Dance.) The dancers
would clasp their partners around neck and waist and would break out into one of these
The Volta of 1556 is weighed
by many to be the first actual waltz (some say Ländler
in view of the glide) and was the first dance, done in actual closed position
(not on the side or open position as some of the others.) It was done to the
song titled "La Fallada." The word Walzen
means strolchen (tramping), but can also suggest Schleifen
(sliding or gliding.) Waltz literally means "to turn forward from one
place or to advance by turning." Most round dances come from this "Turning"
or waltzing around the floor.
The waltz is considered the "Queen of all the
dances." The first tangible waltz tune appeared in 1670 in a popular song, "O
du lieber Augustin." Vienna was the first to reveal the Viennese
in the Opera "Una Cosa Rara" in 1776. However, it did not
become popular until 1788, when it was introduced on the Viennese stage, in an opera
called "The Cosarara," by Vincent Martin.
The waltz was said to be introduced to England in 1790 by Baron
Newman (some say 1812). Later it was introduced into France from Germany
by the triumphal soldiers of Napoleon I (1769-1821,) after his
return from Germany, following his grand encounter at Austerlitz in which three
of the greatest armies of Europe, each commanded by an Emperor, were signally defeated
on December 2nd, 1805.
The waltz as we know it today, was the first unquestionable
closed couple dance done in aristocracy with all the other dances before being open
dances (no embrace.) The waltz was considered very "scandalous,"
for the dancers did an embrace and held each other so close that their bodies and
even faces touched while they danced. The women were thrown around exuberantly (Adagio
type) which at the time was "Immoral and Sinful."
When the waltz finally became accepted by society, all dances
that followed were variations of the waltz. The Polka
was the second closed position couple dance to come along and rivaled the waltz, with the Mazurka being third.
The Ladies were always in "pursuit," or better known today as dancing forwards (otherwise the gowns they wore would get stepped on and tear apart or they would trip and fall etc.)
Waltzes went by other names in other countries and provinces: Volta, La Volte, Fuhrung / Weller, Ländler, Drekkar, Salta, Volta, Boston, Hop Waltz, Glide Waltz, Hesitation, Viennese, Mazy, Merry Widow Waltz etc. The Valse was another way of saying waltz. Many of the other dances would amalgamate with the waltz and become the Polka-Waltz, Mazurka-Waltz, Menuet-Waltz etc. (see Half-&-Half)
Many groups (including the U.S.) protested the dance and critics became outraged with some forbidding the waltz to be danced. Swabia and Switzerland forbade the waltz. Wilhelm II prohibited the waltz in court balls in Germany and England did not appreciate it until 1812! In 1815, while being danced at Almacks by then Emperor Alexander (Russia,) Princess Esterhazy, and finally Lord Palmertson, it became known as the "Imperial Waltz" and was there to stay. Decrees were issued forbidding "all gliding and turning," posting public ordinances, which read:
1) "Both men and women must be dressed decently for the waltz."
2) "No man might dance in breeches and doublet without a coat."
3) "Women and girls must not be thrown about."
Dancing was forbidden under Puritan decree (and others) among the settlers. As an instance, the Bishops of Wurzburg and Fulda forbade the waltz and prohibited it being danced in 1760. Noblemen ultimately started building private ballrooms in their houses to circumvent the demoralized situation, they had sequestered balls with only nobility and the best dancers attending, thus adding to its zeal. Even up to the early 1900's, the dance was scrutinized, In Zorn's book (1905) he explains the waltz hold, "Never place your arm around the ladies waist and do not raise his left arm so high as it causes her arm to go around him."
The music makers (composers) were to help make the change from scandalous to beauty. The beautiful waltz music would be embraced by all. Thus as time went on, the leaps were taken out, the wild steps became smaller and much more graceful, making it a socially acceptable, lovely dance (sometimes called the Glide Waltz).
Ordinarily, Waltz music is written in 3/4 time (three quarter notes per each measure) or one down beat and two up beats. However, just like our Jazz era, musicians played with the dance and music, as some were written in 6/8 and supposedly 2/4 time. Johann Strauss started a 'Merry Widow craze' with his song of the same name. Everything became Merry Widow "insert name here." There was even a song called: "I'd like to find the Man who wrote the Merry Widow Waltz" (guess he did not like it). The Waltz started to decline about 1825.
The step of the La Valse à deux temps (three steps, not two) was the same as that of the Gallop of the time, the difference only being in the accentuation, as it is danced to waltz music. This waltz made its debut at the Court of Vienna in the 1830s. It became very popular about 1850s.
The Glide Waltz held popularity because of its smoother movement until the advent of the Hesitation Waltz . The Hesitation did not endure long as the dance became too complex to do, as it inventively had many backbreaking and leg-breaking contortions added to it. As many instructors were producing too many figures, (by public demand $$$) and inevitably became too difficult for the typical dancer to do.
The Boston Waltz also known as American Waltz was introduced in Boston, MA. In 1834 by dancing
Master Lorenzo Papatino (partner N/A) when Mrs. Otis Beacon Hill employed Papatino to give a dance
presentation at her mansion. The Boston waned in popularity in the early 1900's, but stimulated the English Waltz alternatively, "International Style Waltz" now called "Standard" by Olympic dance sport.
Five Step Waltz
(n/a) - Slide the foot forward (count one). Bring up the right, springing and raising the left pointing the toe to the floor (count two). Spring again on the right; bring the left back close to the right (count three). Slide the left forward again (count four); then bring the right foot in front of the left (count five). Recommence the same with the right foot. Turn and reverse, as in other dances.
The Hop Waltz (2/4) which is also known as La Sauteuse or Waltz á trois temps differs from the other waltzes described and became popular in the 1820s and later had a resurgence around 1856. It was a subdued Redowa by those who failed in those days, finding the Redowa beyond their powers of proficiency. The Redowa was modified with the waltz and became the Hop-waltz with the first and fourth steps being leaped instead of glided, except that the first step must be jumped, like a jetté, or a Fouette and the other two steps being run. The other behaviors are the same as in the basic waltz.
Knickerbocker Waltz (n/a) - Waltz step half round, beginning with left foot; waltz step half round, beginning with right foot; waltz step again beginning with left foot; then execute two side movements sidewise with right foot. Repeat the above, beginning with the right foot.