Viennese Waltz: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ball gown and tuxedo or tailcoat are often worn when dancing Viennese waltz.

Viennese Waltz (German: Wiener Walzer) is the 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.

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 (58-60 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 Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either toward their right (natural) or toward their left (reverse), 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.

As the Waltz evolved, some of the versions that were done at about the original fast tempo came to be called specifically "Viennese Waltz" to distinguish them from the slower waltzes. In the modern ballroom dance, two versions of Viennese Waltz are recognized: International Style and American Style.

Today the Viennese Waltz is a ballroom and partner dance that is part of the International Standard division of contemporary ballroom dance.




Early history

The Viennese Waltz, so called to distinguish it from the Waltz and the French Waltz, is the oldest of the current ballroom dances. It emerged in the second half of the 18th century from the German dance and the Ländler in Austria and was both popular and subject to criticism. It gained ground due to the Congress of Vienna at the beginning of the 19th century and the famous compositions by Josef Lanner, Johann Strauss I and his son, Johann Strauss II. It had spread to England sometime before 1812.

Early waltz steps, 1816
from Thomas Wilson Treatise on waltzing

Initially, the waltz was significantly different from its form today. In the first place, the couples did not dance in the closed position as today. The illustrations and descriptions make it clear that the couples danced with arm positions similar to that of the precursor dances, the Landler and the Allemande.[1][2][3] The hold was at times semi-closed, and at times side by side. Arms are intertwined and circling movements were made under raised arms. No couple in Wilson's plate are shown in close embrace, but some are in closed hold facing each other. There was another significant difference from our present technique. The feet were turned out and the rise of foot during the dance was much more pronounced than it is today. This can be seen quite clearly in the figure, and such a style imposes its limitations on how the dance can be performed.

To understand why Quirey says "The advent of the Waltz in polite society was quite simply the greatest change in dance form and dancing manners that has happened in our history"[4] we need to realize that all European social dances before the waltz were communal sequence dances. Communal, because all the dancers on the floor took part in a pre-set pattern (often chosen by a Master of Ceremony). Dancers separately, and as couples, faced outwards to the spectators as much as they faced inwards. Thus all present took part as dancers or as onlookers. This was the way with the country dance and all previous popular dances. With the waltz, couples were independent of each other, and were turned towards each other (though not in close contact). Lord Byron wrote a furious letter, which precedes his poem The Waltz, in which he decries the anti-social nature of the dance, with the couple "like two cockchafers spitted on the same bodkin." [5]

Later history

In the 1920s, in Germany, the Viennese Waltz became outdated as more modern and dynamic dances emerged. In England the Viennese Waltz acclimatized, there Boston and later Waltz were preferred.

Ball in the Hofburg

At the beginning of the 1930s the Viennese Waltz had its comeback as a folk dance in Germany and Austria. The former military officer Karl von Mirkowitsch made it acceptable both for society and ballroom, and since 1932 the Viennese Waltz has been present on ballroom dance floors. About the same time, the Viennese Waltz had its comeback as a folk dance in The Greater Cleveland Ohio U.S.A. Area, due to the population of Slovenians (60,000 - 80,000) settled in the area. Slovenia, situated south of Austria, was influenced in its folk dance by the Viennese Waltz. Frankie Yankovic, a Slovenian from Cleveland Ohio traveled the world playing his version ("Cleveland Style" as per Polka Hall of Fame, Euclid Ohio) of the Viennese Waltzes. His Blue Skirt Waltz went Platinum 1949. Even today, there are many opportunities to waltz every week in The Greater Cleveland Area. In 1951 Paul Krebs, a dance teacher from Nürnberg, combined the traditional Austrian Waltz with the English style of waltzing and had great success at the dance festival in Blackpool in the same year. Since then the Viennese Waltz is one of the five International Standard ballroom dances; in 1963 it was added to the Welttanzprogramm which is the fundament of European dancing schools.

The Viennese Waltz has always been a symbol of political and public sentiments. It was called the Marseillaise of the heart (Eduard Hanslick, a critic from Vienna in the past century) and was supposed to have saved Vienna the revolution (sentence of a biographer of the composer Johann Strauss I), while Strauss I himself was called the Napoleon Autrichien (Heinrich Laube, poet from the north of Germany).

Technique and styles

International Style Viennese Waltz

International Style Viennese Waltz is danced in closed position. The syllabus is limited to natural and reverse turns, Changes, Fleckerls, Contra Check, Left Whisk, and canter time Pivots (Canter Pivots).

American Style Viennese Waltz

American Style Viennese Waltz has much more freedom, both in dance positions and syllabus.

See also


  1. ^ Richardson P.J.S. 1960. Social dances of the 19th century in England. p44
  2. ^ Sachs, Curt. 1937. World history of the dance. Norton.
  3. ^ Quirey, Belinda 1976. May I have the pleasure? The story of popular dancing. p66 The century of waltz.
  4. ^ Quirey, Belinda 1976. May I have the pleasure? The story of popular dancing. p66 The century of waltz.
  5. ^ Richardson P.J.S. 1960. Social dances of the 19th century in England. p63

Simple English

A Viennese waltz (Valse in French, Waltzer in German) is a music and dance which started in Vienna in the late 18th century. It is a ballroom dance in 3/4 time. It is the most famous of all dance forms. It became extremely popular during the 19th century, and is still danced today. Many famous composers wrote waltzes for piano or for orchestra. The rhythm of the waltz can be heard in lots of music, not just in pieces which are called a 'waltz'.


History of the music


It is difficult to know exactly when the waltz started. The word comes from a German word “walzen” which means “to turn”. This is because the dancers turn around as they spin round the dance floor. There were German dances called Ländler which were simpler than the minuet and popular amongst ordinary people. The waltz developed from these dances. Schubert wrote many pieces called 'Ländler'. He also started to use the title 'Waltz'. Beethoven wrote 30 variations on a waltz that had been composed by Anton Diabelli.

Many people thought that the new dance was bad. This was because the dancing couples stood very close to one another and held one another in their arms (in the old minuet they held hands politely). Some people thought that it was very immoral and wrote angry letters to the newspapers saying that it was the end of civilised society. However, the waltz continued to be popular, and many dance halls were opened where people could waltz.

19th century

Composers became interested in the music of the waltz. Weber wrote a piece called 'Invitation to the Dance'. It has a main tune, then a set of variations, and at the end it comes back to the first tune. This form became a common way of writing a group of waltzes. Two composers in Vienna who became well-known for their waltzes were Joseph Lanner (1801–1843) and Johann Strauss (1804–1849), but the most famous of all was one of Strauss’s sons, also called Johann. Father and son are sometimes called Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II. The son is often called the 'King of the Waltz'. He wrote many waltzes which are still very popular today. On New Year’s Day the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra always give a concert which can be seen worldwide on television. They play lots of Strauss waltzes. The most famous one is called 'The Blue Danube' (German: 'An den schönen, blauen Donau').

In the Romantic period there was hardly a composer who was not influenced by the waltz. Chopin wrote about 15 piano waltzes, some of them are very fast, some are slower and more melancholy (sad). Brahms wrote 16 waltzes for piano duet. Many composers wrote waltzes in their operas, especially when the story is about people dancing at a party. The waltz was used a lot in operettas and ballets. Tchaikovsky wrote lots of waltz music in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. Even Wagner, whose music is mostly very serious, wrote a waltz in his opera Parsifal . The rhythm of the waltz can be heard in a lot of orchestral music, e.g. Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The great composers Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler preferred to use the old German Ländler in their symphonies.

20th century

Although the 19th century was the greatest period of the waltz, people continued to write and dance waltzes in the 20th century. In his opera Der Rosenkavalier (1909) the German composer Richard Strauss (no relation of Johann Strauss) the story is about Vienna in the old days, and so he uses the waltz to create the feeling of a time that was past. The waltz continued to be used in a lot of operettas, e.g. by Franz Léhar in The Merry Widow . The French composer Maurice Ravel wrote waltzes, including a brilliant piece for orchestra which was simply called La Valse. Like Richard Strauss in Der Rosenkavalier, Ravel was trying to describe the music of a century ago. La Valse is a piece which lasts about 20 minutes in one continuous movement. Lots of different instruments have a share in playing many different tunes.

Competitive dance

The Viennese waltz is one of the five dances in international ballroom dance. It is the only one not invented in the early 20th century. It is the only one where the figures which competitors dance is restricted. Only nine figures are permitted by the World Dance Council.[1]

  1. Natural turn
  2. Reverse turn
  3. Forward closed change, natural
  4. Forward closed change, reverse
  5. Backward closed change, forward
  6. Backward closed change, reverse
  7. Natural fleckerl
  8. Reverse fleckerl
  9. Contra check

Thus in this dance marking is influenced entirely by the actual dancing, and the value of choreography is almost nil.


  1. Dance Resources Viennese Waltz Syllabus [1]


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address