The Waltz is the granddaddy of all ballroom dances. It grew out of the Germanic
dances of the 17th and 18th century such as the
Ländler and the Allemande.
The name 'Waltz' comes from an old German word walzen, meaning to roll, turn,
or glide. Waltz was the first dance in which the man and lady danced with body
contact, and was considered quite scandalous in its day.
It was immensely popular all across Europe, first with the lower classes and
then with the aristocracy. Waltz features a lovely, elegant rise-and-fall action, 3/4 time music and a 1-2-3 rhythm.
The name Waltz came from the Italian word "volver" meaning to turn or revolve.
It evolved from a German and Austrian peasant dance called the Ländler in
3/4 time replacing the heavy hopping and jumping movements with more polished and graceful
gliding. It was also the first widely popular dance to feature a closed position.
Before the 18th century, dance was strictly divided between
courtly and country forms. In the courts, dances like the Minuet were refined affairs with an elaborate
language of bows and curtsies. There was little physical contact between dancers and proper form, like turned out feet was considered essential.
The waltz was given a tremendous boost around 1830 by two great Austrian composers – Franz Lanner and Johann Strauss. These two composers were by far the most popular during the 19th century: they set the standard
for the Viennese Waltz (a very fast version of the waltz).
Napoleon's invading solders spread the waltz from Germany to Paris, then it made its way to England and finally to the U.S. Reportedly, the first time
the waltz was danced in the U.S. was in Boston in 1834. By the middle
of the 19th century, the waltz was firmly established in the U.S. society.
During the later part of the 19th century, waltzes were being written to a slower tempo than the original Viennese rhythm. Around the
close of the 19th century,
two modifications of the waltz developed in the U.S.
The first was
the "Boston", a slower waltz with long gliding steps; there were fewer and slower
turns and more forward and backward movement than in the Viennese Waltz.
This version eventually stimulated the development of the English or International style which continues today.
The American style Waltz is similar to the International style except the
American style has open dance positions and the dancers legs pass instead of
The second modification was the "Hesitation Waltz", which involves
taking one step to three beats of the measure. Although the "Hesitation Waltz"
is no longer danced, some of its step patterns are still in use today.
The Waltz dominated much of the European and American dance scene until the
First World War when the Tango and Foxtrot enraptured a whole new generation.
Waltz is characterized by rise and fall and by sway on the side steps.
The feet remain in contact with the floor at all times, creating a smooth,
Waltz is a progressive dance down the line of dance (counter-clockwise) and
the Waltz frame is the typical Smooth frame essential for balance and control.
Waltz has an elegant gracefulness with a romantic and sometimes sad, feel.