The History of the Waltz
The history of the Waltz goes back further than many actually believe, right back to a very simple form to 13th century Germany. The word waltz comes from the German word walzen meaning to roll, glide or turn but by the 1500s the medieval Volta was danced and consisted of many waltz like steps and movements combined with other forms. Around 1580, the Weller was danced in Vienna and by the early 1590s, France had a form of waltz known as the Nizzarda.
The true form of waltz, though, was born in and around the suburbs of Vienna as well as the alpine peasant areas of Austria with waltzes being danced in the Hapsburg court ballrooms. Up until this time, all court dances were stately and very solemn procession style dances and were performed in a very separate positions, as opposed to the waltz which was done is a close position and was viewed as scandalous. Touching while dancing in public was frowned upon and this kind of behavior was supposedly reserved for the sinful and immoral or prostitutes!
The middle of the 18th century saw a form of waltz known as the allemande become very popular in France. Once performed with intertwined arms at shoulder level like one of the figures in the contredanse, the close hold was soon introduced and the waltz became an independent dance. By the late 18th century, the waltz in ¾ time had been accepted by high society and was set to stay. The waltz was thought to have been introduced to England by Baron Newman somewhere between 1790 and 1812 and in July 1816, the waltz was included in a ball given by the Prince Regent in London and was bought from Germany to France by soldiers of Napoleon l sometime after their victorious campaign ending in December 1805.
In 1830, two great composers, Johann Strauss and Franz Lanner composed some beautiful waltz music and the Strauss Viennese Waltz Music became very popular as a fast version. There was still much opposition to this “immoral” dance. Many dance masters complained about it as they saw the waltz as a threat to their profession with the easy to learn steps being able to be taught quickly as opposed to the extremely difficult moves of dances such as the minuet. Religious leaders, along with many in court circles and society still held out against the waltz, citing the closeness with which the dance was performed as highly immoral. Funnily enough, Queen Victoria loved the waltz and was an excellent ballroom dancer. Like most things though, the more the older generation and the moral upper echelons complained about the waltz, the more popular it became and was introduced into the United States by Boston dance master, Lorenzo Papanti in 1834. Papanti gave an exhibition at the Beacon Hill mansion of Mrs. Otis and by the middle of the nineteenth century, the waltz had taken hold of society in the US. Although the same opposition was voiced as in other parts of the world, eventually the dance was totally accepted. By 1900, over three quarters of all dance programs were waltzes and the rest was a combination of all other dances of the time.
Around the time of the First World War, dancers revolutionized the waltz into a style that was more relaxed and much closer with dancers dancing hip to hip Yet the Foxtrot, a new craze from the United States spread to Europe and completely overshadowed the waltz and by 1921 the Waltz was almost extinct. A conference was held by leading dance teachers and masters and a technique known as the “Walk-Side-Close" technique became standard and is still used in ballrooms today. Many techniques developed during this period have been incorporated into the variations and combinations if the graceful forms enjoyed by many people worldwide.
Over the years, many people have danced the waltz for various reasons. As a dance for pure enjoyment at dances and balls. These events were great for socializing with friends and many new friends were made here. Waltzes have been used at wedding for a long time and the Bridal Waltz is seen as one of the highlights of the social part of many weddings. The waltz is also a major part of ballroom dancing competitions, with the moves being executed in expert fashion to fantastic music with the ladies wearing fabulous ball gowns in an array of colors and gentlemen in fines suits. Even in today’s society, the waltz is still popular and is danced by young and old alike.