A Description Of Viennese Waltz Dancing
The Waltz is a dance performed to music with three beats to the bar, and gives the dance a delightful romantic lift.
The first record of a dance to 3/4 rhythm is a peasant dance of the Provence area of France in 1559, as a piece of folk music called the Volta, although the Volta has also been claimed to be an Italian folk dance at this time. The word "Volta" means "the turn" in Italian. This, even in its earliest days, the dance appears to have involved the couple turning as they danced.
During the 16th Century, the Volta became popular in the royal courts of Western Europe. The Volta required the partners to dance in a closed position but with the lady to the left of the man! As in any turning dance, as the couple perform their step around their partner, they have to take a larger than usual step to get from one side of their partner to the other. In order to do this in the Volta, the partners had to hold each other in such a close embrace that many declared it immoral. Louis XIII (1610-1613) had it banned from court on this account.
Thus although the Volta may have originally been in 3 time, it evolved to be in 5 time. In 1754 the first music for the actual "Waltzen" appeared in Germany. Any connection between the Waltzen and the Volta remains obscure, except that the word "waltzen" in German also means "to revolve".
The dance became very popular in Vienna, with large dance halls being opened to accommodate the craze. In 1812 the dance was introduced into England under the name of the German Waltz and it caused a great sensation. Through the 19th Century, the danced stabilized, and was further popularized by the music of Josef and Johann Strauss.
Currently, the Viennese Waltz is danced at a tempo of about 180 beats per minute, with a limited range of figures: change steps, hesitations, hovers, passing changes, natural and reverse turns, (traveling or on the spot as Fleckers), and the contra check.