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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 is the original form of the waltz. It was the first ballroom dance performed in the closed hold or "waltz" position. The dance that is popularly known as the waltz is actually the English or slow waltz, danced at approximately 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, Scandinavia, and France, the words Walzer (German for "waltz"), vals (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish for "waltz"), and valse (French for "waltz") still implicitly refer to the original dance and not the slow waltz.
The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either toward the leader's right (natural) or toward the leader's 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.
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. The Waltzen, as written in a magazine from 1799, is performed by dancers who held on to their long gowns to prevent them from dragging or being stepped on. The dancers would lift their dresses and hold them high like cloaks and this would bring both their bodies under one cover. This action also required the dancers' bodies to be very close together and this closeness also attracted moral disparagement. Wolf published a pamphlet against the dance entitled "Proof that Waltzing is the Main Source of Weakness of the Body and Mind of our Generation" in 1797. But even when faced with all this negativity, it became very popular in Vienna. Large dance halls like the Zum Sperl in 1807 and the Apollo in 1808 were opened to provide space for thousands of dancers. The dance reached and spread to England sometime before 1812. It was introduced as the German Waltz and became a huge hit. 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.
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. 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" 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."
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At the beginning of the 1935s 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).
In the West, the Viennese Waltz is often confused and misconceived to be the "Vietnamese Waltz", due to the very similar pronunciation of the words "Viennese" and "Vietnamese". This can be observed through a web engine search for "Vietnamese waltz". On ABC's primetime show Dancing with the Stars, dancing contestants JR and Karina parodied their Viennese Waltz to be the "Vietnamese" Waltz, on the show's 2012 All-Stars series.
The Viennese Waltz is a rotary dance where the dancers are constantly turning either in a clockwise (natural) or anti-clockwise (reverse) direction 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.
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 has much more freedom, both in dance positions and syllabus.