The Waltz is derived from the German word walzen, meaning to revolve, turn or spin. This dance was born in the suburbs of Vienna, Austria. In the seventeenth century, waltzes were played in the ballrooms of the Hapsburg court. These spinning dances were danced by peasants in Austria, before making their way to the court. Many of the familiar waltz tunes can be traced back to the peasant yodeling melodies. The allemande form of the waltz was very popular in France during the middle of the eighteenth century. Originally, the waltz was danced as one of the figures in the counter dance, meaning the partners arms intertwined at shoulder level. As this dance evolved the close hold, with the man's hand on his partner's waist and her hand on his shoulder, was introduced. The Austrian peasant dance was accepted by high society in the late eighteenth century.
The Waltz is a smooth progressive dance punctuated by long, flowing movements, constant turns, rise and falls. The Waltz is a graceful, elegant dance, with dancers almost gliding effortlessly across the floor. The Waltz was first introduced in the 1800's, in the English ballrooms. Both the church and state denounced the Waltz because it was considered vulgar for the partners to dance so close together. In polite society, of the time, a man did not hold a woman in close of proximity of his body, in public. These very provocative points brought about criticism, but also made the waltz very appealing to the public.
When the Waltz was introduced to the United States, the standard tempo was still very fast and very demanding for the average dancer. The composers began writing music which was much slower, simulating the now evolved Slow Waltz. Beautiful music, slow tempo and formal attire contributed to the graceful elegance of the dance. The ballroom dance is in ¾ time with emphasizes on the first beat and the step, step close move. The expressive quality of the music invites very powerful and dynamic movements from the dancers. The twentieth century saw two very different styles of the Waltz evolve. The English changed the technique and refined the movements into an international style. The Americans created a Waltz with a more theatrical flair and added grace.