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The Waltz

by Cilla Black

The Dance That Scandalised Society

When the Waltz was first introduced into England in the early part of the 19th century, society was scandalised. Never before in a dance had the man clasped the lady to him in a forward facing position with his arm around her waist and rotate around the ballroom in what was seen as an embrace. The dancers also appeared to be dancing for their own enjoyment instead of providing entertainment for the admiring onlookers. Added to this the turned out toes derived from classical ballet which were still used in the ballroom at that time, the impact must have been quite considerable. The older generation voiced their disapproval, but seldom mentioned was the fact that the reigning Queen Victoria was a keen and an expert ballroom dancer with an extra special love of the Waltz.

The strong opposition fortunately faded out and the Waltz weathered an exciting and varied career. It has emerged today in two accepted forms, both reflecting the main characteristics of the dance. These are known respectively as the modern (Diagonal) Waltz and the Viennese (or Quick) Waltz.

There has been quite a history of changes that finally brought us this present-day version. But just before and during the First World War the Waltz went out of fashion in England, and the craze for the new syncopated rhythms coming from America swept the country.

Although Waltz music was still popular, tempo was slower and the steps had no set form. In the early 1920s attempts were made by the teaching profession to find a uniform basic step that expressed this music, while the same time following the accepted natural walking action. It was finally agreed that the feet should close on the third beat of a bar whether Forward Forward Close, or Forward Side Close. Natural and Reverse Turns alternated by Change Steps were recommended, the man making a whole turn from the position at which he started, sometimes dancing as many as two or three complete Natural and Reverse turns in sequence.

In 1927 the Diagonal Waltz was by then almost universal. This style became the basis of the dance and, indeed, is the essence of the Waltz we have today. Over the years exponents have extended and developed the number of figures which are available to the dance but elegant foundation remains.