Vienna Waltz. Are you fretting about a gap in your musical knowledge and motoric skills? Is a classical concert, wedding dance, or elegant ball lurking up on you? Here is your guide about the basics of Viennese waltz, the best waltzes, and dance lessons in Vienna.
Where Does The Waltz Come From?
Vienna Waltz is one of the oldest ballroom dances, and originates from the French, and probably also Italian, peasant dances Volta in the 16th century, the German 18th century Waltzen revolving dance, and the Austrian Ländler. The traditional waltz ensemble is made of two violins and a bass. The waltz is performed in a three fourth beat and danced with full body contact. While the closely danced waltz shocked the English and French Courts of Elizabeth I and Louis XII, the Viennese loved it when it was introduced in Vienna in the late 18th/19th century. The most prominent event that introduced this new dance and sent shock waves across Europe was the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15.
There are variations of the waltz, like the Norwegian or the American waltz. If you want to blend in with the Viennese ball dance society, choose the Viennese waltz.
Viennese Waltz Music: Composers
Austrian composer Johann Strauss jun. is the original King of Waltz. Born in 1825 in St. Ulrich near Vienna, he first composed and conducted dance music, most of it waltz, and soon had the whole of Vienna raving for him. Among his most popular works are An der Schönen Blauen Donau (Along the beautiful blue Danube), the Kaiserwalzer (Emperor’s Waltz) and Wiener Blut (Viennese Blood). Josef Lanner is the second most famous Viennese conductor and composer of waltzes. He was a violinist, musical director of the Imperial Palace’s (Hofburg) concert and ball dance halls (Redoute) and composed hundreds of waltzes, polkas, Ländler, dances and marches. Lanner often co-conducted and played with Johann Strauss, for example at the local park pavilion of the imperial summer residence Baden bei Wien. Many of his waltzes, for example the Mille Fleurs waltz, are played at the New Year’s Concert
How To Waltz
Viennese waltz dancing is all about rhythm and flow. The basic steps are easy once you have received a proper introduction. This video shows you that this flow is achieved by sticking to the right timing and rhythm.
Most Popular Waltzes
Blue Danube Waltz
The Blue Danube waltz by Johann Strauss II (An Der Schoenen Blauen Donau) builds up beautifully. Horns, German and piccolo flutes and celli serenely introduce the main theme. Violins take over until the whole orchestra revels in the graceful three quarter waltz rhythm. I love this waltz because of the accentuated interplay of piccolo flutes and violins. At New Year’s Eve in Vienna, the Blue Danube Waltz is traditionally played right after midnight, whether live at events or from the Austrian Broadcasting Station’s radio channels.
The Vienna Philharmonic Orechstra plays the about 9 minute long Blue Danube waltz regularly played at their famous New Year’s Concert. Enjoy this music video of the Blue Danube Waltz, performed at the New Year’s Concert in 2008.
Johann Strauss Spring Waltz is originally called Voices of Spring (Frühlingsstimmen). The waltz uses trombones for a bombastic start and keeps its vivid rhythm through most of this 7 minute long piece. The more gentle melodies blended in make this waltz very rich, amusing and a joy to dance to. The German flutes used mimick birds’ songs. The Johann Strauss CD compilation Waltzes and Polkas includes both the Blue Danube Waltz and the Spring Waltz, amongst others of his most famous works.
Merry Widow Waltz
The Merry Widow is Lehar’s most popular operetta and has been made into various films. The waltz is referred to as Ballsirenen-Walzer in German because of a part in its lyrics: ‘Oh come now, oh come, you ball sirens…’. My favourite part is the violin theme. It is pronounced and graceful before it develops into the sweeping violin melodies so characteristic for the Merry Widow waltz.
You can learn Vienna waltz in one of Vienna’s traditional dancing schools from a professional dance instructor. In less than one hour you will be able to master the basic waltz steps to music from Johann Strauss, Josef Lanner and Carl Michael Ziehrer. That is usually all you need to waltz at busy dancing events and balls. (The best Vienna balls are a perfect ground to practice it further). On top, you acquire a piece of good old Vienna culture! Learn more about the Vienna Waltz lesson for couples.
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