Discussion of Viennese Waltz

This page contains posts to newsgroup rec.arts.dance discussing Viennese waltz.

Item 1   Mostly About International Floorcraft
Aug 1996

> /Thoughts about the (English) Waltz I totally agree with/
> Normally you dance 7 bars of reverse turn, a bar change
> step and then seven bars of natural turn and a bar change step, to make
> it fit to the 8 bar phrases of music.

Thats O.K., also in competitions (high level) you see the leader changing directions according to the music, so the actual number can change. This is nowhere written, but of course supposing the leader is a good one, the lady (follower) should have no problem knowing when a change is due.

Also, on the floorcraft side, in crowded floors with many pairs I usually dance natural (right) turns, because the followers usually much more comfortable with it. Despite this, reverse (left) turns are very usuable when trying to get around somebody slower (or someone standing), because the sort of weave in the line you dance that way is easier to do. Fleckerls are also usable when you can't really go anywhere because of the crowd; however you really only ought to do it if you are sure about yourself AND your partner about this step.

> There is no cornering step as
> such, you simply curve the progress of the dance around the corner doing
> whichever steps you happen to be on at the time.

So I thougth. Actually, (but this is really only for those who plan to compete), this is not the way it should be (even though a lot of dancers dance this way). Natural turns are starting facing 45 degrees between the center and the wall. Then half turns with each 3 steps, thats O.K. When you reach the corner, you ought to start the natural turn in the same position, and by the time you finish it (6 steps altogether) you should have turned all the 90 degrees needed at the corner. This according to my International style Modern teacher (who teaches competitors at very high level also). Again, this certainly only some fine material, with absolutely no bearing on social dancers, so no flames about that please.


Item 2   Step Size and Turning or Traveling Dance

>Here is my question (for those people who do International Style well):
>Do you dance the 2 and 5 long? >Is your timing even or do you stretch any count? If so, which?
>Do your answers change as the music gets faster or the floor gets smaller?
Do you have a choice? The way waltzes are played in Vienna they stretch the 2 and 5 to a ridiculous extent. And since we pretend to dance to the music ... Or are we talking 'strict tempo' here instead of real Vienese Waltz?
He asks for replies "from people who do International Style well", but I'll answer anyway. When dancing the international style turns, my step 2 (side step in the forward half of the turn) definitely covers the most distance. Among steps 1 (forward), 4 (back), and 5 (side step in back half), I'm not sure which ones cover the most distance - in competition, all of them should cover quite a bit. Timing wise, steps 2 and 5 (the side steps) strike the floor as much as half a beat late, depending on the speed of the music. I believe this is the same as your 'stretching steps (counts?) 1 and 4', and it is indeed consistent with long side steps, since the foot strikes the floor at the end of the side step, and doing it late permits more time to take the side steps. For me, this syncopation is more marked as the music gets faster (and as I concentrate more carefully). On crowded social dance floors, I take smaller steps, forward, back, and side, and sometimes a heel turn rather than a side step on 5. I have been told that the heel turn is more traditional - the English apparently care more about the amount of travel than the Austrians, probably because of their emphasis on competition. Based on recent work on the fleckerls, I would differ with you and say that the viennese waltz is fundamentally a rotating dance that happens to travel - more specifically, the turns are just fleckerls with less rotation and more travel. Note, however, that the rotation is more of a spin than a turn - there is little sway in the natural movements, and none in the reverse.
>I come from the school that holds that V. Waltz is a travelling
>dance where you happen to be turning and not a turning dance where
>Yesterday I was asked by a teacher to show my Viennese Waltz.
>She commented that I stretch the 1 (and 4) (timing wise),
>and the 2,5 and 3,6 are consequently shorter.
I think, this depends on your personal style. I have seen, that 1 and 4 are extended slightly by some couples. Nevertheless, my teacher says, you only have the idea of a SQQ, but you do not really do that. With this he wants to make sure, that our feet on 1 and 4 are going forward (not turning) and only the upper body is turning.
>As far as my step goes, the two and five are long, the rest shorter. I do not think so.
>Here is my question (for those people who do International Style well):
>Do you dance the 2 and 5 long?
No. As already said, if there is something long, then it is 1 and 4. But this also should be kept small (as my teacher says). The point is, that you bend your knees, and that you start your rotation with the hip (not with your feet).
>I come from the school that holds that V. Waltz is a travelling
>dance where you happen to be turning and not a turning dance where
>you happen to be travelling.
> The school from which you come is obviously a most wonderful school
>Yesterday I was asked by a teacher to show my Viennese Waltz.
>She commented that I stretch the 1 (and 4) (timing wise),
>and the 2,5 and 3,6 are consequently shorter.
>Do you dance the 2 and 5 long?
>Is your timing even or do you stretch any count? If so, which?
>Do your answers change as the music gets faster or the floor gets smaller?
It sounds to me as if your dancing just fine. Don't change a thing. Don't even worry about it. The waltz as you have described it is the waltz as it should be described. Continue to dance it just so.
>Here is my question (for those people who do International Style well):
>Do you dance the 2 and 5 long?
>Is your timing even or do you stretch any count? If so, which?
>Do your answers change as the music gets faster or the floor gets smaller?
Viennise Waltz is a turning dance, but 2 and five are the longest steps (also in time). My trainers claimed, the counting a waltz is 1 _2_ ... maybe 3 .
The basic idea is to dance a sequence of flat chass\'e steps, similar (but >not equal) to the chass\'e movement in Quickstep. > >When beginning to dance VW, imagine that the very first step (and only this >one!) is *not* part of the sequence of chass\'e movements. Connect the >2-3-4 to a slightly rotated sideward chass\'e movement. Be sure to place >your left foot (4) *exactly* straight in your main movement direction. >Now connect 5-6-1 to the second chass\'e and be sure to let your partner >pass by moving (MOVING!) your body out of her way on 5 (of course the same >holds for her on 2). Again, be sure to place your right foot (1) >*exactly* straight in movement direction. .. I found this very interesting. I have never thought of it this way, but it amounts to what I do. I have the smoothness and flatness you spoke of. In my experience, the dancing this well into the knees and flat are the two most important points to making it smooth. A slight difference on the footwork. I start my left turn faced 45 degrees clockwise from line of dance (diagonal to wall). My feet on subsequent steps are always placed at 45 degrees to line of dance. Thus, if + means clockwise and - is counter clockwise, my feet on 1-6 of the reverse turn are (starting from 0: +45): 1: -45; 2: -135; 3: -135; 4: +135; 5: +45; 6: +45. Similarly, for the right (natural) turn (starting from 3: -45): 4: +45; 5: +135; 6: +135; -135; 2: -45; 3: -45. The explanation was that you get more turn this way. I'd say it's a preference thing, but it's the way I think of it now.
Viennese Waltz step measurements
There was a question previously in rec.arts.dance as to the relative size of steps in Viennese Waltz. So I decided to make some actual measurements. Using videotapes of 7 different years of PBS Championship Ballroom broadcasts, I examined the V. Waltz's using slow motion and freeze frame. It was difficult to get good measurements, but I finally found at least 8 examples of couples who were in view for at least two measures while traveling horizontally across the camera view, with their feet unobstructed and the camera not zooming. By taping a clear plastic ruler to the TV screen I was able to get measurements of step length repeatable to at about +-5%. The results: Steps 1 and 2 were equal in distance traveled, steps 4 and 5 were equal in distance traveled. In reverse turns, all four steps traveled about an equal distance. In natural turns the steps on the front half traveled about 15% farther than the steps on the back half. I didn't measure steps 3 and 6, but any travel was relatively small. My VCR doesn't have a frame counter so I was not able to get any step timing data (e.g. should the 1 or 2 step be stretched in time?) Note that since we are used to taking steps forward and only small steps sideways, it may seem as if the 2-side step is larger even though it may be identical to step 1 when measured.

Item 3  Tips

"the more you rotate the more the accent changes to the 2 beat"
"the more you want to rotate and grab floor space the accent goes to the 2 beat"
"if you accent the 1 beat the weight goes into floor and you cannot move ....cannot get around"

Item 4  Does Washington DC Have a Different Waltz Style?

From: David Morenus Newsgroups: rec.arts.dance Subject: Waltz Style in Washington, DC Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997

I have become aware of a subculture of waltzers that dances the Viennese Waltz in a way that is dramatically different from International Modern style. At least, that is what I observe.

I believe that, in the Modern International Viennese Waltz, the gentleman starts out with his RIGHT foot while moving forward in a CLOCKWISE turn, or his LEFT foot while moving forward in a COUNTER-CLOCKWISE turn. Of course, there is a three-step link to insert when one wishes to change the direction of the turn. I just had my memory of these steps refreshed at a dance studio in Vienna.

In Washington, DC, there is a vigorous social waltz culture centered about the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park, which waltzes in a different fashion. Like International Modern Vienese Waltz, it is danced to a fast tempo, and a full 360-degree turn is acheived in 6 steps. However, the gentleman starts out with his LEFT foot while moving forward in a CLOCKWISE turn, or his RIGHT foot while moving forward in a COUNTER-CLOCKWISE turn. This changes the character of the turning completely! In the clockwise turn, for example, the man's 1-step and the woman's 4-step (a forward step with the left foot, in both cases) are a mad leap forward, while the other 5 steps are danced nearly in place. The man and the woman take turns leapfrogging one another down the line of dance (LOD) in this fashion. Of course, if the movement down LOD is slower, then the steps are more even. For practical reasons, the COUNTER-CLOCKWISE turn is seldom performed at the curved ends of the great LOD oval.

The DC-style Viennese Waltz (known here as "the waltz") has a forward link step of its own, with variations, which may be performed for quite a while, depending on the music and other factors. Also, there is little rise and fall during the turns; the dancers stay more on the balls of their feet. The more erudite of these dancers believe that this is the style danced in Vienna during the Strauss era of the 19th century, but most are unaware that there is any another way to waltz. There is also a lot of clogging, contradancing, historic and folk dancing, etc., going on around the DC metro area.

My question to the group, and particularly any experts on 19th-century waltzing: what is really going on here? Is this a local group that has developed its own eccentric way of waltzing, or is this an island of the genuine old social style that maintains itself in a sea of standard competition steps? Where else may this style be seen today, and what is its history?

The DC area also holds the usual quantity of American and International ballroom dance studios, of course. Anecdotally, it can be disastrous for someone from a studio and one of these waltzers to try to dance with each other.

A response to this from Arthur who lived in Vienna as a child

It is my understanding (not direct recollection) that the first discernible pattern done to Viennese Waltz music was a step pattern described as "slide, close, slide" using (man's part) right foot slide Rgt turning right, left foot slide Left, right foot slide Rgt, a type of polka or Schottische pattern and turned only to the right............. It evolved later, somewhere in the early 1900's to, Forward RF turning Right, Side LF, Tgr RF, Bkwd LF turning Right, Tgr RF Turning R, In Place LF. In Place (sur la place) RF.

The footwork was "imprecise", the empasis being placed on the turning of the couple to the Right (Clockwise). The word, "Vals" auf Deutsch translates to "Turning". Three changes of weight were a necessity unless you could "pivot for three beats on one foot, then dance around the lady using three changes of weight. Then repete!

Debates raged amongst Dance Masters (in England and on the continent, Europe) for many years as to the matter of having the feet together on the 3rd beat of each bar of the waltz music. I recall Victor Silvester injecting the Reverse turn into his "modern 1917 slow waltz" and he brought down the house and took First!

In Vienna, When one danced the Vals/Waltz one of the points of ettiquette which developed early on, prescribed for the man not to dance the Vals until his lady partner "swooned" (became dizzy and felt faint). All couples dancing the Vals turned only in a Clockwise direction but progressed around the dance floor in a LOD/Counter clockwise path.

At a "later date" the Left turn was invented, along with the "hesitation change". The newly invented Left turn was logically named the "Reverse Turn".........the Right Turn then became known as the "Natural Turn". These terms are used today to describe Left and Right Turns in modern Waltz. The next patterns of necessity, to become invented/discovered, were "hesitation changes". These facilitated the easy transition from Natural to Reverse Turns (and vice versa)............."Somewhere thereafter", the "Fleckerl Turn" showed up, first in the the Reverse Turn and then later, it "infected" the Natural Turn. Great skill on the part of each couple was needed to avoid stepping on the bottom of the Ladies' long dresses..........As time progressed another pattern emerged called, "The Open Reverse Turn" using "cross body lead".

Arthur AHG
West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

update 20 August , 2000