The Waltz dates back to the country folk dances of Bavaria, some 400 years ago, but was not introduced into “society” until 1812, when it made its appearance in English ballrooms. During the 16th century, it was simply danced as a round dance called the volte. In most dance history books, it is often stated that the volte made its first outside appearance in Italy and then later on to France and Germany.
In those early days, the Waltz had quite a few different names. Some of these names were the Galop, Redowa, Boston and the Hop Waltz. When the Waltz was first introduced into the ballrooms of the world in the early 19th century, it was met with outrage and indignation. People were shocked by the sight of a man dancing with his hand upon a lady’s waist (as no proper young maiden would compromise herself so) and thus, the Waltz was thought to be a wicked dance.
The Waltz did not become popular among the European middle class until the first decade of the 20th century. Until then, it was the exclusive preserve of the aristocracy. In the United States where no blue-blood caste existed, it was became danced by the populace as early as 1840. Immediately upon its introduction in this country, the waltz became one of the most popular dances. It was so popular it survived the “ragtime revolution.”
With the advent of ragtime in 1910, the Waltz fell out of favor with the public, being supplanted by the many walking/strutting dances of that era. Dancers who had not mastered the techniques and whirling patterns of the Waltz quickly learned the simple walking patterns, which ushered in the ragtime rage and birth of the Foxtrot. In the latter part of the 19th century, composers were writing Waltzes to a slower tempo than that of the original Viennese style. The box step, typical of the American style Waltz, was being taught in the 1880s and an even slower waltz came into prominence in the early 1920s. The result is three distinct tempos: (1) the Viennese Waltz (fast), (2) medium Waltz, and (3) slow Waltz — the last two being of American invention.
The Waltz is a progressive and turning dance with figures designed for both a larger ballroom floor and the average dance floor. The use of sway, rise and fall highlight the smooth, lilting style of the Waltz. Being a very traditional style of dance, the Waltz makes one feel like a princess or a prince at the ball.