The Waltz dates back to folk dances of Bavaria, some 400 years ago. It was not introduced into “society” until 1812. It began to make its appearance in English ballrooms. During the 16th century, it was simply danced as a round dance called the volte. It is often stated that the volte made its first outside appearance in Italy and then later on to France and Germany.
In those days, the Waltz had quite a few different names. Some of these names were the Boston, Galop, the Hop Waltz, and Redowa. When the Waltz was first introduced 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. No proper young maiden would compromise herself in such a way. So the Waltz was thought to be a wicked dance.
The Waltz was not popular among the European middle class until the first decade of the 20th century. Up to that point, it had been exclusive preserve of the aristocracy. In the United States where no blue-blood caste existed, it became the popular dance style as early as 1840. Immediately upon its introduction in this country, the waltz became a favorite dance. It was so popular that it even survived the “ragtime revolution.”
With the ragtime rising to popluarity in 1910, the Waltz fell out of favor with the public. It was replaced by the many walking/strutting dances of that era. Dancers who had difficulty with the techniques and whirling patterns of the Waltz quickly learned the simple walking patterns of the new dances. This 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 was being taught in the 1880s and an even slower waltz came into prominence in the early 1920s. The result of these changes to the dance brought 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 dance with figures designed for both a larger ballroom floor and the average dance floor. The use of sway highlights the smooth, lilting style of the Waltz. Since it is a very traditional style of dance, the Waltz makes one feel like a princess or a prince at the ball.