Vienna Waltz: The National Dance of Austria

If the Vienna Opera Ball is the national ball of Austria, the most important dance at the event, the Vienna Waltz, is the national dance. Most Austrians dance into the new year with "An der schönen blauen Donau" ("By the beautiful, blue Danube"), the most famous Vienna Waltz of Johann Strauss the Younger. It is broadcasted countrywide just after midnight, but also part of the New Year′s concert by the Wiener Philharmonika (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra).

Johann Strauss Jr is considered to be the 'King of the Vienna Waltz'

It hasn′t always been that popular: Originally, it was considered to be a very naughty dance and too indecent to be danced by young girls. Only married women were allowed to waltz in the up-tight years before the French Revolution. Waltz in the modern sense is danced in pairs and is considered to be a relatively fast dance for ballroom. It was developed from the Deutscher Tanz ("German Dance") and first mentioned in a comedy by Felix von Kurtz in the 1770ies.

Impressions from the Opera Ball or Wiener Opernball.
The video was made in 2004, but it is pretty much the same shit every year anyway.

Within a few years, it was more common than the previously so popular French menuett that was danced in rotation. It is unclear if the "Ländler" dance is an ancestor of the waltz (as stated in many sources) or if it developed at the same time. In any case, the rapid pace of waltz and the fact that you could see the legs of the ladies at times hindered the spreading of it.

Waltzing Vienna at the Opera Ball

Only through the endless balls, receptions and "rendoutes" (less formal balls) during the time of the Vienna Congress in 1814 and 1815, the Vienna Waltz started to become socially respectable. Several reputable composers picked the dance up and created endless variations. These are most notably Josef Lanner and his rivals Johann Strauss the Older and Johann Strauss the Younger.

The roots of modern Vienna Waltz go back to the Vienna CongressEspecially the latter one is regarded to be something like "Mr Vienna Waltz" and worshipped by the Viennese like Mozart is by the Salzburgians. When the operetta developed towards the end of the 19th century, the waltz was an obligatory feature to make it a success.

Vienna Waltz was also a political dance: On contrast to his monarchist and conformist father, Johann Strauss the Younger was a liberal who had supported the revolutionary forces in 1848. His waltzes also communicate the liberal spirit of their days, passionately striving for freedom and democracy for all the nations of the Habsburg Empire. Eduard Hanslick called the Vienna Waltz the "Marseillaise of the heart" and several music romanticists have said that dancing waltz had spared Austria a proper revolution.

Historic Development of Vienna Waltz

In the 1920ies, the Vienna Waltz became less popular in Germany - where it had previously been quite common - and even in its home Vienna. Only in the 1930ies, when the Nazis in Germany had removed all non-German dances from their balls, the Vienna Waltz rose back to its previous dominant role. After WWII, the Vienna Waltz was developed further on.

On a ball in 19th century ViennaToday, there are three common types of Waltz: The French, the English and the Vienna waltz with the latter one being the fastest. All three types come in several variations. There are two types of Vienna Waltz: The International Style and the American Style Vienna Waltz.

In dance tournaments, the types of moves are strictly constrained. The Vienna Waltz can be "decorated" with figures called "natural turn", "reverse turn" and "closed change". More elaborate manoeuvres such as left whisks, pivot turns or contra checks are normally not allowed. In less formalised settings, Austrians are generally not very strict with stylistic limitations. "An der schönen, blauen Donau" is often danced by bride and groom on the wedding, similar to greeting the new year - greeting the new life as couple.

Further Reading

The Vienna Opera Ball - Wiener Opernball

Balls and Redoutes of Austria

Austrian Culture and Lifestyle

Etiquette in Austria

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