The Waltz: A Forbidden Dance

Did you know at one time in history the Waltz was considered scandalous? Today, our view of this dance is far from scandalous. MTV and other music video stations have surely outdone the waltz. It’s funny to think that there was a time when the Waltz was considered vulgar to people. After doing some research on this dance style, I discovered where the dance originated and why it was technically the first dance to be termed the “forbidden dance.”

The most familiar form of today’s Waltz dates back to 18th century Austria, called the Viennese Waltz, which was influenced from other forms of “twirling” dances from neighboring countries such as Germany and Italy. However, the development of Waltz type dances dates back even further. The Waltz was highly criticized as being sinful and immoral because people were required to dance in a close position. Before the Waltz, people danced around each other, but never touched.  The dance was originally performed by lower class citizens and eventually made its way up the societal ladder. Once it appeared in England at the Prince Regent’s grand ball in 1816, The Times of London had this to say:

We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last … it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressor on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion. (rounddancing.net)

Herold and Meredith Sears quoted the interpretation of this statement from Jeff Allen’s An Idiot’s guide to Ballroom Dancing, “Interestingly, “voluptuous intertwining of the limbs,” simply referred to the close dance position of the day. The gloved hand of the gentleman was placed gently on the waist of his partner at virtually full arm’s length. The lady’s left-gloved hand quite possibly was delicately placed on her gentleman’s shoulder, and she likely held a fan in that same hand. The left hand of the gentleman remained open and acted as the shelf for his partner’s right-gloved hand. The really scandalous point of that reporter’s observation was that the gentleman’s foot disappeared from time to time under the lady’s gown in the midst of the dance. The bodies of the dancers were never in contact!”

It’s quite interesting to see how society’s views have changed over hundreds of years! If you are interested in an 18th century scandal, Lee Brigg’s ballroom dance class is where you need to be. You’ll learn to Waltz, Rumba, Foxtrot, Swing and Cha Cha. Ballroom 101 is coming up this November, so make sure to call 706.507.8070 or visit ColumbusState.edu/CE for registration information.

-Kindra Hunter

REFERENCES:

January, Bob. “THE WALTZ, History of and Beauty of the Waltz.” The NEW YORK DANCE BAND ORCHESTRA, Ballroom, Jazz, Swing, Traditional. 08 Apr. 2005. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://bobjanuary.com/waltz.htm&gt;.

Sears, Herold, and Meredith Sears. “Some Waltz History.” Harold Sears, Dance and Nature Writing. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://www.rounddancing.net/dance/articles/waltzhist.html&gt;.

“Dances – WALTZ DANCE – History of the Waltz.” Learn to Dance with DanceCrazy, the Definitive   Collection of Dance Videos. Learn Ballroom Dancing, Learn Salsa Dancing, and Any Other Latin Dance. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://www.dancecrazy.com/history-of-the-waltz.htm&gt;.

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