Viennese Walt

by Harold & Meredith Sears

3 beats/measure; 50-62 meas/min

The Viennese Waltz is an old rhythm, having thought to have originated in Austria and in southern Germany in the late 1700s as a peasant dance called the Ländler, characterized by 3/4 time and lots of rotation. What really turns this dance into a "Waltz" is maybe the use of closed position. It came to Vienna during the 1800s and quickly became extremely popular throughout Europe and America.

As in Modern Waltz, the first beat of each measure is a heavily accented "downbeat." The music then rises to a crescendo through beats 2 and 3. At the end of beat 3, the music falls again. One dancer described the feel of waltz music as "BOOM, cha, cha. The dancer feels this swelling and contracting in each measure. We rise and stretch with the music during the first half of each measure and then lower and settle during the second half (ready for the next measure). But the Viennese Waltz is danced much faster than the Modern Waltz, up to twice as fast. This means that the rise and fall is quicker and more shallow, and steps are small and compact.

Note below that we often control the fast tempo of Viennese Waltz by using "canter" timing, two steps per measure rather than three (1, -, 3;) and/or "hesitation" timing, only one step per measure (1, -, -;). Some waltzes are written using no normal waltz measures at all but only hesitation and canter timeing. These are called Hesitation-Canter Waltzes. Below, I have done some grouping of figures into hesitation and canter groups.

More and more, Hesitation-Canter Waltzes are being written to 6/8 music, rather than 3/4 music -- that is, 6 beats per measure (at ~30 m/m), rather than 3 beats per measure (at ~60 m/m). Let's do a little quick math. Six beats per measure at 30 measures per minute equals 180 beats per minute. Three beats per measure at 60 measures per minute equals the same 180 beats per minute. So, 6/8 music at 30 m/m sounds slow, but it is still "viennese" tempo. Controlling that tempo, we can dance each waltz figure (think forward waltz or one left turn) with a hesitation step and then two canter steps: 1, -, -, 4, -, 6; (note the 6 beats in one measure of music). As you dance such a waltz, it works pretty well to think of the timing as SS&. The whole dance has a wonderfully lilting feel.

See the Modern Waltz page for more waltz figures than are listed here, and remember, any Waltz figure can be danced with straight timing, 123, or with hesitation and/or canter timing.

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