vienwalt.gif (218517 bytes)

"Vien Walz"--circa 1820s Hungarian print photographed with owner's permission near the office door of  the 300-year old Piaristenkellar Restaurant near Hotel Pension Zipser in old-town Vienna.  

This print gives illustrates the close, body contact way of waltzing Viennese-style, which apparently reflects the 1820s era in Vienna according to fashion experts consulted at Cincinatti's 1998 Vintage Dance Week.  If dated accurately, this could be a print of salon dancing to Shubert's waltzes.   (Comments from dance detectives and semioticians on the interpretation of this print would be welcomed at waltz [@]   This vigorous style of waltzing is seen on several CD covers of Strauss waltzes.

This close body contact style fits my own unexpected experience with several Austrian and Swiss dance partners at the Vienna's Hofburg Kaiserballs visited in 1995 and 1997 as well as four carnival balls visited in February 1998.  These very excellent partners quickly suggested without hesitation that my several inches apart waltz "frame" (learned from several American dance instructors) was a "weak English idea of the Viennese waltz style," said one lovely partner, who encircled me much as the ladies above and agreeably whirled me around the Hofburg Palace floor at warp speed.   (I wonder if Mozart danced this way at the balls he apparently attended and composed for).  

This kind of waltzing was difficult at first until I relaxed and let the lady lead at least half the time, which seemed the only way to get around the floor and stay in time with the music while avoiding being a rock in the rapids of other whirling couples.  The feeling was of an alternating pulse that I have heard taught as: I turn you, you turn a count of six with the man giving a strong lead on the one and the woman on the four, making it necessary for each to yield to the other's lead.

The Strass and Lanner waltzes played by Austrian musicans (some from Slovakian countries I'm told) added to this pulse with a seeming lift on the second beat, which I'm told and the books mention is slightly accelerated in Viennese style waltz music and is, like Cajun music, more easily felt that explained and counted.  When asked, these dance partners explained that they believed my bodies apart "frame" style was created by the stiff English dancers when the waltz was exported to England early in the 19th century but that the close Viennese style was still preferred today at the Austrian carnival and social balls.  

Since I am not a dance historian and have not found much primary source material, comments from others would be welcome on this stylistic matter, which is now out of the realm of dance step theory.  It seems to me now that the original close contact Viennese style apparently was changed in England and then in America to the form of a frame with couples more apart.  Further personal and library and visual research will be needed.  (Sid Hetzler, 7/29/98)