The Viennese Waltz is danced at a tempo of about 180 beats per minute, with a limited range of figures: change steps, hesitations, hovers, passing changes, natural and reverse turns, (travelling or on the spot as Fleckers), and the contracheck.
The Viennese Waltz is a dance performed to music with three beats to the bar, giving the dance a delightful romantic lilt.
The first record of a dance to 3/4 rhythm is a peasant dance from the Provence area of France in 1559 - a piece of folk music called the Volta, although the Volta has also been claimed to be an Italian folk dance during this time. The word “volta” means “the turn” in Italian. Even in its earliest days, the dance appears to have involved the couple turning as they danced.
During the 16th Century, the Volta became popular in the royal courts of Western Europe. The Volta required the partners to dance in a closed position but with the lady to the left of the man! As in any turning dance, as the couple perform their step around their partner, they have to take a larger than usual step to get from one side of their partner to the other. In order to do this in the Volta, the partners had to hold each other in such a close embrace that many declared it immoral. Louis XIII (1610-1613) had it banned from court on this account. Thus although the Volta may have originally been in 3 time, it evolved to be in 5 time.
In 1754 the first music for the actual “Waltzen” appeared in Germany. Any connection between the Waltzen and the Volta remains obscure, except that the word “waltzen” in German also means “to revolve”.
The dance became very popular in Vienna, with large dance halls being opened to accommodate the craze. In 1812 the dance was introduced into England under the name of the German Waltz and it caused a great sensation. Through the 19th Century, the danced stabilised, and was further popularised by the music of Josef and Johann Strauss. This popularity continued through to the present day.