Contrary to what one might assume from its reputation as an elegant ballroom dance, the Waltz’s genesis is wrapped in scandal and controversy. In its early years in the 1700s, the Waltz was largely a rural tradition among European peasantry, particularly in the Bavarian region, who had no qualms about touching their partners during their festivities. Proper society, however, looked askance upon this intimate, closed position, with the man holding the woman around the waist with his hand, and they chose to stick with the classic Minuet and Allemande dances.
Eventually, as with many trends that begin among the lower-classes, the Waltz made its way into the formal halls and ballrooms of upper-crust Germany and, especially, Austria. Its boisterous, energetic moves were smoothed and polished to fit the more sedate atmosphere of the ballrooms of the day, although it retained much of its “shock value” for many of the more conservative members of society.
The Viennese Waltz was introduced in the late 18th century, hearkening back to the Waltz’s origins as a lively, vigorous dance. Over time, variations of the Waltz made their way across the continent and over to England, then on to America in the early to mid-19th century. Slower versions of the Waltz took the New World by storm, and by the late 19th century it had become one of the most popular dances in the country. Today, the Waltz remains one of the most recognizable dance styles in the world and continues to be a mainstay at weddings, formal events and dance competitions.