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The Modern Waltz: A German Dance with English Glamour

The Modern Waltz is a dance of the heart. It comes from the soul, due to its sentimentality. “The Waltz” is a very German dance despite its strong English influence - and it is also very romantic.  In the Modern Waltz, rather than trying to conquer the room, the couple wants to dip into an eternal space.

 A Detailed History of the Slow Waltz

 The Slow Waltz grew out of the Austrian/German Viennese Waltz, which in England until 1914, was danced only in the English High Society. With the outbreak of the First World War, the predominantly Austrian waltz orchestras had to leave - and they virtually took “their” Viennese Waltz with them. This had fatal consequences for the Viennese Waltz, and it  literally disappeared from the scene in England and in Germany. The Viennese Waltz was almost dead until 1929. Only in its country of origin, Austria, did it continue to bloom as a folk dance and survived in this form for many decades until it was revived.

 In the meantime its younger relative, the Slow Waltz, established itself. This dance is supposed to have developed from the “Boston”, a dance which by 1912 had almost completely edged out the Viennese Waltz.  It would be more correct to say that both dances have the same origin. By the time the Slow Waltz arrived in the USA and in Boston, it had already adapted a great deal from its older brother. A new basic step was developed, with the characteristic open and closed change forwards and backwards of the Boston, with turns and hesitating steps. It took a few years before this new variant of waltzing became widely accepted. In England, the Foxtrot with its passing steps had just become en vogue. This step also greatly influenced the Slow Waltz. From the original character of the Viennese Waltz there was hardly anything left.

 The English reformed and regularised almost everything danceable in 1921. At the “Great Conference,” made up of several smaller conferences, the Waltz was on the agenda. At the third conference in October 1921 it was unanimously agreed that the Waltz was to be danced in the closed pose. From now on, the closed change, the right turn and the left turn were firmly established as the basic figures. Open changes would only be accepted in exceptional cases. To counteract any mix-up between the Foxtrot and the new "Modern" Waltz, the passing changes were banned. The big difference between the old and the new waltz is that the Modern Waltz needs much more space for its turns. The Modern Waltz is therefore a very spacious dance and also a (German) turning dance. This combination of old and new is typical for the progressive English style and continues to characterise the Modern Waltz today.

 In 1926, the Boston, still existing in Germany at that time, was succeeded by the Modern Waltz. The second Great Conference in 1929 standardised the Modern Waltz in its final form. The classical Viennese Waltz was completely ignored at the conference. At that time the dance was still called “the valse”, as there was only one waltz for a true Englishman.

The young German dance teaching generation deliberately looked to the English, the leaders on the dancing stage. An Englishman called Victor Silvester cautiously taught the Germans the Modern Waltz.  In the new choreography around 1930, you always referred to Bradley, Silvester, Ford, Stern or Smith. These great names of the English style became more and more famous and dominated the worldwide dancing stage. Only with the end of the Second World War did the Viennese Waltz re-appear, kissed awake like Sleeping Beauty after a long sleep.

 If one were to categorize the dances of the English style according to the degree and space of their forward movement, the Tango would rank last, because its movement is always interrupted. The Slow Foxtrot and the Quickstep on the other hand, are the dances with the greatest movement. The Slow Foxtrot embodies the perfectly shaped variant of the English style. The Modern Waltz ends up exactly between the two poles “Tango” and “Foxtrot.” It combines the space-saving English way of movement with the German turning technique. On account of this, it is softer, more melting, more feminine and far from the cool, down-to-business-like Foxtrot. It is characterised by its very gentle movements and its rhythmical swings from one peak to the next. This demands maximum concentration and a highly developed sense for musical harmonies. It has been a competition dance since 1929 and part of the World Dance Program since 1963. 

 Rhythm : Step 1 always on the first beat of the bar. Generally one step per beat.

 Tempo: 30 Bars/120 Beats per minute. 

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