Viennese Waltz Music History Info & Pro Dance Lessons

Viennese waltz dance costume

Music and dance are some of Vienna’s greatest pride. The Viennese waltz, in fact, is famous worldwide and used in formal balls. 

Alles Walzer – Everybody Waltz! The Vienna Waltz is considered the national dance of Austria. It is a popular form of ballroom dance and music.

Vienna is not only internationally renowned for its boys choir and classical music. The Viennese waltz is also one music and ballroom dance genre that is closely associated with this Austrian capital. In fact, most Viennese people follow a tradition of attending formal balls wherein they dance to the waltz.

Viennese Waltz Timing

The Viennese Waltz is different from what many people know. Vienna’s version is a faster one performed at 180 beats-per-minute instead of the usual 90 beats.

Although a form of music, the Viennese Waltz music actually refers to a type of ballroom dance. It is the original and oldest form of the waltz and the first ballroom dance performed in the so-called close hold position. Man and women holding close to each other while dancing.

Viennese Waltz Music

Viennese waltz music history

This type of dance involves rotation and non-rotating change steps which make up the genuine waltz. The couples perform it by turning to the right. And left then traveling counter-clockwise around the floor following each other.

The modern version is the American style that involves swaying to the sides and underarm turns. Currently, two types of Viennese Waltz are recognized in the field of modern ballroom dance. These are the international style and the American style.

The international style Viennese Waltz is normally performed in a closed position with various steps involved. Such as the natural and reverse turns changed, fleckels, contra check, left whisk and canter time pivots. The American style, on the other hand, has more freedom in terms of position and steps

Johann Strauss is the most famous of all composers of Viennese Waltz music.

His internationally acclaimed works are:

  • the Blue Danube
  • Tales from the Vienna Woods

The waltz music is often an instrumental type and written for orchestras of different sizes. 

Viennese Waltz History

Dance music history

The oldest of the current ballroom dances, the Viennese Waltz started in the second part of the 18th century. That was during the Romantic period in Vienna. It originated from the German dance and the Landler in Austria.

Credited for this are the famous Austrian composers Josef Lanner and the father and son tandem of Johan Strauss I and II. Strauss is well known for his works such as The Blue Danube and Tales from the Vienna Woods. These are often played at New Year’s balls around the city and broadcast around the country after midnight.

The renowned Blue Danube is also a major part of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert during the New Year.

The Viennese waltz is normally instrumental and written for orchestras of different sizes. In the olden days, it was believed to be an indecent dance not allowed for young girls. Before the French Revolution began, it was meant only to be danced by married women.

Currently, the Vienna Waltz is one of the three most common types of waltz other than French and English. Of course, Vienna boasts more than its fair share of dance studios and Viennese Waltz schools. Famous dance schools Elmayer’s or Heidenreich offer crash courses for ball goers at reasonable prices.

Blue Danube dance waltz

The formal balls are a major part of the Viennese culture. There are plenty of them held each year but they’re not limited to only a single venue such as the Hofburg Palace.

These balls take place in a number of grand locations around Vienna all of which offer an elegant atmosphere. In fact, not many people are aware that ballrooms were built all over the Austrian capital since the olden days separate from the palaces or the townhouses of the aristocracy. 

Did you know that Vienna has an estimated 150 public balls?

They take place in the first three months of every year and they feature the famous Viennese Waltz. 

Apollo Saal 

The Apollo Saal was completed in 1808 on what is now Zieglergasse in the 7th District.

It features:

  • five grand ballrooms
  • 44 drawing rooms
  • three huge conservatories
  • 13 kitchens

All these rooms are adorned with chandeliers, flowers, grottos and a lake with real swans is even in place. 

Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace is well known for its elaborate and stunning decorations. The winter palace of the Hasburg empire in the olden days, the main ballroom used to be the grand hall of the former emperor. It features high painted ceilings as well as large and elegant crystal chandeliers. 

This palace has a total of 18 wings, 2550 rooms, and 19 courtyards. It spans 240,000 square meters. And features various architectural styles such as the Gothic, Baroque and Neo-Classicism. 

Vienna Musikverein

Dance timing girl

Musikverein Wien opened in 1870 and it is famous for being the venue of the Vienna Philharmonic ball. This particular ball takes place in the Golden Hall of the building considered as one of the world’s most imposing concert halls.

While the members of the world-renowned Philharmonic Orchestra perform with their instruments at this event, it is only during the introduction part after which they are free to enjoy dancing with their peers, friends and other guests. 

The Musikverein building also hosts the yearly New Year’s Day concert in Vienna and boasts of 16 magnificent chandeliers. 

Vienna City Hall 

The Festival Hall of Vienna City Hall is also a preferred ball venue in the Austrian capital. The venue usually hosts the Flower Ball participated in by the garden workers of the city. 

Built in the 19th century, the Festival Hall used to be the largest in Vienna measuring 71 meters long and 20 meters wide. Apart from balls, it also hosts concerts and exhibitions. 

Kaiserball Opens Vienna’s Grand Ball Season

Vienna welcomes the New Year with true elegance and style. As New Year’s Eve approaches, many people from Austria and even other countries who love to waltz prepare themselves for the start of the Vienna Balls. 

The Kaiserball is the traditional opener of the grand ball season and this takes place every December 31st at the Hofburg Palace. This event opens with the changing of the guard as performed by the Imperial Guard situated at the entrance hall of the palace. Guests are then invited by the orchestras to dance in the state chambers decorated with thousands of lovely and colorful flowers.

As guests enter the palace, they are greeted by the royal family led by Empress Sisi and Emperor Franz Josef. Cocktails including red and white wine. Champagne are served to them as the Hoffball Orchestra led by Johann Straub play classical music. The ladies also receive a small gift from the so-called footmen. 

Dancing couples

Dance costume couple

Dancing the Viennese waltz music is a major part of the Kaiserball. This takes place through the Hofburg Palace staterooms with men dressed in their livery. And women are dressed in their beautiful gowns. But that’s not where the event ends. 

At the stroke of midnight, the Pummerin or the bell from St. Stephan’s Cathedral is rung. This is a signal for the Imperial Couple to greet the guests with a Happy new year. 

From there, the Viennese Operatta Gala follows after midnight at the Grand Festival Hall. Guests can watch a live performance featuring the Vienna State Opera and Volksopera’s singers and dancers. 

Kaiserball guests can choose to take part in the four-course pre-ball dinner or in the buffet served throughout the evening. The pre-ball dinner is served in various halls of the palace with waiters in silk livery serving the food.

Vienna Ball Season Starting

One of the famous events in Vienna that is most anticipated by people there is the ball season. So if you’re the type of person who loves to dance the waltz, foxtrot and jive, you will surely have a great ballroom experience in this Austrian capital.

Traditionally, the Vienna Ball season starts December 31 and runs until February.

Viennese Waltz Dance Costume

The viennese waltz dance costume

During this period, men and women are dressed in their finest as they get on the dance floors. There are actually different balls that take place with the Opernball or Opera Ball as the most popular, elegant and expensive one.

Vienna’s Opera Ball has been held since 1877 and has gained international attention because of its long tradition.

The celebrities that have graced the event:

  • Sophia Lauren
  • Grace Jones
  • Pamela Anderson
  • Heather Locklear

Other famous balls in Vienna are the Blumenball held at the city hall and known for its beautiful flower arrangements, the Zuckerbäckerball at the Austria Center Vienna. And the Kaffeesiederball which features the fantastic performances of the state opera ballet, the opera ball orchestra and the traditional dancing school Elmayer. Unknown to many, the Kaffeesiederball highlights the well known and favorite beverage of Austrians which is the coffee.

Waltz Dance Lessons

Viennese waltz dance costume

Vienna is the place where the waltz music and dance originated. Thanks to Johann Strauss, this music and dance became known worldwide. And up to know is still being appreciated by people from all walks of life. 

It’s interesting to note as well that in Austria, people there actually start their new year dancing to the famous Blue Danube Waltz. This music by Johann Strauss is usually broadcast by public radio. 

Additionally, the Viennese Waltz is a major part of Vienna’s culture and is considered a rite of passage for the youth. More importantly, it is an essential part of any festive ball in the city. 

If you’re one person planning a trip to Vienna and one who’s interested in learning to dance the waltz, there’s an opportunity to enroll in a short dance session while you’re in the Austrian capital. This dance in three-quarter time is not difficult to do. 

Numerous dance schools in Vienna offer lessons in the waltz. You can join a group class or you can choose to do it one-on-one. 

Where to practice the Viennese Waltz?

Learning waltz

The Elmayer is one of the most prestigious dance schools in Vienna that offers ballroom lessons. Situated in the Pallavicini Palace, this school was established in 1919 and is associated with a sophisticated Viennese lifestyle. 

If you’d like to join other tourists, you can enrol at the Waltz in Vienna. This particular school offers private lessons for singles and couples in a number of imperial locations in the city. 

Dance Classes Elmayer Dance SchoolPrice
Private Tuition (A single lesson lasts 50 minutes) 70 EUR
Students (105 minutes/6 weeks) 90 EUR
Couples (75 minutes per week, 10 weeks) 300 EUR per couple
Wedding Dance-Course (each lesson 75 minutes) 100 EUR per couple

More info about Dance classes.

There are balls for every taste and in Vienna, mainly during the season from January to March. At New Year’s Eve, the elegant Kaiserball (Imperial Ball) at the Hofburg attracts tourists and Viennese alike.

Of course, the crowning glory of Vienna’s ball season has traditionally been the Vienna Opera Ball, held at Vienna’s venerable State Opera whose stage and auditorium are transformed into a giant dance floor.

This is an event of such magnitude in Austria that it is broadcast live on television. And everybody participates, be it in dazzling ball gowns at the ball itself or watching it in the comfortable surroundings of one’s home.

The Blue Danube Waltz

viennese waltz music

Many people around the world are very familiar with the Blue Danube Waltz and its composer Johann Strauss. But not all know the history of this authentic Viennese music. 

The Blue Danube Waltz, op. 314, was written in 1867. Originally, it was a choral waltz with simple words from a local poet in Vienna by the name of Karl Isidor Beck. Johann Strauss got inspired by the poem which has the lines “By the Danube, beautiful blue Danube”. And successfully created his own musical composition featuring ball dance melodies together with his polkas, marches as well as the Die Fledermaus operetta.  

It was actually two years earlier in 1865 when the choirmaster of the Vienna Men’s Choral Society Johann Herbeck commissioned Johann Straus to write a choral composition. It did not push through. However, as Strauss got preoccupied with his other commitments.

It was only after a year that the composer was able to start writing his joyful waltz song. That way he lifted the spirit of Austrians after being defeated by Prussia in the Seven Weeks’ War. 

The Waltz King

Owing to this particular musical composition, the world renowned Johann Strauss eventually earned the title “Waltz King.” He was also appointed as Court Ball Music Director which made him almost a member of royalty. 

Overseas, Strauss made his debut in the U.S. in 1872 in Boston. At that time, he conducted The Blue Danube for the World Peace Jubilee with an orchestra of 2,000. And a choir composed of 20,000 people. 

Up to this day, the Blue Danube Waltz has never lost its appeal to people who appreciate classical music. In fact, another composer Johannes Brahms once said that the only thing he didn’t like about the Strauss waltz was that he had not written it. 

In Vienna, this waltz music is still the signature dance among all Viennese balls held each year.

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