January/February 2013

"You live as long as you dance."

Rudolf Nureyev

Happy New Year, and greetings from Waltz Time! This newsletter offers a calendar of upcoming waltz dances and workshops, dance community news and informative articles.

Our newsletter is sent every two months and offers a calendar of waltz dances and workshops, dance community news and informative articles. We encourage your articles for our newsletter. Or tell us what would you like to know! Please send your story or suggestions for topics to staff@waltztimedances.org.

Waltz Time is an all-volunteer committee that produces the twice-monthly Sunday afternoon waltz dances and the Annual Strauss Ball at Glen Echo Park's Spanish Ballroom. View the entire year's calendar at our web site.

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JANUARY 1, 2013


WETA's "Great Performances" Presents Waltzes on New Year's Day

After you welcome 2013 with champagne and cheers, sit back and enjoy a selection of Strauss family waltzes and polkas, including the iconic Blue Danube Waltz, when WETA broadcasts GREAT PERFORMANCES "From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2013" on New Year's Day at 8:00 p.m. (repeated on Wednesday, January 2, at 3:00 p.m.).

Julie Andrews hosts the program, which includes selections from other 19th-century composers as well, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under conductor Franz Welser-Most at the opulent Musikverein. You'll also see some glorious dancing by members of the Vienna State Ballet. The concert will close with Johann Strauss Sr.'s Radetzky March, which you'll no doubt recognize as one of the primary pieces played by Olde Vienna every year for the Grand March at the Strauss Ball. Visit PBS online and enjoy a preview of "From Vienna"

A Brief History of the Waltz by Bob January

From Bob January we present his view of the beauty of waltz.

In 1919, H.L. Menken wrote:

The waltz never quite goes out of fashion;
it is always just around the corner;
every now and then it returns with a bang . . .
It is sneaking, insidious, disarming, lovely. . . .
The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper..
the art of tone turned lubricious. . .

Austrian music scholar, Max Graf, wrote:

If there exists a form of music that is a direct expression of sensuality, it is the Viennese Waltz....

The WALTZ was a smash hit from the very start, mesmerizing its listeners into non-stop revelry. The waltz swept out of Germany in the middle of the eighteenth century to conquer all of Europe, inspiring an old German verse: "Whosoever the dance did discover/Had in mind each maid and lover/With all their burning ardor."

The name of the waltz is taken from the Italian 'volver' - to turn, or revolve. It was an outgrowth of the landler, a country dance in three-quarter time, and replaced the heavy hopping and jumping movements with more polished and graceful gliding.

It was, indeed, rural lads and lasses who first found these whirling steps so appealing. And so, the waltz originally was decidedly low-brow and provincial. In those days, there was something unsavory about a woman being gripped in a man's embrace while whirling in a frenzy around the dance floor.

The close contact with one's partners body contrasted sharply with the stately dances of the aristocracy - the minuets, polonaises, and quadrilles - in which one kept one's distance. A first-hand account of a village dance in the latter part of the eighteenth century read:

"The men dancers held up the dresses of their partners very high so that they should not trail and be stepped on, wrapped themselves both tightly in the covering, bringing their bodies as closely together as possible, and thus whirling about went on in the most indecent positions...."

As they waltzed around on the darker side of the room, the kissing and the hugging became still bolder. It is the custom of the country, I know, and not as bad as it looks, but I can quite understand why the waltz has been banned in parts of Swabia and Switzerland."

Naturally, the scandalized upper classes could not endure to have the lower classes having all the fun, and so, in time, the waltz finally achieved a degree of legitimacy, yet not losing any of its basic appeal.

The Austrian music scholar, Max Graf, has written, "If there exists a form of music that is a direct expression of sensuality, it is the Viennese Waltz. It was the dance of the new Romantic Period after the Napoleonic Wars, and the contemporaries of the first waltzes were highly shocked at the eroticism of this dance in which a lady clung to her partner, closed her eyes as in a happy dream, and glided off as if the world had disappeared. The new waltz melodies overflowed with longing, desire and tenderness."

These new waltz melodies could trace their ancestry back to the beer gardens of early eighteenth century Vienna, and to the rural inns and tavern situated on the outskirts of Vienna and on the banks of the Danube River. Traveling orchestras, some of them from the ships and barges that plied the Danube, whetted the Viennese appetite for this new dance, and the waltz craze soon reached epidemic proportions.

Into this dance-mad atmosphere stepped Josef Lanner and Johann Strauss the elder, both band musicians and both at one time members of the same orchestra. In the compositions of these two men the waltz gained sophistication and a distinctly Viennese light-hearted spirit.

A contemporary music critic, Eduard Hanslick, wrote that "You cannot imagine the wild enthusiasm that these two men created in Vienna. Newspapers went into raptures over each new waltz, and innumerable articles appeared about Lanner and Strauss.

And when he visited he city in 1845, the composer Hector Berlioz, too, was struck with the passion for the waltz. "The Viennese youth abandons itself to its passion for dancing, a very real and delightful passion, which has led the Viennese to make a very real art of drawing-room dancing as far above the routine of our balls as the orchestra and waltzes of Strauss are superior to the polkas and strummers in the dancing salons of Paris. I have passed whole nights watching thousands on incomparable waltzers whirling about . . ."

Until his death in 1899 kept Europe whirling in blissful abandon. Even in 1919, H.L. Menken wrote: "The waltz never quite goes out of fashion; it is always just around the corner; every now and then it returns with a bang . . . It is sneaking, insidious, disarming, lovely. . . .The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper - the art of tone turned lubricious. . . . There is something about a waltz that is irresistible. Try it on the fattest and sedatest or even on the thinnest and most acidulous of women, and she will be ready, in ten minutes, for a stealthy smack behind the door-nay, she will forthwith impart the embarrassing news that her husband misunderstands her and drinks too much and is going to Cleveland, Ohio on a business trip tomorrow."

Yes, the waltz is irresistible - and exceptionally durable. In a world where ... line dances and the chicken dance [may]... seem to be the only alternatives, the waltz still holds on tenaciously to a small part of our dancing lives, for its lilting strains never fail to evoke three pleasures dearest to the heart of civilized man - wine, women, and song!

Volunteer with Waltz Time!

Give us 45 minutes of your time and you can dance for free! Waltz Time is seeking volunteers. There are two slots available for sweeping after the dance. To volunteer, simply sign up before the waltz on the appointed day. There will be a sign-up sheet at the table. We appreciate your help!


Upcoming Waltzes in 2013


January 6: BLUE BAMBOO with Barbara Heitz (flute), Elke Baker (fiddle), John Devine (guitar), Marc Glickman (piano), Ralph Gordon (bass)

January 20: KAREN COLLINS and THE BACKROADS BAND with Karen Collins, Ira Gitlin, Geff King, Paul Hoffmaster


February 3: TAYLOR AMONG THE DEVILS with Marty Taylor (winds, concertina), Steve Hickman (fiddle), Alexander Mitchell (fiddle, mandolin), Jonathan Jensen (piano, vocals)

February 17: DEVINE COMEDY with Marty Taylor (winds, concertina), Steve Hickman (fiddle), John Devine (guitar and vocals), Ralph Gordon (bass)

All events are held at the Spanish Ballroom (or Bumper Car Pavilion where noted), Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD and sponsored in cooperation with the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc., the National Park Service and Montgomery County, Maryland.