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The Forbidden Dance


By Christine Lovatt


The waltz is considered by young people nowadays to be old-fashioned, but did you know it was once known as 'The Forbidden Dance'?

In the 18th century, dancing was very much a communal activity. Dancers didn’t just dance with a partner, but in two lines, so that partners faced each other and moved back and forth, and never touched apart from holding hands. They danced with each of the opposite line, in a stately, rigid manner.The Waltz

Then the unthinkable happened. People in Vienna started to dance the waltz, in which they faced each other in an embrace, with the man holding the woman’s right hand in his left, and with his right arm around her. Waltz is the German for ‘turn’ because each series of movements is a turning step and a close. The dance evolved from Austrian peasant dances and was strongly disapproved of by church leaders and officials.

Young people loved it however, and the waltz craze spread across Europe during the 1830s. When it arrived in England, it was denounced. Lord Byron wrote a furious letter, in which he decried the anti-social nature of the dance, with the couple “like two cockchafers spitted on the same bodkin”. However, he wrote it anonymously and later disowned it. The waltz was finally accepted.

The second couple dance to use this hold was the polka, a dance apparently invented by a Czech peasant girl. Polka is Czech for ‘half-step’, referring to the rapid shift from one foot to the other. It was introduced to England in 1843 and was an instant hit.

The next dance to use the embrace position was the tango. It comes from Argentina, where it had long been known in the working-class port neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. In 1912 it was introduced to Europe by Argentinian dancers and musicians and became wildly popular. Paris was swept away by the tango craze, followed by London, Berlin, and other capitals.

It’s ironic that ballroom dancing was considered to be only for the upper classes, while the working classes were left to their folk dancing. Yet each one of these dances above originated from peasant dances.

Happy Puzzling!

Christine Lovatt

20 Responses to

The Forbidden Dance

footsteps said:
January 16, 2013 at 12:52 PM

the waltz seems pretty tame thse days when you think of dances like the lambada and the salsa

January 16, 2013 at 3:58 PM

Hmmmmm... I'm okay with it. So long as they keep their clothes on.

January 16, 2013 at 11:27 PM

The waltz is tame but not in a society where physical contact was rare amongst the upper classes. I wonder what the waltz protestors would think of breakdancing. I know I thought it was pretty stupid when I first saw a teenage boy lay on the floor and spin around pronouncing it as a dance. 2 years later it was commonplace.

January 18, 2013 at 4:44 PM

yep stitch was nice years ago but times have changed

January 18, 2013 at 4:53 PM

I loved to waltz

January 18, 2013 at 4:55 PM

and it was my favourite dance on Dancing with the stars ... so elegant

falcon8 said:
January 19, 2013 at 12:10 PM

The beauty of living in a rural district with strong old-time values is that we still hold dances for those who want to waltz, two step, barn dance etc. Regular participants vary in age from 80s down to teenagers. A great and inexpensive way to socialize with delicious (home-baked biscuits and cakes) supper to cap off the evening.

gerbera said:
January 19, 2013 at 1:08 PM

I am a ballroom dancer in Melbourne in my 60's and dance about 40 different dances including about 8 waltzes when I go a couple of times a week. Very good exercise and a great social time with lovely people.

January 20, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Okay Falcon8, you've convinced me, I'm moving back to the country...

kragzy said:
January 21, 2013 at 10:21 AM

The waltz is a forbidden dance for my wife and me, and so are all other dances. Not for moral reasons, it's just that I can't dance a single step without planting my full weight onto the toes of my long-suffering lady. We tried dancing lessons once - it was like trying to teach a bull to tread carefully in a china shop. We laugh about it (mostly). :-)

nan_j said:
January 21, 2013 at 5:55 PM

... and that is so funny kragzy ...I loved the old time dances they were so easy to remember ... but then we got into doing the Modern ones nuff said lol.

January 22, 2013 at 5:27 PM

loved old time danceing , had to have a couple in me { alcholic beverage { and being tall all the short men would ask me to dance , , only came up to my bust , they lovd it , so in the end i refused dances , got known as a wallflower , Consquently never ment hubby at danceing , hes 6ft 2 fun times

pdiaco said:
January 24, 2013 at 9:56 AM

I know several hundred dance sequences, including waltzes, foxtrots, tangos, quickstep, blues, jive, rumba, salsa, saunter, cha cha, mambo. I dance thesse socially and its a challenge to learn and remember them, with about two new ones appearing every month (usually the best prize winning ones from England). Gotta go.

Mojito said:
January 24, 2013 at 6:54 PM

I want to move to Falcon8's town :) And sallyannejane, I'm still laughing from your story....

gracie10 said:
January 24, 2013 at 7:31 PM

I'm in the same category as you when it comes to dancing kragzy. Epic fail - I did ballet lessons as a young child. For the end of year gala ballet production (attended by parents and other proud relatives), we did a ballet version of Peter and the wolf. I was cast in the role of a duck - didn't even have to dance, just waddle. I have no aptitude whatsoever.

Tannita said:
January 27, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Merry Meet, Facinating, , , , thankyou very much for sharing Blessed Be, P.S. what about jazz and blues?

January 27, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Do you really dance Pdiaco (IMPRESSIVE TO THE EXTREME)or are you messing with us?

January 27, 2013 at 6:24 PM

Latin dances are my favourites, the rhythm and movements seem to be in my blood. I do however long to go to Vienna and go to a proper ball.

January 28, 2013 at 5:32 PM

I realise that this is off topic, plus I am unsure as to whether I am in the correct section to post this comment. If I am not, I extend my apologies. I would just like to tell all of those players on this game who are suffering through the vicissitudes of nature with the attendant floods and fires at the present time that you are in my thoughts and I extend my deepest condolences to you. My main desire is that everybody escapes this situation safe and well. My heart goes out to you and I extend my very best hopes and wishes to you all. I hope to see everybody back on the game as soon as possible, once again as a part of this one big happy family. Please stay safe and well.

January 29, 2013 at 8:12 AM

Well said, Hodgepodge. No-one escapes these tragedies. Even those 'safe' share the trauma.