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First Dance Specialists

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Viennese Waltz - The first record of a dance to a 3/4 rhythm was danced to the 'Volta' in 1559 by peasants in 'Provence', France.  The music 'Volta' is claimed to be Italian; 'Volta' meaning turn. The 'Volta' required couples to dance in a closed position; the man holding the lady around the waist, the lady's right arm on the man's shoulder and holding her skirt in her left hand. This was necessary to stop it flying up, since the dance involved the man lifting her using his left thigh under the lady's right thigh. The 'Volta', although originally danced with three beats per bar (3 time), evolved into 5 time and therefore 5 steps. In 1754 the first music for the 'Waltzen' appeared in Germany, any connection between the 'Volta' and the 'Waltzen' remains obscure, although Waltzen in German means "to revolve". In the early 1800's the dance became very popular in Vienna, and in 1812 was introduced to England as the German Waltz.  Throughout the 19th Century the dance stabilized, and was further popularised by the music of Josef and Johann Strauss heralding the Viennese Waltz as we know it.

 

Waltz (also known as English, Modern or Slow Waltz) - In the early 19th Century, the 'Waltzen' had become popular throughout Germany and Austria, with local variants evolving and named after those areas eg. 'Lander'. A more sedate version of the 'Viennese Waltz' originated in America in the 1870's under the name of the 'Boston'. The present Waltz originated in England around 1910 and was described as being a variant of  the 'Boston'  and the 'Lander' although the tempo had been reduced from 180 bpm (beats per minute) to 90 bpm.

 

Foxtrot - Originated as the 'Castle Walk' and introduced into the Nightclub performances of 'Vernon' and 'Irene Castle', and later popularised by 'Harry Fox' in the stage show "Ziegfield Follies" in New York in 1913.  Fox's involvement has been taken as the origin of the name 'Foxtrot', although it could have been from the 'Missouri Fox Trotter'; a breed of horse that has a very smooth action, a characteristic of the 'Slow Foxtrot'.  It is also possible that the Fox itself could be involved since it has an unusual gait among animals, having the ability to walk with its feet under its body.  i.e. with both the left and right foot falling in a single line. The 'Foxtrot' was originally danced in this manner until a revised technique was introduced in the 1950's; the feet no-longer tracking in a single line but moving along their own separate tracks.  

 

Tango - Can be assigned to one of two roots; the 'Tango' has always been a light spirited Spanish Flamenco style dance.  With the Spanish conquest of South America, along with several other folk dances this migrated to the new lands. The 'Tangano', an African dance, was also imported into South America with the Negro slaves. Over the years one or maybe both of these dances merged with other dances in the New World, in particular Argentina, to create a new dance the 'Milonga'. By the turn of the 20th Century it had gained acceptance by the upper classes in both Argentina and Western Europe.  Interest grew rapidly, initially in Paris (then London and New York) where the character was dramatically changed during the 1930's; the dance was combined with the proud torso of the other ballroom dances and given a staccato action which remains today.

 

Quickstep - As ragtime music evolved into Swing through the 1920's, new dances such as the 'Charleston' and the 'Black Bottom' became popular. The 'Charleston' is thought to originate from the Cape Verde Islands, where Negro dock workers in Port Charleston danced a vigourous round dance which was first performed on stage in New York in 1922 in a black review by George White. It only became popular with white society after it's inclusion in the show "Running Wild", performed by the Ziegfield Follies whilst touring the U.S.A. It was popularised in Europe, by a young lady by the name of Josephine Baker during the 1920's in Paris.  It was danced with wild swinging arms and side kicks to music at between 200 and 240 bpm.  The dance subsequently became popular worldwide, but the wild nature of the dance caused several of the more sedate ballrooms to either totally ban the dance, or display notices simply saying "PCQ", (Please Charleston Quietly). Around the same time in the U.S.A. another dance the 'Black Bottom' was becoming popular in the suburbs of Detroit with the same name.  This dance involved swaying torso, bending the knees and short kicks.  It was danced to music at between 140 and 160 bpm.  This dance was very popular after it's inclusion in the George White's stage show "Scandals" of 1926. The merging of these two dances, along with others (Shimmy etc.) were to form a faster version of the 'Foxtrot' after the visit to the U.K. of the Paul Whiteman band in 1923.  This quick Foxtrot then became known as the 'Quickstep', and is danced at approximately 200 bpm. The 'Quickstep' has retained the walks, runs, turns and chasses of the original dances, but several others have been added such as locks, hops and skips.

 

The Five Dances of Modern Ballroom