The Indecent Foreign Dance: The Waltz Arrives in England


Cinderella and Prince Charming Dancing


“We who go forth of nights and see without the slightest discomposure our sister and our wife seized on by a strange man and subjected to violent embraces and canterings round a small-sized apartment – the only apparent excuse for such treatment being that it is done to the sound of music – can scarcely realize the horror which greeted the introduction of this wicked dance.”  – (Fitzgerald, 1867)


Few sights are as romantic as that of a couple, absorbed in each other, sweeping across the floor in a waltz.  It is certainly the highlight of many a fairy tale and even Jane Austen allows her couples ample time on the dance floor.  But what is the real story behind the waltz and how it was received when it arrived in England in the early 1800s?

Origins of the Waltz

The history of the waltz actually dates back to the 1500′s.  There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance, i.e. a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim.  Hans Sachs wrote of the dance in his 1568 Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände (1568) and the French philosopher Montaigne wrote of a dance he saw in 1580 in Augsburg, where the dancers held each other so closely that their faces touched (possibly La Volta).  Kunz Haas, in about the same period wrote: Continue reading