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“When you hear ‘Vienna’, what do you think of?, Kenneth asked Susann and, from one dancer to another, she naturally swirled around and said “Waltz”!
The “Wiener Walzer” is indeed one of this famous city’s most popular export and these two travellers in particular could not visit the Austrian capital without learning more about it.
The waltz is originally a folk dance from the region, but swept across Europe in the late 18th century, causing some scandal, actually, because of the way the partners hold each other tightly during the dance: something not known in the more accepted and formal minuet or contredance.
The equally successful and scandalous 1774 novel by Germany’s national poet J.W. von Goethe, “The sorrows of young Werther”, includes a telling description of dancing the waltz: “”Never have I moved so lightly. I was no longer a human being. To hold the most adorable creature in one’s arms and fly around with her like the wind, so that everything around us fades away.”
But in Vienna a few decades later, composers like Johann Strauß the Elder, Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauß the Younger turned the waltz into the Wiener Walzer, adding tempo, finesse and a certain lightness that made the Vienna version conquer the world.
As much as they love dance, the ballroom variety was new to Susann and Kenneth and it took some coaching by their dance instructor Matthias to get the basics just right. Once they got the hang of it though, they even waltzed down the streets of Vienna.
The waltz also dominates in the unique tradition of the Viennese Ball: 400 or so formal dances organised around the city each year which recall the romance and elegance of the past. But alas, the ball season is in the winter!