The Waltz

Mar 6, 2019

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

When the dance known as the waltz first became popular in Europe in the late 1700's and early 1800's, it was considered by many to be the ultimate in lewdness and licentiousness.

One German observer in the 1790's wrote: “The… dancers [brought] their bodies as closely together as possible, and in this way went whirling about in the most indecent positions; the [men’s] supporting [hands] lay firmly on the breasts, at each movement making little lustful pressures; the girls went wild and looked as if they would drop…” A few years later the London Times proclaimed it their duty  “to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.” Well, the warnings didn’t work, and not only that, the waltz became respectable. With the music of the Viennese composer Johann Strauss, Jr., the waltz reached the pinnacle of its popularity, and in 19th-century Vienna you could find enormous dance halls packed with thousands of people dancing the waltz.

A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.