32. The Viennese Waltz

In Dance News issue 695, (all those years ago) Alex Moore’s Letter Service article on the Viennese Waltz was reproduced. The foreword by Bobby Short stated how Dance News had repeatedly hammered home the futility of ignoring the dance the way we do in Britain; had highlighted the fact that very few of our competitors ever seem to take this dance seriously.

The late Alex Moore took the point further. His article starts “The Viennese Waltz has been a compulsory dance In World and Continental Championships for many years but has not been included in British Championships. Now that the Official Board has made the Jive obligatory in all main cham¬pionship events we have the unusual position where five dances are obligatory in the Latin section but only four dances in the Modern section. We have top class dancers whose interpretation of the Viennese Waltz is little more than a Slow Waltz danced quickly.” Now, in the year of 1998, has anything really changed?
CAN YOU DO FULL TURNS IN YOUR FLECKERLS? Every qualified teacher and professional competitor ought to know that each bar of the Fleckerl should rotate a full 360 degree turn. This is clearly stated in the formalised technique. Therefore, it is obvious that competitors in championships are expected to produce no less than this amount of rotation. Unfortun¬ately, it is doubtful whether there are any competitive dancers who can achieve the standard amount of one full turn on each bar of Fleckerls! Currently there are less than a handful of amateur or professional couples who are capable of making more than a three-quarter turn on each bar. One or two might get to seven- eighths of a turn. Why not check this statement for yourself? There are plenty of videos of cham¬pionships about.

Paul Krebs, the outstanding German champion, Viennese Waltz “King” and leading technical administrator – with his wife Margit – had a tremendous influence in popularising this dance throughout the world both competitively and socially after the Second World War. Even Alex Moore was impressed by the pioneering work of Paul, as chairman, in formulating the education, instruction and examination procedures of the German professional organisation, the ADTV. (This, of course was in all dances.)

As far as the Viennese Waltz was concerned, Paul declared – and I agree with him absolutely – that, “The Fleckerls need to be repeated at least 8 times (In one direction) to build up the speed necessary to make them look really effective.” (He and Margit could assuredly build up speed and would rotate up to one and a quarter turns on each bar of Fleckerls.)

Sadly, coaches nowadays are choreographing a mere 4 bars of Reverse Fleckerl – not enough to get going – before prematurely stopping them with the Contra Check, followed by a skimpy 3 or 4 bars of Natural Fleckerls and so out into the Natural Turns.

This abbreviated version of the Fleckerls would be acceptable only from the older Senior competitors (say, those over 50 or 60), whose muscular control and sense of balance is, perhaps, in decline, but it is certainly not acceptable from the young, fit, ‘lions’ of dance, those well-trained amateurs and professionals who engage in the discipline of Dancesport; the athletic artistes of dance who may one day contend for an Olympic Gold Medal.

There are people who call for more variations to be included in the Viennese Waltz but I have yet to hear of anyone who has come up with original choreography. The suggestions I have heard have been about adding old, time¬worn steps pilfered from other dances, such as the Throwaway Oversway, the Eros Line and the Left Whisk. Such creativity!? Why stop there; why not go the whole hog; plagiarize all the choreography of the Slow Waltz and dance it as Viennese Waltz? This would bear out Alex Moore’s contention that many competitors only aspire to perform a slow (langsammer) Waltz to the faster tempo of the Viennese.

How many readers remember that freedom to open up the Viennese Waltz to variations was permitted in 1949? All the authorities – German, British, etcetera – agreed that it was a total disaster! Completely changed the character of the dance. By common consent the purity of the Vienneseness of the dance was restored by purging all non-Viennese figures.

The Contra Check is the only ‘foreigner’ which has been allowed in, to act as a direct link from Reverse Fleckerl to Natural Fleckerl, but, with hindsight, that was probably a mistake. Unfortunately, most choreo¬graphers seem to have got locked into the one sequence: a few Reverse Fleckerls, Contra Check, a few Natural Fleckerls.

Choreographers, there are alternatives! The Reverse Fleckerls may be ended by Reverse Turns spiralling out to the perimeter of the floor. Natural Fleckerls may be started by Natural Turns which spiral into the centre of the floor.
To give an example, a more demanding sequence – i.e. a greater test of skill – is to dance, say, 16 bars of Natural Turns with the second 8 bars spiralling into the centre, followed by 8 or, better still, 16 bars of Natural Fleckerls, ended with another 8 bars Natural Turn spiralling out to the perimeter before changing to Reverse Turns. A similar sequence could be done with Reverse movements.