A. We teach social couple dances, primarily those that have been done for over 50 years ("vintage" dances). Each dance is taught based on historical records of how it was done during its heyday; however, there are always substantial differences between early practitioners, which supports the "authenticity" of numerous alternative styles and steps. Moreover, popular dances continue to develop, like living languages; not only new styles, but whole new hybrids of vintage dances are generally welcomed into the vintage dance fold. Each vintage dance organization will have a unique character that includes a relative preference for a subset of the numerous available vintage dances.
Q. Well then, which vintage dances does Waltz & Such prefer?
A. We can't give a short answer; we like all of the dances listed (in bold) below, though of course we like some a bit more than others. Our favorites include numerous varieties of waltzes. Basic rotary waltz developed early in the 19th century, and by mid-century the form had diversified widely, notably including many classed as mazurka steps. Of these, a redowa (or turning pas de basque) is particularly well-loved by vigorous waltzers today. Viennese waltz is popular for sprightly tempos; from the vintage dance perspective, the term covers dances ranging from historic to current Viennese styles and also to dances "officially" labeled as such by ballroom dance organizations. Cross-step waltz is a return to America of a French interpretation of an early 20th century American dance, characterized by a cyclically shifting frame and a wide vocabulary of variations that many find supremely satisfying for a certain range of waltz tempos (roughly 2/3 those of Viennese waltzes). Waltz swing is an American fusion, and is particularly suited for jazzy music having a tempo between those popular for cross-step and Viennese waltzes. Odd-meter waltzes (5/4, 7/8) and related European folk couple dances such as zwiefacher and hambo round out the most popular dances that reasonably belong in this genre of dances. The music for almost all waltzes is in 3/4 time (odd-meter waltzes excepted), such that the musical time signature may be considered almost synonymous with the dance genre. The vast majority of waltzes are also turning dances that travel in a counter-clockwise direction around a dance floor (excepting waltz swing and certain rotary and fleckerl waltz variations). The cycles of popularity experienced by waltzing since the 19th century are mere echoes of the massive enthusiasm with which another turning, traveling dance - the polka - was adopted in the early 19th century. Polka remains popular at Waltz & Such, particularly for the young and the young-at-heart, and is generally considered indispensable for any Viennese-style ball. "Radical vintage" dancers have taken the dance to new heights (literally!), and offshoots of polka such as schottische and two-step are also very popular with us. The Ragtime era of the early 20th century (to about 1917) introduced a number of dances that all remain quite popular, particularly at Waltz & Such, including one-step, two-step, Ragtime tango and early foxtrots. The quintessential 1920's dance, the Charleston, is taught sometimes, and later foxtrots (1920s-40s, think Fred and Ginger) are very popular. Borrowed from South America around the turn of the 20th century, the maxixe (masheesh) and its later form the samba are frequently danced, as well as the even later cha-cha and rumba. The various American swing dances have entered the vintage repertoire. Waltz & Such teaches basic East Coast swing (jitterbug), which is arguably the most popular of these dances. However, in view of the many local professional teachers who specialize in swing dancing, we usually refrain from teaching the other dances in this genre, such as Lindy Hop, West Coast swing, and Balboa. Nevertheless, we encourage and admire their performance. Indeed, at Waltz & Such we actively encourage dancers to do whatever free-style dance, and whatever traditional or novel steps for such dance, they feel suits the music that is playing at the moment. The emphasis at Waltz & Such is on improvisational dancing, but a modest number of choreographies are also very popular, particularly including the Spanish Waltz, the Scorpion Tango, the Bohemian National Polka, the Persian Garden Tango, the Turkey Trot (a ragtime animal dance/one-step), and Peaceful Henry (a Ragtime two-step). Please refer to the Dance Notes link in the main menu for these choreographies. Compared to Waltz & Such, most vintage dance groups indulge more frequently in some of the numerous 19th century Quadrilles, which were often considered more refined and elegant than the wildly energetic polka, and more proper even than the waltz (though the Triple Galop Quadrille hardly fits the characterization). At any dance that doesn't have a predetermined music program (as for a live-music ball), the selection of dances may be heavily influenced by requests. Vintage dancers often enjoy other dances, such as salsa, Argentine tango, country-western two-step and waltz, Cajun/zydeco, night club two-step, hustle, Scandinavian and other folk dances, etc. Therefore, very few dances would be unwelcome at a general vintage dance. For general vintage dances, we prefer to dance to an eclectic mix of music, much of which is contemporary. On the other hand, vintage dance "events" are likely to be representative of a particular period and/or region, such as a Viennese ball or a Ragtime dance; and an effort would be made, for such events, to limit the music, the dances, and even the dress to that which is appropriate for the period/region represented.