Monica Bohrer and Sandro Virag dance the Viennese Waltz at the Viva Las Vegas Ballroom Competition.

The Viennese Waltz dates back to the early 1700s in Europe, primarily the Hungarian and Austrian empire. It started with the common folk and then became popular with the upper class because it was being danced in the most prestigious ballrooms with the live Strauss orchestra.

This is the dance I grew up with – and it soon became one of my favorites. It is one of the most elegant and poised of the waltzes.

Viennese Waltz is danced in a fast pace and features left and right turns which makes the couple appear to be “whirling” around the dance floor.  As its popularity increased, so did the speed. 

Austrian composers like Johann Strauss and Franz Lanner increased the speed – in fact twice as fast as the waltz. Dancers really had to have greater technique and endurance for this dance. 

This is when a new version of the waltz became the Viennese Waltz. It is elegant with lots of turns. Popular Viennese Waltz songs include “The Blue Danube” and “The Skater’s Waltz.”

Eventually Viennese Waltz entered the competitive ballroom dance world and still remains one of the favorites by most dancers. Even though it has the least variations of steps, it is probably the hardest to deliver in a competitive setting because of the speed of the music. 

When it came to America, it took a turn and became a more theatrical dance with lots of turns, kicks and even dips. The music then had to slow down to accommodate all these extra tricks. Even though this dance is so traditional, we are still able to dance it to today’s pop music.

This is why today we have two styles of Viennese Waltz in the competition world – standard Viennese Waltz and the American Viennese Waltz. 

In European countries today, mainly in Austria and Hungary, Viennese Waltz is still one of the most traditional dances used for opening up galas, balls and large functions and festivals. 

For those of you who are already comfortable with your ballroom dancing, this could be your next one to try. 

Sandro Virag is a partner and instructor at Hilton Head Ballroom Dance Studio of Hilton Head, located in Bluffton at Seaquins Ballroom.