Let’s Dance and SaddleBrooke Ballroom Dance Clubs: Viennese Waltz – Tales from the Vienna Woods (part 1)

Steve Holdener

What is a cockchafer and its relationship to a bodkin? According to Wikipedia a cockchafer is a European beetle, and it’s also called a May bug, Mitchamador, Billy Witch or Spang Beetle. A bodkin has been described as a dagger, stiletto, ornamental hairpin shaped like a stiletto, or a sharp slender instrument for making holes in cloth.

What does this have to do with dancing? The answer lies in a furious letter from Lord Byron (1788-1824) prior to his poem The Waltz in which he declares essentially the anti-social nature of the Viennese Waltz as the couple dancing appear “like two cockchafers spitted on the same bodkin.”

So to understand Lord Byron’s comments we need to go back in time to know the nature of what was acceptable dancing and dance positions for that period. Nearly all European social dances before the waltz were communal sequence dances. Communal because all the dancers on the floor took part in a pre-set pattern, often chosen by a master of ceremony. Dancers separately and as couples faced outwards to the spectators as much as they faced inwards. So everyone at the dance took part as dancers or as onlookers. Coincidently this was the way with the country dance and all previous popular dances. With the waltz, couples were independent of each other and were turned towards each other, though not in close contact.

The Viennese Waltz is one of the most beautiful and graceful of the ballroom dances and is the oldest of the current ballroom dances. Its roots go back to the second half of the 18th century from the German dance and the Ländler in Austria and was both popular and subject to criticism.

We will continue with Part 2 of the Viennese Waltz in next month’s column!

Our next first Thursday of the month dinner/dance evening will take place on June 11 at SaddleBrooke One in the Vistas Dining Room with the adjacent Vermilion Room dance floor beginning at 5:30 p.m. We will return to the normal first Thursday in July on the second. Please come join us then as well as the weekly open dances/practices on Sunday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at MountainView Ballroom and Wednesday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the Vermilion Room. It’s a time for listening and dancing to great ballroom music and sharing in the love of dancing as well as enjoying the comaraderie and fellowship of friendly dancers.

If you didn’t make any of our five dinner/dances this last dance season, then please plan to come out when we start up the new dance season with our first dance party on November 14, 2015 followed by our second dance party on December 26. These will be great Saturday night events!

You are invited to visit our Facebook page that we share with Let’s Dance; just type Let’s Dance in the search box on Facebook. Please feel free to share your own favorite dance story or ballroom tune; you can write me at [email protected].