The waltz grew popular well over 200 years ago, in Eastern Europe. In its crude beginnings, it included hops and flings and jumps, along with the characteristic spinning from which we get the name. “Waltz” comes from the Latin “volvere”, from which we also have the English word “revolve”.
In 1815, statesmen gathered for the Congress of Vienna, and after a hard days work, waltzed all evening. When they returned to their own countries, they brought back the waltz along with their diplomatic briefs, and the waltz exploded into popularity all over the world. To this day, Vienna is the waltz capital of the world.
About 100 years ago, in Boston, the box step waltz was invented. Arthur Murray, who had a vision of everyone dancing, opened schools teaching box step waltz, foxtrot, and rhumba, and popularized dancing all over the U.S., in our parents era. The box step has expanded into the ballroom dancing we know today, with schools, lessons, competitions and TV shows.
European dancers immediately noticed how easy it was to turn to the left while doing the box step waltz. When the box step reached Vienna, where the high speed rotary waltz was still king, the Viennese turned it into a high speed left-turning rotary waltz. The high speed left and right turning rotary waltz became so popular in Vienna that it is now known the world over as “Viennese” waltz.
Over the last 30 years, Richard Powers, a dance historian and professor at Stanford, has popularized “social” waltz, which is a mixture of many steps and styles. In the last 10 years Powers has taught weekend workshops in north Georgia, at Sid Hetzler’s Splittree Farm, from which social waltz has spread all over the eastern U.S. Powers is also credited with inventing the Crosstep waltz, which has taken its place with rotary, box step and Viennese as one of the basic waltz forms. For more information on crosstep waltz, see