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Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 8
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VIII.
THE WALTZE À DEUX TEMPS.

The waltze à deux temps is, perhaps, justly called the waltze of the day, and does not seem destined soon to lose the unanimous favour in which it is held both in France and other countries. The opinion, long accredited, that it is in opposition to the time, could not, as I have already noticed, bear the test of reason nor even of the ear. It was pretended too, that it sinned on the side of grace, and that the old waltze was more calculated to show off the dancers, and particularly the ladies, while the new one presented to the eye only a short abrupt course, without any of those balancings of the body and undulations of the head, which were an indispensable ornament of the real waltze.

It is very difficult, I think, to come to any precise agreement as to the word, taste, which often varies with the times, and has like so many things of this world its vicissitudes and conventionalities. Every people, every age, imagines that the most graceful dance in the world is beyond contradiction its own. We may give excellent reasons in favour of the waltze à trois temps; and I do not doubt that a century ago, they gave just as good in behalf of the saraband, the coranto, and the minuet. At all times the dances in fashion found natural enemies in those they had just dethroned.

I think before considering whether a dance or a waltze is, or is not, calculated to please the spectators, we should enquire if it is likely to please the dancers; that we shall find, is the essential point. Now I appeal to the waltzers themselves;—do they experience the same pleasure in making one uniform circle about a room, upon an equal movement, as when they spring with that fascinating vivacity, which the waltze à deux temps alone permits, relaxing or quickening their pace at will, promenading their partner in every way, now obliging her to fall back, now themselves retreating, going to the right, to the left, varying their pace almost at every step, and arriving at that sort of giddiness, which I may venture to call intoxication, without fear of contradiction from the real lovers of the waltze?

It is not for me in this place to defend, and still less to puff, the waltze à deux temps, but I may venture to observe, that I have never heard it condemned except by those who have never danced it. Its greatest enemies, the moment they have themselves been able to appreciate its advantages, have immediately enlisted amongst its most zealous partizans.

The music of this waltze is in the same time as that of the waltze à trois temps except that the orchestra should rather quicken the movement and mark it with particular care.

The step is very simple, being nothing more than the gallop executed by either leg while turning; but instead of springing, it is essential to glissade thoroughly, avoiding every thing like starts or jerks.

I have already explained the position of the foot in my notice of the waltze à trois temps. The dancer should keep his knee slightly bent; if they are too tense, they naturally occasion stiffness, and force the waltzer to spring; but this bending should be very little marked, and almost imperceptible to the eye; too great a curving of the hams not only produces an ungraceful effect to the spectator, but is quite as injurious to the waltze as too much stiffness.

It is requisite to make a step to every beat—that is, to glissade with one foot, and to chasser with the other. Differing in this from the waltze à trois temps, which describes a circle, the waltze à deux temps is danced squarely, and turns only upon the glissade. It is essential to note this difference of movement in order to appreciate the character of the two dances.

The position also of the gentleman is not the same in the waltze à deux temps as in that à trois. He must not face his partner, but be a little to her right, slightly inclining his right shoulder, which allows him to spring well when carrying along the lady.

I have already expressed my regret that custom should have given to this dance the name of waltze à deux temps, instead of à deux pas. The term three steps (pas) would have avoided much confusion by indicating that two steps were to be executed to three beats of the music; the first step to the first beat—the second beat to be passed over—and the second step to the third beat. By these means one is always sure of keeping time.

The gentleman in the waltze à deux temps sets out with the left foot, and the lady with the right.

What I have said in regard to the attitude of the gentleman, applies in part to the lady. She should equally avoid stiffness of the legs as well as of the arm, which is joined to that of her partner, and abstain from leaning heavily upon the hand or shoulder, which in waltze-language is termed clinging.

The defect of most French dancers, who have not as yet familiarized themselves with the waltze à deux temps is, that they throw themselves too much back, turn aside their head, and hollow their waist, all of which contributes to make them heavy on one side, and is opposed to the oblique intention of the waltze.

The German ladies do not hesitate to lean slightly forward on the gentleman, which greatly facilitates the execution of many movements imposed upon them. However light and slender a lady may be, she will not be light upon the arm of her partner, if she at all detaches herself from him by any motion of the body.

There is then, we perceive, very little complication in the principles of the waltze à deux temps. The step is very simple, and easily acquired in a single lesson; the attitude is no other than what is pointed out by nature. But notwithstanding its apparent simplicity, this waltze presents real difficulties, if we at all desire to attain a certain degree of perfection,—difficulties that are to be conquered only by much practice, and which depend upon details of sufficient importance for me to think it requisite to devote a particular chapter to them. I make no pretensions, in this place, as I have already observed, to explain the mechanism, but only the character, and, if I may so say, the style, of this waltze, which less than any other will endure a mediocre execution.


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Drawing Room Dances by Henri Cellarius Chapter 8

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