Wiener Walzer

Viennese Waltz
Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to frequently asked questions related to the Viennese waltz lessons by danceinstructors Herbert and Carol Traxler held at the Embassy of Austria , at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building for the Smithsonian Associates, at Meridian House, Army-Navy Country Club, and at many other venues. Because of the large number of Viennese waltz students (nearly 700 in 1997, and hundreds of students every year since then), we are including answers to frequently asked questions here. If you have additional questions, please send them to me via e-mail at

Where can I sign up for the Viennese waltz lessons?

Any current lessons by the Traxlers are listed at and at

You may sign up for an email list if you wish to be notified about future balls with waltzing and future Viennese waltz lessons. The mailing list is described at Other information on Washington area events is at

Where can I get suitable Viennese waltz music for dancing? What music is used in the lessons?

Commercially available compact discs include many of Viennese waltzes, although most (nearly all) are concert waltzes, often lasting over 10 minutes, with great variations in tempo thatmake them difficult to dance to. To find music suitable for dancing, look for "strict tempo" on the CD description, and dance lengths of about 3 minutes. Some of the commercially available CDs that we may use in the lessons are the following:

bullet ebay - you may type in the search box "cd viennese waltz strict tempo" to locate CDs to examine for suitability for your purpose. Write to the seller if you have unanswered questions.

bullet Dance Sport Music: Viennese waltz. You may listen to tracks at a specified tempo; links to itunes music store. Not all links work at this time. You may browse around to locate out of stock and discontinued CDs that may be available on a second-hand market.

bullet Strictly Viennese Waltz performed by the New 101 Strings Orchestra, in "The Best of Dancesport" series. All titles performed at 54 measures per minute. All music by Johann Strauss, Jr. BD02 0700. Individual tracks may be purchased and downloaded.

These older CDs are likely to be out of stock or discontinued.
bullet The World of Wiener Walzer 1 CD set, each CD containing 70 minutes of music. Viennese waltzes range from 2:43 to 10:25 minutes, with most about 3 to 4 minutes in length. Various European orchestras. 30 tracks. ZYX Music, ZYX 11109-2.
I saw one of these two CDs above at the Vienna airport and then found both of them online.
bullet Wiener-Walzer Collection with Tanz Orchester Klaus Hallen contains 13 Viennese waltzes, approximately half by Viennese composers. All are at 60 beats per minute -- standard tempo. Hallen Records CD HR 94 08 13.
bullet Nothing But Dancing contains 6 slow waltzes (28-30 beats perminute), 6 Viennese waltzes (mostly by Viennese composers) at 60 beats perminute, and one slow/Viennese waltz (30/61 bpm). These are by threedifferent orchestras. Alpana CD1-51034.
bullet Wiener Walzer - VienneseWaltzes with Mirko Krebs and his "Tessarini Chamber Orchestra."Contains 16 Viennese waltzes (a few by Viennese composers) -- 13 at 60bpm and 3 at 50 bpm. CONdisc 101030.
bullet Red Rose Dance Collection: Langsamer Walzer/Wiener Walzer, Vol. 4 , with 10 slow waltzes and 6 Viennese waltzes, at 58 or 60 measures per minute. ALPANA Music, Red Rose Records CD 28044.
I found these four dance CDs above through Telemark Dance Records.

bullet JohannStrauss II: Waltzes, An der schoenen blauen Donau with WilliBoskovsky and Rudolf Kempe, Seraphim 7243 5 68535 2 2 (2 CDs), and
bullet Johann StraussFavorites: Waltzes, Polkas & Marches, VOX Cameo Classics CCD2 207(2 CDs).

If you are selecting dance CDs without being able to listen to them first, you may want to note whether the composers include "Waltz King" Johann Strauss (Jr.) and his compatriots for a real Viennese sound. There are ballroom CDs available (such as for competitive ballroom dancing) that contain Viennese waltzes, but many of them do not -- in my opinion -- exude the requisite Viennese charm of the waltzes composed by the Strauss family, Lanner, and Waldteufel.

bullet The Story of Johann Strauss in Words and Music was introduced in some lessons. While not intended for dancing, this interesting story with rich musical illustrations, a selection from "An Introduction to the Classics," can acquaint dance students with the life and music of this brilliant Viennese composer. VOX Music Masters MMD 8514.

Where can I find dance shoes?

You can look in the yellow pages for your area under "DancingSupplies" for stores that carry dance shoes. One popular American brand that runs about $40-45 for "character shoes" for women is Capezio. (Do not confusethese with Capezio's separate fashion line of shoes in regular stores that are not specifically for dance.) Character shoes come in several heel heights and have a strap across the instep to hold the shoe in place. These are the dance shoes typically worn by professional dancers on Broadway. Dance shoes are also available in T-straps and other styles. If you do not find these shoes comfortable, just check your favorite shoe stores for shoes with leather (or suede) soles and a comfortable heel height for dancing. I prefer character shoes with a strap, but you may like dancing in pumps without a strap. The importance of leather or suede soles for dancing the Viennese waltz cannot be overemphasized. Another important feature is a steel shank, giving you greater stability, so that you do not tire as quickly.

If you have a hard-to-find size or would like to see a great variety of ballroom and folk dance shoes for men and women, you can search the web. I found the Promenade Dance Shoppe's Shoe Department at 800-342-6947 (Seattle area or International 206-242-8138) a reliable source, with many (about 100) styles of dance shoes, sizes 4 to 13 (ladies) and 6 to 14 (men). The shoes have leather or suede soles and are especially for dancing. Many styles are very reasonably priced.

HINT: Another good way to get well-fitting shoes is to watch for a ballroom competition to come to your area (see for the Washington area) and see which dance shoe vendors will be attending. Phone or email them with your desired style(s) and size, and they may bring them to the competition site for you to try on in person. I have found that there is no admission charge for the vendor area.

Gentlemen who rent formal wear for the ball will often be able to rent black patent leather shoes (Lackschuhe) along with the tailcoat ("tails") for the white tie occasions. However, many dancers will prefer to wear their own well-fitting, comfortable shoes for dancing. Others will not want to risk being able to rent shoes in their size. Many men will prefer to purchase their own black dance shoes in a style that will take a high polish or will purchase patent leather dance shoes for formal occasions.

For practice, you may be interested in "dance sneakers" available in dance supply stores and on-line that provide excellent support but have a smooth suede or leather sole.

Whatever shoes you choose, you should try to break them indoors around the house and at the dance lessons, so they will feel very comfortable at the ball. Remember also to keep them only for dancing, and not for streetwear.

Where can I dance Viennese waltzes in the Washington area?

See my Cultural Events in the Washington Area site at for many Austrian and German dance events. There are always Viennese waltzes and other continental-style (faster than the English waltz) waltzes played at these dances. You can also check the link to the Folklore Society of GreaterWashington ( here or in my events list. You can also find the FSGW in thetelephone white pages (202-546-2228) and call their hotline for last minute information on dancing and dance lessons locally. The people are friendly and the prices reasonable. You may notice that the waltz taught and generally danced at Glen Echo is a "turning waltz" or "country waltz" and not the Viennese waltz, so you may have difficulty dancing with some of the dancers there. It is possible to dance the Viennese waltz to the music typically played at the dances there, as long as your partner will also dance the Viennese waltz. The live music is excellent, the people are friendly, and the wooden dance floor is wonderful! It is not heated or air-conditioned. Bring your own water to drink. Monitored by the U.S Park Service, no alcohol allowed. Directions to the Spanish Ballroom.

See DC DanceNet at for an excellent events list and links to many ballroom dance resources.

Nelson Bridwell has an international calendar listing balls at his excellent site Viennese Ball. Dr. Csaba Gabor lists black tie Society Balls in New York and throughout the country at his site

Where are the Viennese Balls in Vienna?

Every year a new Ballkalender is posted at Viennese web sites (in German and in English). We have a description of a trip to Vienna for the ball season in 2007 that contains many links that may be useful to you:

The Vienna Opera Ball site presents music (audio file), dancing (pictures and videos), history, and other information, including whom to contact for tickets.

Events in Vienna ( (in German and English) shows the available list of balls for each month. Look under "events" and then "balls." Wien-Online (English). (Some web sites will change addresses, so try another site if one seems to disappear).

Additional resources of interest are DC DanceNet's Viennese Waltz in the Washington DC Area, Donald Daniel's Annual Viennese Waltz Balls, Richard Walter's Viennese Balls Resource Site, and Nelson Bridwell's Viennese Ball.

How should we dress for a Viennese Ball in Washington?

Some Viennese Ball invitations request white tie. The gentlemen will wear tailcoats ("tails") for white tie. White tie for gentlemen means white tie, white vest, white pleated-front or pique-front shirt, white gloves, black tailcoat, black pants with satin strip on outside seam, and black patent (or highly polished) shoes. Ladies may wear long gowns of any color. The Viennese waltz is especially beautiful (and more fun) when danced in ballgowns with long, full skirts, rather than close-fitting gowns with straight skirts. Suitable dresses are available in ladies' formal clothing departments and bridal shops that carry formal wear.

When a ball is described as black tie, gentlemen will wear a black tuxedo, black tie, black cummerbund. Ladies dress as for white tie events; their dresses are of any color.

Dancers who are performing in an Opening Committee (Opening Cotillion, or Eröffnungskomitee) have strict dress rules announced by the ball organizers, generally white tie. The young ladies in an Opening Cotillion will wear long white (not off-white) gowns, and the young men will wear tailcoats ("tails"). White tie for gentlemen is as described above. Often there will be a group order for rentals so that the young gentlemen have a uniform appearance. Photographs of the Opening Cotillions trained by the Traxlers for several balls in the Washington area are given at Viennese Ball Opening Committee.

What is the Handkuss?

The Handkuss is an old-fashioned and very charming way for a gentleman to greet a lady. It still flourishes in Vienna, as well as among Austrians in Washington. In the Handkuss the gentleman takes the lady's right hand in his right hand, at about the location where they would shake hands, but turns his palm up so that the back of her hand is on top. He bows over her hand but does not actually touch her hand with his lips (he merely comes close). He does not raise her hand to his lips, but he bows down coming close to her hand. The Handkuss is usually accompanied with the words "küss' dieHand, gnädige Frau" (which means "I kiss your hand, gracious lady"), "küss' die Hand" or simply "meine Dame" "gnädige Frau" or similar words. Küss' is an abbreviated form of "ichküsse" (I kiss). The gentleman may also click his heels together in attention at the same time he bows and just before he says the accompanying words. If you're not familiar with the heel click, which often accompanies military salutes, the man simply stands with feet relatively parallel and pivots slightly but sharply on the balls of both feet simultaneously so thatthe inside heels are brought together in a generally audible click when the shoes or boots meet. In some military salutes, I've seen men quickly first pivot on the balls of their feet to bring their heels further apart so that they will make a louder click when brought together. With or without the heel click, the Handkuss is most enjoyable. Try it and watch the smile of delight.

What is a polonaise?

Vienna Opera Ball

The polonaise in Austrian and Austrian-American circles today often refers to a stately march in 3/4 time. Both partners of the couple begin on the right foot (for odd-numbered measures -- 1, 3, 5, etc.). Unless the choreography specifically disallows it, the gentleman is on the left, holding his right hand about shoulder height, palm facing up. The lady is on the right, and she places her left hand, palm down, in his right hand. If she is not carrying a Biedermeierstrauss (nosegay, or small floral bouquet) in her right hand, she may hold out her skirt in her right hand, or a fan, especially if there is no one at her right.

There is generally a leader or some arranged choreography that brings couples down the center of the hall, one couple after(behind) another. When they reach the orchestra, for example, couples will alternate turning left and right to continue walking around the perimeter of dance floor; when they meet at the other end they may walk toward the orchestra four abreast, repeat the "peeling off" with double pairs walking left and right, and then come down the hall eight abreast.

The first row of eight may then lead off to the left, still holding hands but walking half-turned forward in single file, and the man at the left of the second row of eight will then take the hand of the rightmost lady in the first row of eight as she files past him. Each row joins successively, so that all the dancers are in a single line, holding hands.

They may form a spiral (or "Schnecken"), the lead person walking toward the center of the ballroom so that the line of people following the leader make the shape of a large spiral on the floor. Then the leader returns along the line of the spiral to the outside, with all those who follow filing past each other, so that everyone may greet each of the dancers present at the ball. While still in a single line, they may walk in a large zig-zag pattern that goes from wall to wall.

The lead couple may form an arch with their joined hands held high. Then next couple will walk under the arch and stand immediately next to the first couple, men on left and women on right as you approach the arch, and also make an arch withtheir arms. Each successive couple goes under the arch and joins in making the arch. Once the first couple go through the long line of arched arms they will begin another figure.

The Fächer Polonaise (Fan Polonaise) by Carl Michael Ziehrer is the music most commonly used for the polonaise in Viennese balls. It is also known simply as the Ziehrer Polonaise.

In German, German-American, and Austrian circles, the polonaise, or Grand March, may be marched to 2/4 or 4/4 time music, a polka or march, such as the Radetsky March by Johann Strauss, Sr. It is generally played and marched at a livelier pace than the polonaise described above and mayinclude an energetic sashay (sidestep-close, slide, Rutscher, or Galopp) step in a large line of couples who make a big quickly-moving circle around the dance floor. The sashay is often begun by the lead couple when they have exited thearch (the long line of arches made by the dancers' joined hands, described above). For the sashay, each couple may simply be holding each other's hands or may be in social dance position, looking in the line of dance as they move in that direction.

You can see pictures of balls in Vienna, for which the polonaise is an important part of the opening ceremony, by following links from this page to sites for the balls in Austria.

The historical polonaise is danced today in ballet, but not by the public attending balls, in my experience.

Are there books you recommend as useful for refreshing social dances?

Two are Social Dance from Dance a While and Dance A While by Jane A. Harris, Anne M. Pittman, and Marlys S. Waller.

Are there videos available of balls in the Washington area?

There of course are videos of the Viennese waltz at

I have a few copies of the VHS videotape of the 1997 Viennese Opera Ball in Washington. Description: "A professionally edited videotape of the Viennese Opera Ball in Washington 1997 has been prepared from several amateur videotapes made at the ball. It is available $25 plus shipping. It is 55 minutes in length and focuses on the Opening Performance, the opera and ballet interludes, and the dancing. For details about the videotape, available in NTSC (American and Japanese standard) and PAL (European standard), contact Carol Traxler at 5817 Runford Drive, New Carrollton, MD 20784; telephone 301-577-3503 (home); email "

Other more recent DC-area balls have been captured by others in DVD; see Previous Viennese Waltz Lessons and Balls for links to some videos that have come to my attention.

Viennese Waltz with the Traxlers | Photos & Articles

Herbert & Carol Traxler, 5817 Runford Drive, New Carrollton, MD 20784.Telephone 301-577-3503.

Copyright © 1997 - 2013
Author: Carol Traxler
Last update: November 2013

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