There are three dances which are found in many countries in the north and west of Europe. These three are the Schottische, the Polka and the Waltz. Within the repertoire of the Sacred and Circle dance collection they are rarely performed, yet they are fundamental to many other dances, often forming parts of a longer dance. But since they are not known they are not acknowledged, or rarely so.
I saw a lovely waltz configuration, whose name escapes me, taught and performed by Peter Vallance and Sue at the festival of Sacred Dance, Song and Music in Findhorn this year. It began in a circle when all moved to the side and the returned, moved to face partner then moved together and apart and finally broke into a sequence of the waltz. I had not seen this variant before. It was lovely to watch. I don’t recall whether it was one in which partners were exchanged after the initial sequence, as often they are.
Bernhard Wosien had high regard for the Waltz. He said it was the last cosmic dance, with the Earth and Moon revolving around the Central Sun of a ballroom.
Bernhard told us the partner dances were the latest to develop with line, crescent and circle dances coming first. While there are many other forms these three are simple and basic.
The Schottische is usually in duple time with the partners holding each other in a ballroom hold stepping to one side and hopping on that foot and stepping to the other side and hopping again. So it has a sort of lumpiness to it. One hop, two hop. Since the partners are facing one another each starts on the opposite foot to the other. The motion is usually accomplished by a swinging of the body to one side and then the other. It is a very friendly dance with a simple motion. It is found, among other dances, in Sieben Schritt from Austria.
The Polka is in 4/4 time. It has a characteristic 1, 2, 3 hop. Partners in a ballroom hold – necessitating opposite feet leading – fly around the ballroom in imitation of horses or other fleeing animals. It is a very joyous step. It is used as part of the Texan Polka which begins with partners side by side in couples retiring 1, 2, 3 kick, kick typically performed 4 times then breaking into the Polka for a sequence of 4 or 8 I forget which. The first part has variations including crossing from side to side, so the woman steps side close side in front of the man for a series of four and back into the Polka and so on through the dance. Great fun. A very casual dance. Goes well to ‘Uncle Joe’ by Buffy Sainte Marie. though I think the music we were given with the dance was Cotton-eyed Joe.
The Waltz is widely known throughout the North and West of Europe with a multiplicity of variations though none as demonstrative as the Viennese Waltz as Bernhard demonstrated it to us in Stockholm with Friedel Kloke as his partner. He laid her flat in an extravagant bow until her back was parallel to the floor and then himself reeled backwards drawing her up over him as they swept together around the room.
This is a very different dialect from the French Waltz we were taught by Chris Gunstone in which the partners stand very close together, very erect and turn extremely fast on the spot. The room quickly begins to spin and the only way to do this successfully is to focus on each other’s eyes.
Above all the Waltz is a romantic dance. This is in no small measure due to the timing, in three quarter, 3/4, time.