Friday, October 24, 2008

Dancing The Viennese Waltz And The Fleckerls

The Viennese waltz is one of the five ballroom dances; the others being the waltz, quickstep, tango and foxtrot. It is often considered a regal dance and has been popular in Europe for a very long time. For the the competitive ballroom dance events at the Blackpool Dance Festival in England and many major European dance competitions, the Viennese waltz has unfortunately been excluded. In the International version of the Viennese waltz, only seven dance figures are used. They are the Natural Turn, Reverse Turn, Forward Change, Backward Change, Natural Fleckerl, Reverse Fleckerl and the Check from Reverse to Natural Fleckerl. In the American version, variations like open hold, shadow positions, and under arm turns are permissible.

The time signature for the Viennese waltz is 3/4, meaning there are three beats in a bar of music. The first beat is accented. The music is usually played at about 58-60 bars per minute. Due to the fast tempo of the music the rise and fall is not as pronounced as in the slow waltz. The basis of the dance is a series of Natural Turns followed by a Change Step, then a series of Reverse Turns followed by a Change Step. Some dancers like to time the changes so that they take place at the end of an eight bar phrase of the music to give the dance a better rhythmic interpretation. Others may like to dance the Reverse Turns at the long sides of the dance floor and the Natural Turns at the short sides as it is generally more difficult to do Reverse Turns at the short sides.

One of the most beautiful ballroom dance figures is the Fleckerl. The Fleckerls are Viennese waltz figures where the dancers rotate around each other on the same spot. The Fleckerls which are very difficult to master are usually danced in the centre of the dance floor so as not to impede the progression of the other dancers. Due to the strong rotation, there must be a foot swivel on the flat foot on each step. The sequence is preceeded by dancing a reverse turn to the centre of the dance floor, followed by the Reverse Fleckerl, Check to Natural Fleckerl, Natural Fleckerl and finally dancing a Natural Turn and moving to the outside of the dance floor again to rejoin the other dancers.

One dance couple who were well known for their Viennese waltz was the English pair of Harry Smith-Hampshire and his wife Doreen Casey (pic). Smith-Hampshire and Casey won the World Professional Ballroom Championships from 1955 to 1961 and they were also the Blackpool Professional Standard Champions from 1959 to 1961. Their speciality in this dance was a vertigo-inducing finale of 64 bars of continuous Fleckerls at speeds of up to 84 rotations per minute! Casey died on September 16 2002 and Smith-Hampshire passed away after a heart operation, on November 9 2004. The Times Online saw it fit to pay a glowing tribute to this pair of Viennese waltz maestros in an obituary on November 29 2004.

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Joseph Lim said...

Correct, the Fleckerl is a beautiful dance figure and correct it is a difficult figure to master well. There is the difficulty of keeping to the correct timing, especially after the contra check and dancing into the natural fleckerl. Secondly, the difficulty of keeping close and being able to dance on the spot (as one turns one tends to stray and untidily move about rather than being on the spot). Thirdly,the difficulty of turning enough (the correct way of dancing out of the fleckerl is to go out in the same direction as one came in. There are no rise and fall in the Fleckerl, it is done flat.

Dancesport Malaysia said...

Joseph, you said it all. You have explained very clearly and lucidly why dancers have trouble dancing this figure well.

Best Wishes,

Dance Aficionado