What Are Some Different Types of Waltzes?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Not everyone knows that there are different types of waltzes. First of all, the word waltz can refer to both a piece of music in ¾ time meant for dancing as well as to the dance performed to that music. But beyond that, the word waltz is used to refer to a variety of related dances.

The “Nutcracker,” composed by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, is a ballet waltz.
The “Nutcracker,” composed by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, is a ballet waltz.

Some dances referred to as types of waltzes are not waltzes at all. This is true of the Boston, a slow dance that is related to the waltz, but with two steps to the bar. The Boston was know as valse Boston, or the Boston waltz, in France; as the English waltz in Germany, and also referred to as a “hesitation” waltz.

One of the types of waltzes that really are waltzes is the jazz waltz, a term that is sometimes used to refer to any jazz piece in 3/4 time. Examples include the Missouri Waltz written in 1918 by Dan and Harvey’s Jazz Band, the 1928 Mississippi Waltz by the Memphis Jug Band, and 1942’s The Jitterbug Waltz by Fats Waller. Carolina Moon by Thelonious Monk is an example of a bop waltz.

Some works that were not originally jazz have been adapted to become jazz waltzes. One notable example is John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things,” originally from the musical “The Sound of Music.” Another is “Someday My Prince Will Come,” adapted by Miles Davis from the animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

One of the types of waltzes that is very well-loved is the ballet waltz. The Waltz of the Flowers from Nutcracker by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, as well as his waltzes from Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake are among the best known. Tchaikovsky is also known for his waltzes in Serenade for Strings and his Sixth Symphony, which features a waltz in 5/4 as its second movement. Franz Liszt’s Danse Macabre is another famous waltz.

In Latin America, the types of waltzes vary by country. The Mexican waltz is also called vals ranchero. The Peruvian waltz is also known as vals criollo. There are also distinctive Venezuelan waltzes and Brazilian waltzes.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- Right you are, but the waltz has been adopted by popular musicians for ages. The Beatles, for example, utilized a waltzing guitar pattern quite often and modern rock bands still do that.

The waltz isn't just a part of high culture, after all.


Don't forget about how more than a few country music songs have adapted the waltz and how songs have been tailor made for the dance. That might seem out of place given the rather legendary history of the dance, but country artists have embraced that art form for as long as that form of music has existed.

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