Alpine Dancing -- Turning Couple Dancing -- see also Nordic Dancing

The Alpine dances, such as the Waltz, Zwiefacher, Deutscher Dreher, Polka, Schottische, etc., are all turning couple dances. They are simple joyful and unsophisticated traditional community dances, which are danced in the easy-flowing, smooth, grounded Alpine social style. The old Nordic dances, such as the Snoa, the Jenkka, and the Hambo, are very similar to the Alpine style. Rather than being regulated by official rules, these dances all share some natural basic principles. This natural style is very different from the sophisticated institutional flatland dancesport style. The Alpine dances originate in such locations as Alsace, Black Forest, Suabia, Switzerland, Bavaria, Bohemia, and Austria. Once one has experienced the feeling of these turning dances in the original cozy style, all turning dances become easy and pleasant, including the modern Viennese Waltz. And other dances, such as Contra and Swing, will become easy and pleasant for oneself and one's partners as well.

Turning Couple Dances

Alpine Only
Zwiefach                           :                                   
Dreher                             :                              Snoa
Deutscher_Tanz, Dreischritt_Dreher :  Hambo, Trava, Kora, Snurrebocken 
Landler, Walzer                    :                      Vals, Valssi
Boarisch, Polka                    :                  Schottis, Jenkka
Schottisch                         :                     Polka, Humppa
Nordic Only
(c.f. Deutscher Dreher)            :                          Pols(ka)

Did you know:

Deutscher Dreher is a German name for a German dance that most Scandinavians would recognize as a Scandinavian dance, and most Germans would (perhaps mistakenly) assume is a Waltz.

Eisenkeil, to most Germans means iron wedge, but to Bavarians it also means Kingfisher, and Eisenkeilnest is the name of a Zwiefach dance.

Hambo is a Swedish name meaning a city in the far North of Germany for a dance that is popular in the far South of Germany.

Schottisch is a German name meaning Scottish for a dance that is popular in Scandinavia and Finland.

In Bavaria a Schottisch is fast and a Polka is slow. Elsewhere a Schottisch is slow and a Polka is fast. What others call Schottisch, Bavarians call Boarisch. What Bavarians call the Rheinlaender hold, Americans call the Varsouvienne hold.

A Waltz turn takes 6 beats. A Hambo turn takes 3 beats. A Snoa turn takes 2 beats. A Cross-Step Waltz dancer turns (alone) on 1 beat.

Walz(er) means roll, not just "turn". Dampfwalze is a Steam-Roller. Teigwalze (aka Teigroller) is a Rolling-Pin. A pencil can be turned end-over-end, but it cannot be rolled that way. This may help appreciate the feeling of the Waltz. (Long striding (dancesport) steps have a different feeling. BTW, striding is related to quarreling. :-)

The Viennese Court opened the Palace Ballrooms to the public, to dance the Waltz, from 1772 onward. The Prussian Court never allowed the Waltz to be danced by anyone, right down to the end in 1918.

Zwiefach means "of dual kind". Fach means kind, type, category, and Zwie- is the equivalent of English "twi-" as in Twilight or Twin. (To say Zweifach instead of Zwiefach is like saying Twolight instead of Twilight.) The Zwiefache, which contains the Waltz, may be as old as the Middle Ages. The oldest documented specific dance which is still danced today is a Zwiefache written down in 1740, from the Black Forest. The Zwiefache, like English Morris Dancing, may have a Moorish connection. The Zwiefache is a dance that turns but does not travel. And it can turn as much or as little (or not at all) as each couple chooses. This fact alone makes the Zwiefache a far more relaxing dance to learn than the Waltz. And from the Zwiefache to the Waltz is an easy step. Zwiefache are child's play, because the music indicates exactly what to do, without any need for explanation, mental strain, memorization, or physical struggle. At the same time they are intriguing to mathematical minds because of their varied regular rhythmic patterns that may be more challenging to figure out than to dance.


[I have found no authentic Zwiefache videos and almost no Alpine videos. The Nordic page contains good videos that capture the feeling, though not the Alpine particulars.]

The Family Waltz is danced ...
in the Alps, in the Alps,
in Scandinavia,
in Ireland,
in England,
in New Zealand,
and taught in Arizona.
Finnish version: Ls move R x2, Gs move L x2, change places x2, slide in/out, waltz.
Note the differences in setting, style, feeling, interaction, phrasing, hold,
step-size, step-placement, cadence, travel, waltz proportion, and gentle serenity.

Here are two videos for comparison:
A Performance labeled "Viennese Waltz" (Romania)
A Waltz at a Traditional Social Dance (Sweden)
Compare the feeling of the music, of the dancing; who is making the music, who is dancing.

Boarischer (Alpine form of Schottische.)
Canadian Barn Dance Schottische (Note how the hop eases turning: 40-53)

Patscher mit Dreischritt Dreher (Hohenlohe) (are those Hambo turns?)
Dreischrit Dreher (4:36-...) (close to the end -- those same turns again; and fast.)

Schuhplattler -- note how the women turn with ease


Dancilla Free Dance Music
Zwiefache music you can preview (iTunes)


(some of the English texts are a little ludicrous.)
Wikipedia: Waltz 
  1.  Compare Renoir's depiction of the social dance hold with "official" prescriptions.
  2.  The only video referenced misses the essence of the Waltz.
  3.  Re: The essential description:
      "The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in 3/4 time, performed primarily in closed position."
  3.1 The meaning of the word Walze(n) is "roll", i.e. "turn smoothly" and "travel".
  3.2 What if "a ballroom and folk" were deleted or replaced with "social" or "traditional social"?
  3.3 "Performed" -- is the Waltz a "performance" dance or a social dance?
  3.4 How about: "The Waltz is a smoothly turning, travelling, flowing social dance in close hold,
      danced to articulately phrased melodic music in 3/4 time, with a moving feeling."
  (Some 3/4 time music is more metronomic than rhythmic, melodic, phrased, articulated, or moving.)
  (Here are some examples of specially crafted metronomic music: (iTunes Preview) )

A Brief Outline Regarding the Origin of the Waltz in Relation to Piano Music (good)

A good introduction to the concept of Zwiefache that also addresses some common misconceptions
A treasure of well-researched information about Alpine dance history and related details   (PDF file)
A comprehensive list of Zwiefache Dance Patterns, Music, etc.
Wikipedia: Zwiefacher
Elisa H. Barney Smith - German Folk Dancing: Zwiefache
Phantom Ranch: Zwiefach
FFF.AT Zwiefache

Waltz (Streetswing)
Laendler (Streetswing)
Schottische (Streetswing)

German Text

German Wikipedia: Dreher
German Wikipedia: Walzer
German Wikipedia: Laendler
Deutscher Dreher == Dreischritt-Dreher
Schmid-Kunz: Vom Menuett zum Walzer
Pamela Gludovatz: Aktuelle Bestandsaufnahme des Wiener Walzers in Wien (PDF)
German Wikipedia: Zwiefacher
Dancilla: Zwiefach
Hambo Polska -- Volkstanz aus Schweden
Here is a discussion of Zwiefacher history
And about Boarischer - Rheinlaender - Schottisch - Polka
And a very thorough historical comparison: Schottisch - Polka

The following series of articles on the Waltz are highly recommended:

ALLES WALZER! Eine kleine Geschichte der Entstehung des Wiener Walzers
especially: Der Walzer als Träger einer gesellschaftlichen Revolution
Unofficial translation


ML3429 .B6 1886A
ML3429 .B6 1886A Bd.2
Geschichte des Tanzes in Deutschland; Beitrag zur deutschen Sitten-,
Literatur-und Musikgeschichte.  Nach den Quellen zum erstenmal bearb. und
mit alten Tanzliedern und Musikproben hrsg.
Boehme, Franz Magnus, 1827-1898

ML3429 .H6
Die Zwiefachen; Gestaltung und Umgestaltung der Tranzmelodien im
noerdlichen Altbayern.
Hoerburger, Felix

Beitraege zur Anthropologie und Urgeschichte Bayerns
Ludwig Zapf
pp38-40 "Lassen ... Knaben" -- Sorbenwenden

Traditional (Community) Social Dancing vs. (Competitive) Dancesport   -- Comments invited. Thanks.

In Toronto, to experience Alpine & Nordic dancing in the authentic, easy style, contact Peter at dancing dot org

See also: Blue Danube Club -- Klub der Donauschaben

Peter Renzland Toronto, Canada (416) 323-1300