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This Day In History: The Debut Of A Shocking And Scandalous New Dance

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Wilhelm Gause (1853-1916), Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830-1916) at the Annual Viennese Ball. (DEA/A. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini via Getty Images)

In 1812, one of history’s most scandalous dances made its debut in London society. No, not the Charleston, the Twist, or the Twerk–we’re talking about none other than the steps you probably performed as your first dance at your wedding, the waltz.

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Origins Of The Waltz

The waltz started as a type of dance that was popular among European peasants in Austria and Bavaria as early as the 16th century, accompanied by lively music, often performed on fiddles, with a 3/4 beat. As word got around that the lower classes threw better parties, young noblemen began sneaking off to waltz with peasants, and musicians from Vienna (where people are less prudish) picked up the 3/4 tempo of the folk tunes. Soon, aristocrats had no choice but to accept the style of dance.

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