a. La Valse Musette

ImageI will use the imprecise term "Valse Musette" to describe the Parisian Waltz of the Jazz Age. The tempo of such a Waltz could be slow and sensuous or incredibly fast - too fast for most dancers to do a Victorian style rotary Waltz or 20th Century style box-step to, but not at all difficult if you stick close together and take very small steps - or even step on only a third of the beats.

Essentially the same Waltz would be danced in a seedy dance hall in Montmartre or in a posh nightclub on the Champs-Élysées

The hold in such a Waltz is very close. It is an embrace. Further, there is no one approved "ballroom hold". They can be in a more or less "standard" hold, the man can have both hands behind his partner's back (anywhere from her shoulders to somewhere around her derriere), or one hand on her back and the other at his side, on his hip or in his pocket. The man could also hold his left (his partner's right) hand to his chest, to further accentuate the embrace.

Further, there is no one way to step. The dancers could take very distinct steps with a bit of a bounce or completely smooth; simply shuffle in a either a three step walk (a short step on every beat) or a two step shuffle (one step on the down beat, the next between the two following beats but without changing weight) or frequently, a single step on each down beat (left-2-3, right-2-3). This simplified step is particularly useful in one of those ultra-fast French waltzes, though it can be seen when the waltz is in a slower tempo as well.

  • They could spin continuously around the room in line of direction
  • They could use a slow box-step more or less in place while they enjoy their close embrace.
  • They could a Foxtrot style walking step, moving forward and backward or rotating.
  • They could do something else as the spirit moved them.

Next: La Java

The following videos should give a sense of what I am describing.

From the 1932 film Cœur de Lilas

From the 1930 film "Sous les toits de Paris".

From the 1936 film "C'est un mauvais garçon"

From the 1931 film "La Chienne"

I include this last clip with some trepidation. It is from the 1950s film "Casque d'or", but it depicts the turn of the 20th Century. It's always a little problematic when a film presents "old tyme" dancing, but the details of styling are so interesting that I decided to throw caution to the wind and include it anyway.