HOW TO …

This year, the dance floor can be yours. With these tips, you’ll have all the moves to wow the ball sea­son crowd

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - CONTENTS - By Clau­dia Pac­cosi

... learn to dance in Vi­enna:

Whether you like to spin around in el­e­gant waltz moves, or pre­fer to shimmy the Lindy Hop, Vi­enna has a plen­ti­tude of schools and cour­ses where you can learn to have fun (and look good) on the dance floor.

I’m sit­ting on a white, soft sofa in a chang­ing room; next to me a guy is ty­ing his black shoes, pol­ished to a mir­ror shine. He’s em­bar­rassed, but at the same time can’t hide a smile. We’re at the Thomas Kraml Dance School for our weekly ball­room danc­ing class. I’m a bit ner­vous, as I am ev­ery time. My hair is put up and I’m wear­ing an el­e­gant bur­gundy dress. Each Wed­nes­day about 30 of us meet in a large room il­lu­mi­nated by strobe lights and pan­elled with mir­rors, where we learn the fox­trot, rumba, cha-cha-cha, tango, and of course, the waltz.

It’s a sin­gles’ course, so ev­ery­one dances for a few min­utes with some­one, and then the part­ners change. When the lights are dimmed the girls place their left hand on their part­ner’s shoul­der, take their weight off their first foot to move and wait for the cue. The mu­sic starts and the cou­ples start to move, close to each other, lean­ing back im­i­tat­ing the charm­ing “flower po­si­tion.” Some­one stum­bles and laughs, oth­ers are deeply con­cen­trat­ing. The mu­sic fades out, the lights come up. It’s time for the next part­ner – an­other face, a dif­fer­ent grip and two new anx­ious feet.

Thomas Kraml, a pro­fes­sional from ORF’S “Danc­ing Stars” TV show, has opened three danc­ing schools in Vi­enna, to teach not only dance steps, but a new way to have a great time.

Balls and danc­ing have a long his­tory in Aus­tria and es­pe­cially in Vi­enna and live on in many dif­fer­ent forms and so­cial oc­ca­sions. This par­tic­u­lar school of­fers a modern way to

dance in pairs, and to take part in the city’s events and have fun with­out a dress code or too many rules. All the classes are in Ger­man, but most of us learn by im­i­ta­tion any­way. With classes for young peo­ple, sin­gles, cou­ples, and kids, it’s an oc­ca­sion for peo­ple to so­cial­ize with their peers, away from the daily grind.

THE MARSEILLAISE OF THE HEART

The waltz is Vi­enna’s way to move. It’s the fastest dance on the pro­gram, but at the same time the most el­e­gant and nos­tal­gic. The verb “to waltz” in Ger­man means to turn. It was first used in Vi­enna in 1807, but made fa­mous dur­ing the Congress of Vi­enna in 1814-15, where it was said that the Congress danced. In 1866, Jo­hann Strauss brought it in­ter­na­tional fame with An der schö­nen blauen Donau – that many (in­clud­ing Jo­hannes Brahms) con­sider one of the most beau­ti­ful pieces of mu­sic ever writ­ten. Since then ev­ery­one con­nects the Aus­trian cap­i­tal with the eter­nal el­e­gance of grace­ful cou­ples swirling counter clock­wise around the floor.

At a pri­vate waltz les­son in Vi­enna in a beau­ti­ful Palais am Beethoven­platz across from the Konz­erthaus, I met

Wal­ter Stecher for in­ti­mate one-to-one lessons. I got my first real feel­ing of the hyp­notic mo­tion of the waltz all in an el­e­gant, am­bi­ent mood with a glass of cham­pagne and the pos­si­bil­ity to fall into in a time­less tra­di­tion of cour­toisie – to learn the right way to in­vite a lady to dance, or how to ac­cept when the of­fer is right! The academy also or­ga­nizes pri­vate con­certs, galas and oc­ca­sions for fam­i­lies or small groups.

Dur­ing the same evening, I also took a look at the famed El­mayer Dance School, just a pleas­ant walk through the 1st dis­trict to Palais Pallavicini on Bräuner­strasse.

Be­ing a debu­tant and open­ing a ball in Hof­burg or Rathaus has been a tra­di­tion for Vi­en­nese youth since Joseph II first in­vited the pub­lic to the royal fam­ily’s galas in

1770. El­mayer is the old­est dance school in Vi­enna, founded in 1919 in the

“Politi­cians from all over the world should dig this won­der­ful scene to see how well ev­ery­body gets along on the dance floor” FRANKIE MAN­NING, Amer­i­can dancer and one of the founders of Lindy Hop (1914-2009)

for­mer sta­bles of the palace where it’s re­mains to this day, where three gen­er­a­tions of El­may­ers teach the waltz, the quadrille and all the other dances needed for the Vi­en­nese ball sea­son. “It’s im­por­tant for young peo­ple to have fun and at the same time learn eti­quette in a city where more than 450 balls are opened ev­ery year. To keep the great her­itage that the city has given us and to keep the per­sonal so­cial en­counter alive, away from smartphones and so­cial me­dia,” CEO Thomas Schäfer-el­mayer told me.

TRIP THE LIGHT FAN­TAS­TIC

In some ways, the cur­rent time seems to be more nos­tal­gic than ever. In the last 10 years a swing dance style from the 1930s, the lindy hop, be­came a trend across Europe and the U.S. and de­vel­oped a large and pas­sion­ate fol­low­ing.

Launched by Frankie Man­ning at the Savoy Club in Har­lem, New York City dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, in a crowded room where black and white peo­ple were al­lowed to pass through the same door, ac­ro­batic cou­ples let them­selves go with daz­zling – and danger­ous – aerial steps.

I met Do­minik Knoll and Nora Locher from Swingaut in Cafè Blaustern on a rainy morn­ing in Oc­to­ber; Nora’s bright red hair and Do­minik’s floppy fe­dora hat told me this was go­ing to be fun. At Swingaut you can learn all styles of swing dance and im­pro­vise at will at any of the many par­ties in the Vi­enna scene each month.

“The cool thing about swing is that you’re to­tally free,” Do­minik told me, “free to choose the steps, free to dress vin­tage, free to jump, free to fol­low or be a leader, free to dance with a man or a woman, free to be silly and clumsy. There’s no right or wrong, there’s just fun.”

I couldn’t re­sist. And what­ever style or set­ting you choose, once you start, it’s easy to get ad­dicted. You’ll dance at the class, dance at the balls or par­ties, dance with new friends, dance at home, dance while wait­ing for the next bus. And to dance, you don’t have to be skinny or beau­ti­ful, tal­ented or amaz­ing, you just have to re­lax and ex­press with your body the play­ful­ness that’s in­side.

That's how you dance polka, ever merry round and round...

These are the ba­sic steps for the more chal­leng­ing fox­trot.

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