The Waltz

14 Mar, 2024 780 Music

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the dance which, from when it reached Britain in the early nineteenth century, revolutionised the relationship between music, literature and people here for the next hundred years. While it may seem formal now, it was the informality and daring that drove its popularity, with couples holding each other as they spun round a room to new lighter music popularised by Johann Strauss, father and son, such as The Blue Danube. Soon the Waltz expanded the creative world in poetry, ballet, novellas and music, from the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev to Moon River and Are You Lonesome Tonight.

Listen on BBC Sounds website


  • Susan Jones 2 episodes
    Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford
  • Derek B. Scott No other episodes
    Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Leeds
  • Theresa Buckland No other episodes
    Emeritus Professor of Dance History and Ethnography at the University of Roehampton

Reading list

  • Waltzing Through Europe: Attitudes towards Couple Dances in the Long Nineteenth Century
    Egil Bakka, Theresa Jill Buckland, Helena Saarikoski, and Anne von Bibra Wharton (eds.) (Open Book Publishers, 2020) Google Books →
  • Society Dancing: Fashionable Bodies in England, 1870-1920
    Theresa Jill Buckland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) Google Books →
  • The Viennese Ballroom in the Age of Beethoven
    Erica Buurman (Cambridge University Press, 2022) Google Books →
  • Save Me the Waltz
    Zelda Fitzgerald (Vintage Classics, 2001) Google Books →
  • Ballroom: A People's History of Dancing
    Hilary French (Reaktion Books, 2022) Google Books →
  • Literature, Modernism, and Dance
    Susan Jones (Oxford University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances: Outrage at Couple Dancing in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries
    Mark Knowles (McFarland, 2009) Google Books →
  • Invitation to the Waltz
    Rosamond Lehmann (Virago, 2006) Google Books →
  • Decorum of the Minuet, Delirium of the Waltz: A Study of Dance-Music Relations in 3/4 Time
    Eric McKee (Indiana University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The History of the Walz
    Eduard Reeser (Continental Book Co., 1949) Google Books →
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 27
    Stanley Sadie (ed.) (Macmillan, 2000) Google Books →
  • Sounds of the Metropolis: The 19th-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris and Vienna
    Derek B. Scott (Oxford University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • The Waltz Emperors: The Life and Times and Music of the Strauss Family
    Joseph Wechsberg (Putnam, 1973) Google Books →
  • Literature and Dance in Nineteenth-century Britain
    Cheryl A. Wilson (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Voyage Out
    Virginia Woolf (William Collins, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Years
    Virginia Woolf (Vintage Classics, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Strauss Dynasty and Habsburg Vienna
    David Wyn Jones (Cambridge University Press, 2023) Google Books →
  • Revolving Embrace: The Waltz as Sex, Steps, and Sound
    Sevin H. Yaraman (Pendragon Press, 2002) Google Books →
  • Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain
    Rishona Zimring (Ashgate Press, 2013) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: m001x50m

Episode page:

Auto-category: 780 (Music)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. When the waltz reached Britain in the early 19th century, it revolutionised the role of dancing and music in our society, fracturing old ways and giving rise to new.