Long before the tango became the target of scorn because of its provocative choreography and the character of its practitioners, the puritanical arrows of disdain were aimed at another dance with similar uncertain origins that caught the imagination of European society.

Historical records indicate that the origin of the word waltz refers to the action of turning around while dancing. The origin of the waltz as a dance itself is uncertain, but historians agree that it first appeared around two centuries ago.

There are certain musical forms of popular nature that originate as dances and later follow a transformation into songs. Of interest to us, the waltz and the tango, a couple of centuries apart, represent a typical example of the fusion of dance and song into internationally acclaimed musical expressions.

Records show that the waltz was in vogue in Vienna around 1773. In spite of being a genre of popular origins, it seduced composers such as Mozart, who wrote many waltzes for the dancers of Vienna. From this romantic period originated the most classic compositions of the Viennese waltz by Schubert, Chopin and Brahms which still are played today.

When it appeared in Europe it was considered an indecorous dance.

France is credited with the transformation of the uniform and lively danceable rhythm of the Viennese waltz into a more insinuating and romantic melody which allowed the use of lyrics and the creation of the waltz- song.

On the American continent, the waltz arrived to the salons of high society around 1840. It quickly became the favorite dance conquering new fans at the lower levels of society as well. Many folklore dances from Argentina show the influence of the waltz.

It was in the nineteenth century that a new type of waltz was created in the city of Boston, the Boston waltz. Its characteristic was a change in the role of the piano, or rather the pianist. Instead of using the left hand to mark the 1-2-3 rhythm of the waltz, the left hand only marks the first beat of the rhythm while the right hand combines rhythm and melody.

The vals boston conquered Buenos Aires at the beginning of the twentieth century. Prior to that, the waltz had been the darling of the aristocracy in the 1800’s and gradually had gained acceptance among pianists and musical groups in Buenos Aires.

The immigrant invasion that started in the 1870’s brought songs and dances from their native lands. The waltz was among their favorites. Their descendants, the first Creole generation grew up to the popular sounds of the waltz, enjoying the old tunes while beginning to modify the songs and dances of their parents under the influence of the new customs and the new environment of the country where they were born and where they lived. Thus was born the Argentine folklore, a collection of regional dances and rhythms that make up a very rich musical heritage.

The new Creole generation added a telluric feeling to the traditional waltz, and gave birth to the vals criollo. The creole waltzes, composed by Latin American musicians preserved the characteristic and style of the Viennese waltz. It continued to be mainly a dance. It had three parts especially arranged for dancing. Two classic examples of vals criollo are,


By the first decade of the twentieth century, composers in both Argentina and Uruguay wrote numerous valses which became part of the repertoire of the first tango orchestras. Buenos Aires was becoming a city with its own personality, and the valses composed during that period were acquiring that personality as well. The rapid growth of the city and an environment heavily influenced by the cadence of the tango added an authentic Buenos Aires melodic tone to the music of the vals criollo. While the “forbidden” tango was being played by guitars, flutes, violins, pianos and bandoneons for the worst element of society, the same instruments played the vals porteño for the decent families, at the weekly neighborhood social dances.

The preference of the Buenos Aires musicians for the waltz over the other dances of the time, i.e. polkas, mazurkas, is due in part to the expression and nuances of its melody, which on a larger scale are elements intrinsic to the Argentine tango. Erroneously many refer to the resulting rhythm as tango vals. Outstanding musicians who made the vals an integral part of their repertoire included Roberto Firpo, Juan Maglio “Pacho,” Francisco Canaro and Francisco Lomuto.

The vals began to loose its dance appeal around 1917 when the first wave of American dances (Fox-Trot, One-Step, Two-Step and Shimmy) begun to be heavily promoted to the Argentine youth. Ten years later the Charleston finished off the appeal of the vals, at least until the 1940’s when it returned to the dance floors with the renaissance of the tango in the Golden Era.

The most popular valses that remain as the classic of classics today are,

DESDE EL ALMA (vals boston) PALOMITA BLANCA (vals clasico)

Reference: Del vals al vals criollo y al “vals porteño” by Sebastian Piana – La historia del tango (Ediciones Corregidor 1978)


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  1. hello, about the tango vals rythmdom,is the same as the three quart of time waltz,and to my surprise many argentins dancer do not know any about that,if you go to france they still dancing this type of waltz,with out the tango stepes,abrazom tanguero.j.c

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