The Waltz

by Pessimists Archive

Why are new dances always so scandalous? Grinding, freak dancing, swing dancing, rock-n-roll – each had their opponents. But at the beginning of it all was the waltz. We may think of the waltz as classy and performative today, but as it gained popularity in the early 1800s, the dance was called disgusting, dangerous, an “obscene display … confined to prostitutes and adulteresses”, and worse. Why? In this episode, we explore how the waltz got people so riled up, how everyone finally got over it, and what the whole sweaty tale can teach us about the future of scandalous dances.


• Details on the duel between General Thornton and Theodore Hook, per The Life and Remains of Theodore Hook (1849)

• More details from Theodore Hook, A Sketch (1852)

• Mark Knowles’s The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances

Richard Powers, dance historian

• Jerry Goldman vs NYC’s Cabaret Law video

We’re Talkin’ About Freak Dancing, KCRA News

Cancel the Dance at President Harrison’s Inaugural Ball, The Sunday Inter Ocean – 1888

The Waltz was Once Vienna’s Forbidden Dance, National Geographic 2017

• Julie Malnigcultural historian

Report of the Washington Territory’s dancers

• Our reader: Zoe Kleinman, Senior Reporter, BBC News 

• Our reader: King Kaufman of the podcast Not Your Century

• And thanks to our advertising sponsor this episode, Podcoin

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