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    • ImPulsTanz 2020, Wim Vandekeybus / Ultima Vez "TRACES"
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    Viennese Dance – From Johann Strauss to Contemporary Choreography

    Vienna is known all around the world for its great composers, but it is also a city of dance. The very first minutes of every year are celebrated with a collective Viennese Waltz. At the same time, a new tradition has established itself with modern dance festivals like ImPulsTanz. Fact is: Vienna also has a lot to offer for dance lovers.

    Ask anyone in Vienna who was the most important protagonist of the Viennese Waltz and you will get an unequivocal reply: Johann Strauss, the Younger, who made music history as the “King of the Waltz.”

    Kapellmeister and composer Johann Strauss II, about 1870 (picture detail)
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    Johann Strauss and the Viennese Waltz

    With the death of Beethoven and Schubert began a new era of music in Vienna. Thanks to the Strauss dynasty, it was characterised by lots of momentum. Johann (also called „Schani“) Strauss composed his first waltz at the age of six, and once he took over his father’s post as leader of his own band, he rapidly gained fame at home and abroad. As of 1863, he was leading all court balls, and a new era in Vienna’s dance history began. What is so special about the Viennese Waltz that in 2017 it was declared an Intangible World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO?

    The Viennese Waltz was regarded as vulgar and was generally prohibited for the upper classes until the Wiener Kongress (1815), as it was developed from an old dance beloved by the lower ranks of society. It was only much later that the increasing importance of the bourgeoisie, greater respect for the arts at Vienna‘s salons, the establishment of court balls and a new Vienna without its city walls paved the way for a spirited new epoch: the “Gründerzeit.”

    Theater an der Wien
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    Since the 19th century, the waltz has been the central element of every Viennese Operetta. The most famous operetta by Strauss, the „Fledermaus“, premiered in 1874 at the Theater an der Wien, and to this day, it is the only operetta that is also performed at the Vienna State Opera. Waltzing and the „Von-sich-Drehen“ (spinning away from yourself) was an expression of the societal transformation happening all over the Danube Monarchy.

    As the „Walzerkönig,“ or King of the Waltz, Johann Strauss toured all over Europe and introduced an enthusiastic international audience to his lively melodies. The Viennese Waltz was also called the „Marseillaise of the heart“ (Quote Eduard Hanslick) and Strauss was named „Napoleón autrichien“ (Quote Heinrich Laube).

    Richard Wagner said about his colleague: „Johann Strauss has the most musical brain of our time…“

    Musikverein Vienna
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    Johann Strauss Son was married three times, and all three marriages remained childless. In 1899, Johann Strauss died of pneumonia in Vienna. The funeral procession led past his workplaces: the Theater an der Wien, the Vienna State Opera and the Musikverein – to his last resting place at the Vienna Central Cemetery. The newspaper „Neue Freie Wiener Presse,“ named many renowned artists and colleagues who were part of the procession, including Ludwig Bösendorfer, Gustav Mahler and Hermann Bahr.

    Strauss’ legacy: more than 500 waltzes, quadrilles, marches and polkas, one ballet and 15 operettas. The music of Johann Strauss proved to be immortal in Vienna and is a ubiquitous part of city life even today. The Viennese Operetta is now mainly performed at the Wiener Volksoper.

    Over 300 balls are listed in Vienna’s ball calendar every season and Vienna‘s dance schools teach their students to waltz over the parquet floors in three-quarter time as if „Schani“ himself were holding the baton.


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    In the footsteps of Johann Strauss in Vienna

    • Monument of Johann Strauss / Stadtpark Vienna
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    • Original score of the Donauwalzer ("By the beautiful blue Danube") by Johann Strauss II (excerpt)
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    • Vienna State Opera / Staatsoper Wien
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    • Confectionery Dommayer
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    • Central Cemetery
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    In all of human history, there has always been dance - this is how important it is.

    Vienna Museums Quarter
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    Bettina Kogler

    Contemporary Choreography

    Not everything in Vienna beats in three quarter time. Renowned dance festivals such as „ImPulsTanz“ or the „Tanzquartier“ at the MuseumsQuartier, as well as modern dance institutions have been an integral part of cultural life in Vienna for decades. Among them is the Vienna State Ballet, which performs at the State Opera as well as the Volksoper and enjoys worldwide fame.

    Ballet Dance at the Vienna State Opera / Staatsoper Wien
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    The Vienna State Ballet

    Childhood dreams often circle around a prima ballerina and romantic dance stories. At the Vienna State Ballet, one can experience this dream firsthand and in absolute perfection.

    103 dancers are part of this renowned, world-famous dance institution: The Vienna State Ballet dances and rehearses on its two main stages - the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Volksoper – and tours the world with guest performances. The repertoire ranges from classic evening performances to avant-garde masterpieces, musicals, operettas as well as dance performances during the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna Opera Ball.

    Ballet Dancers at the Vienna State Opera / Staatsoper Wien
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    „Tradition does not revere the ashes, it passes on the flame.“ This quote from Gustav Mahler reflects a core belief of Martin Schläpfer, one of the best choreographers and ballet directors of our time. Originally from Switzerland, he has been leading the Vienna State Ballet since 2020.

    With courageous, style-defining choreographies of classical ballet pieces, he is attempting to steer dance into a more modern direction. On the one hand, he surprises with two ballet world premieres to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Dmitri Schostakowitsch’s Symphony No. 15, one the other, he delights his audience with world-famous classic ballet pieces such as „Giselle“, „Swan Lake“, „Peter Pan“ and „Coppélia“, which are on the program of the Vienna State Opera and the perfect choice for making these romantic childhood dreams come true.

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    ImPulsTanz 2020, Wim Vandekeybus / Ultima Vez "TRACES"
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    ImPulsTanz Festival

    Founded in Vienna, this festival is among the largest dance events in Europe and not only offers unique performances but a series of outstanding dance workshops which have gained a worldwide reputation with their international cast and focus on new talent.

    Every year, more than 250 workshops cover all facets of dance. The festival is a spinoff of the Wiener Tanzwochen, which were founded in 1984. Since 1990, ImPulsTanz has featured performances by international dancers on many of Vienna’s stages, museums, studios and cultural centres from mid-July until mid-August. Since 2001, outdoor events, such as the Open-Air Dance Event on the MuseumsQuartier's main square, have been especially exciting and popular. All this makes ImPulsTanz one of the world’s biggest and most important festivals for contemporary dance and choreography.

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    Vienna Museums Quarter
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    Tanzquartier at the MQ

    Since its inception in 2001, the Tanzquartier has been an international melting pot for contemporary choreography and performance. It comprises three dance studios, the Halls E+G and its own public library at the MuseumsQuartier, one of the world's biggest museum complexes. The Tanzquartier does not shy away from taking risks, dares to experiment and offers dance laboratories and rehearsal space for dance companies and artists from all over the world to create new, innovative productions. Browse more than 500 performances at the online media library (Mediathek). At the public theory- and media centre (Theorie- und Medienzentrum) which houses the Mediathek, artists can educate themselves about developments in contemporary dance and performance, and participate actively in the process.

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    Also of interest

    •                         Dancing Couple in Vienna
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      The Viennese Waltz

      The Viennese Waltz is a fast dance with continuous turns. Tip: While dancing, don’t look at the feet, choose a fixed spot in the room to look at and incorporate side to side steps in between the turns. 
      "May I have this dance?"
    •                         Grafenegg Castle / Grafenegg
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      Top Festivals in Austria

      Music is a tradition that Austrians uphold and continue with great enthusiasm. No other country can claim such an impressive history of major composers who either come from or made their mark in Austria. The following is a list of world-class festivals that celebrate this musical heritage.
      Read more

    The Sounds of Austria

    •                         Musikverein Vienna
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      Vienna - International Capital of Music

      “Vienna, Vienna you alone will always be the city of my dreams...” The refrain of one the most popular Wienerlieder (Viennese songs) of all time reflects the yearning of many to stay in the world’s capital of music.
      The Sound of Vienna
    •                         Social gathering at a Heurigen
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      Music is in the Air: 9 Open-Air Music Events

      Let’s embark on a search for concerts in little known places, such as courtyards, parks, palace gardens and churches, outside of the major concert programs.
      Discover Music Outdoors
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