Like much of American art, the American waltz, has its genesis in Europe. In the early nineteenth century in Austria and parts of Germany a lively dance that involved hopping in heavy shoes called the Waltzen or by a name having to do with the variation dancers of a particular area practiced became popular. One such area, Landl ob der Enns in upper Austria danced to a version from which today’s waltz derives called the Landler. This form eventually stopped using the heavy shoes and became a little less raucous, closer to its cousin the Viennese Waltz. The Viennese Waltz has a tempo of an unhurried 90 beats per minute. From that the Boston Waltz developed in 1834 in Massachusetts. The current form of the America Waltz that is stilled danced today uses elements of both the Boston waltz and the Landler.
When the waltz first became popular in Europe, it caused a lot of outrage among the more virtuous of society. It was the first dance that involved a lot of bodily contact between dancers. “Most other popular dances involved little or no contact between partners. The waltz, in contrast, required dancers to hold their partners in what's now considered standard ballroom position — the woman's left hand on her partner's shoulder, the man's hand on the lady's waist” (Halzack 127). Many thought the dance too risqué because of the physical contact. Others said female dancers might get dizzy being spun around the floor by their bigger, stronger male dance partners as was required if one wanted to dance the waltz. Also, in some circles, it was considered impolite to make a lady dance backwards, which the waltz also requires.