Some Victorian Dances


Polka is a lively, skipping dance done in 4/4 time that was a ballroom craze in the mid-19th century. It lives on today in various forms largely in country-western and folk dancing. It is among the favorite dances at historical re-enactment events being extremely popular during the 19th century and the easiest to use for public interaction in its basic form.

Rotary Waltz/Victorian Waltz

"ROTARY"/VICTORIAN WALTZ is the original form of waltz which has roots in the 1790s and reaches its heyday in the 19th century. It is also sometimes called Historical Viennese Waltz. It features more rotation, and less floor travel. There are no backward steps which was by design to accommodate the long flowing dresses of the period. Because it does not deal with angle orientations to the ballroom, some may find it easier to learn than a modern waltz style. It is a good waltz variation to learn for smaller dance floors, formal events featuring long gowns, or 19th century period events.


Mazurka, mazurka-waltz, and its variations was an extremely popular 19th century ballroom dance from the Slavic regions of Europe and later was incorporated into mainstream ballroom couples dance while occasionally undergoing adaptations from the ballet technique that predominated Western dance during the era.


A centuries old ceremonial "walking dance" used as the traditional opening of a ballroom event and a great opportunity for public interaction at events. From the American President's White House receiving line in times past to modern weddings and graduation ceremonies in Europe, this dance has served a unique purpose in ballroom while being unique in its form. It utilizes couples walking in figures and formations and can range from the most basic to the more elaborate, sometimes making arches and other more intricate figures. Also known as the Grand March.

Virginia Reel, Lancers' Quadrille and other popular 19th century set dances

by Gregory Seeley and Shannon Valerian of PEERS,(Period Events Entertainment Re-creation Society)

These longwise sets and quadrilles were very popular in the mid-19th century. The Virginia Reel, a longwise set in the form of a row of gentlemen facing a row of ladies, is also known as Strip the Willow overseas in Britain and Europe. Lancers' is traditionally associated with the military and involves couples facing couples in a square or quadrille pattern. This form of dance style will later be Americanized into what we now call "square dancing" which begins to evolve in the 19th century.

These dances represent the centuries old classic traditions of ballroom dance. The religious and conservative nature of American culture in the 19th century did much to preserve and even evolve set dances into Americanized forms while Europe resigned most of it to history and adopted the beginnings of "modern ballroom" which would forever henceforth be defined as danced in couples.

Victorian dance articles by Leilani Howard, Sacramento Ballroom Society