Vals (LKT)

This entry is part of the Lexicon of Klezmer Terminology (LKT). The LKT compiles a wide array of source materials that shed light on the historical and contemporary state of knowledge about klezmer music. Each entry includes a number of citations from primary and secondary sources that include or refers to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. By clicking on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation, you get the full reference.


“You had Polish dance tunes like krakowiak, oberek, na wesolo, mazur and polonez, and of course polkas and mazurkas and waltzes... [which were popular] in the ‘30s.” [Warsaw, Poland, 1930s]. Alpert 1996a, pp. 16-17

“In L. Levanda’s article ‘Starinnye evereiskie svadebnye obichai (Perezhitoe 3), the author lists the dances done by girls with the bride at the preliminaries including: polka, waltz, mazurka, quadrille, and lancers. ... Most of the dances Levanda mentioned were widespread among the masses only in the second half of the nineteenth century... ” Beregovski 1937 [= Beregovski/Slobin 1982, p. 533]

“The waltz was also popular among Jews and was danced exclusively at weddings.” Beregovski 1962 [= Beregovski/Slobin 1982, p. 294]

“‘Der kales frashalne vals’ ... Saturday night before the wedding.” [Orgajev, Bessarabia, c. 1930s-40s]. Bik 1964. (Musical notation included).

“It must be acknowledged, that among our large masses, for a long time now the folkdance has had been accompanied by singing and song; and not only to [modern couple dances such as] the polka did people improvise and sing songs, but also to the polonaise, quadrille, waltz, raynlender, mazurka, sher, broyges-tants and others.” Cahan 1952b, p. 89

“‘To a valts.’” [Pinsk, pre-World War II]. Cahan 1957, p. 490 (#234)

“‘To a valts.’”[Warsaw, 1890s; Vashlikove, near Bialystok, pre-World War II]. Cahan 1957, p. 491 (#240-42)

“‘Valts.’”[Vashlikove, near Bialystok, pre-World War II]. Cahan 1957, p. 491 (#244)

Lancelot, Kutzatsky, Bulgar, Pas d’Espagne, Vingerka, Waltz, forms of popular Russian, Polish, and Rumanian dances.” EncyJud 1971, p. 1266

“There are also ‘cosmopolitan repertoire’ couple dances of Western and Central European origin such as lances, pa de span, padekater, quadrille, polka, waltz, etc... played for both Jews and non-Jews.” Feldman 1994, p. 10

“A ‘kozak’ [and a freylekhs]... were folk-dances for adults and in-laws. The youth strutted its wares in waltzes, krakoviaks, etc... They used to dance a vals-boston and a lizginke-tsherkesishen dance with a knife in the hands...” [Dubno, Poland, pre-World War II]. Katshke 1966, p. 667

“Tunes in triple time are one of the most intriguing questions about klezmer music. The most recent structures you have for these is the waltz on one hand and the zhok on the other. They are completely different things...  Harkavi 1928, p. 201.“vals. waltz.” Phillips 1996b, p. 176

“A niggun in the 3/4 waltz meter, usually joyful. Waltzes were adopted from non-Jewish cultures by the Hasidic dynasties in Poland and Central Europe such as Gur, Karlin, Modzhitz and Zanz, as part of the process of borrowing gentile tunes in order to sanctify them... In addition, some waltzes were later composed by Hasidim themselves. The Hasidic waltzes are usually not intended for dancing; like the Hasidic marche, they are generally sung slower than their gentile counterpart. They are inserted in prayers such as Lekhah dodi for sabbath and Ki anu amekha for the High Holidays, and are frequently performed by klezmorim during nuptial meals while the public is seated (for a recorded example see Mazor-Hadju 1976, side B, band 6). In other dynasties such as Boyan, Vizhnitz and Lubavitch, one can find tunes which recall waltzes, but are not identified as such.” Mazor and Seroussi 1990/91, p. 125. (Recording references included). 

“I’m quite sure the year was 1895... After the ceremony, as is customary in a Jewish wedding, the newlyweds were led into a private room... Meanwhile the young men began dancing. Girls danced also but separately. They danced folk dances and waltzes, in which boys dance with boys and girls dance with girls...” [Khmelnik, Poland, 1895]. Mints 1960, pp. 120-122.

“Opposite, at the other end of the hall, on a balcony sat the musicians with a clarinet, trumpet, and two fiddles. There was also a little Jew with a long, large bass, and a drum.... The hall filled up with people. Young people led themselves through waltzes and quadrilles.” [New York, c. World War I].] Raboy 1920, p. 25

“Klezmer bands have also been called upon to play waltzes and mazurkas (both in 3/4 meter)...” Sokolow 1987, p. 20

“The guests would order their preferred dances, such as freylekhs, volekhls, shers, kozakl, polke,... The dance-song is a collective folk-expression which derived from the need to sing for the dance and to dance for the song. The social dances that have no accompanying song emerged in the modern era. The dance-song was preserved by the Jewish masses a long time after the social dances had spread... Also it has been proven that to the new dances like the polka, the mazurka, the polonaise, the quadrille, the waltz words were sung which went with the rhythms... Eastern European Jews were accustomed to invite each guest to an especially favorite dance: one prefers the ‘freylakhs’, another the ‘volekhl,’ after that a ‘sher,’ yet another a ‘kozakl,’ a ‘polka’... I still remember well from my childhood dances that were ‘modern’ such as pas d’espagne, pas de quatre, polka (circle dance which first appeared in 1830 in Bohemia), quadrille (first appeared in Paris at the beginning of the nineteenth century). These dances were only popular among the younger generation.” Stutschewsky 1959, pp. 164, 166-67, 169, n. 58

“After the wedding-feast they began to dance. The dances were varied according to generation. The young people would dance: ‘polke’, ‘polka-mazurka’, ‘krakoviak,’ and the main dance for the young people was ‘vals’...” [Podalia, c. 1909].” Tshernovetski 1946, pp. 97-114

Vals. waltz.” Weinreich 1977, p. 630.