The “Original Hesitation Waltz” was composed by McNair Ilgenfritz, and published with “Theory by Alice Martin.” The Johns Hopkins Library dates the music to 1914. The cover of the sheet music describes it thusly:
“Miss Alice Martin’s Original Hesitation Waltz was awarded The First Prize in an International Dance Contest by L’Academie Mondaine de Danse, Paris, France.”
The sheet music, complete with Miss Martin’s award winning instructions, are reproduced below:
According to Miss Martin, the dance is based on two steps – the waltz, and the hesitation, both of which occupy a full bar. Miss Martin describes the waltz as “a leap or step on the first count, a slide on the second count and a cut on the third count.” The hesitation, on the other hand, is “a single step to three counts of music,” taken with a “slight rise on the toes.” Miss Martin encourages the dancer “not to tilt the body – thereby raising the foot from the floor.”
Of the Hesitation Waltz fundamentals described by Miss Martin, perhaps the most unusual is the Straight Drop:
“The gentleman makes a pivot turn to the left, and on the completion, instead of executing a Waltz step, he drops to the right knee, keeping the body erect; then he rises with a slight hop on the right foot, makes another Hesitation step with the left foot. The lady drops down on the left knee.”
The Back Bend is another step that sounds beautiful, but which I have never seen performed. “The lady leans as far back as possible, with the left foot lifted well off the ground. The gentleman leans forward and turns the lady, making one or more complete turns.”
Tim Lamm and Paula Harrison perform a hesitation waltz (reconstruction by Carol Tetan) to McNair Ilgenfritz’s Original Hesitation Waltz in the video below.
The sheet music and cover picture for this post were provided by the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins University.