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Remembering and re-membering: Sondheim, the waltz, and A Little Night Music

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In its early years, the waltz scandalized people because of the intimacy required to execute the dance. This, in turn, has given the waltz its stance among dances as the emblem of togetherness, romance, longing and nostalgia. Sondheim upsets this middle-European view of the waltz, first, by relying mostly on French variants of the dance, and second, by using the waltz as a sign of decoupling and separation. Nowhere is this clearer than in his 1973 musical A Little Night Music. Sondheim's reinterpretation of the waltz is obscured when commentators equate the dance with its metrical components, and Sondheim spoke against such reductive strategies. This article similarly argues for an abandonment of the term waltz musical not only in recognition of the presence of other dance topoi skilfully deployed by Sondheim but also in appreciation for how the waltz itself has been re-scandalized in Sondheim's works.

Keywords: A Little Night Music; Stephen Sondheim; Waltz; Waltz musical

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/smt.1.3.259_1

Affiliations: Dartmouth College.

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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