|Photo by Sigismund von Dobschutz 2009|
Saturday, July 5, 2014
The Waltz: Triplets of Timing
To me, the waltz has always been the most romantic dance. And yet the structure of its music lends itself to interpretations ranging from soothing lullabies (Brahms’ Lullaby; Away in A Manger; Silent Night) to inspirational, stirring songs of the faith (Amazing Grace; When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; Faith of Our Fathers), to impressionistic symphonies that evoke the gamut of emotions from longing, to regret, to surging passion (Ravel’s La Valse).
When the waltz was first introduced in Europe, the dance was considered scandalous because the couple was face to face and in three points of contact: man’s left hand to ladies’ right hand; man’s right side to ladies’ right side; and man’s right hand to ladies’ left shoulder blade. Yet it has evolved to an expression of courtship, love and unity, the closed curve of the arms and the contact points allowing the man to lead and the lady to follow, dancing as one as she submits to His will and direction (Ephesians 5:22-25). Is that not a lovely portrayal of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church? (Revelation 19:7-8)
The rhythm of the waltz is itself based on a triplet, written in three quarter time, with the quarter note having a full beat for each of the three beats of the measure, counted as 1-2-3. (The Viennese Waltz is a faster version in 6/8 time, with six beats per measure and the eighth note having one beat, counted as 1-2-3-4-5-6, or two triplets).
As we have seen in many posts, the number three is of special significance in Scripture, representing the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22). His trifold signature watermarks all of His creation. So I am not surprised that the waltz rhythm, based on triplets of timing, resonates so deeply in our being.
What do the three beats of the waltz represent? Each measure seems complete and perfect to me because each of the three beats signifies a beginning, middle, and end. We could think of that as past, present and future, the three fundamental divisions of time. It reminds me of the Trinity (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22), complete and perfect, with Jesus Christ as the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He alone is the Alpha, or beginning; the Omega, or end; and All that is in between. He is the Lamb Who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 1:8,11; 21:6; 22:13).
When beginners first learn to play or dance the waltz, they tend to emphasize the first beat, which is technically correct and helps preserve the rhythmic structure. We may hear bands or organs playing the waltz as “OOM-pah-pah,” with a dramatic accent on the first beat. But a more elegant interpretation is to swell from the first beat to accent the second, which gives the characteristic lilt to the music. For the dancer, the rise in the legs begins with the second beat and culminates in the third, creating the rise and fall that give the waltz its grace and movement.
We were blessed to be featured dancers performing a solo Viennese waltz during a week of performances with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. The guest conductor, Erich Kunzel, explained how proud he was of this orchestra for their brilliant interpretation of the Viennese rhythm, swelling into the second and fourth beats of the six beat measures to portray the rise and fall.
The preferred waltz expression reminds me of our Christian walk. Are we heavy-handed with the first beat, representing our past, or do we rise into the second beat, meaning our present, to culminate in the joy of the third beat that is our eternal future? Satan, the accuser of the brethren, loves to remind us of our shameful past (Revelation 12:10). Not only were we sinners, but we reveled in our sin, and we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10), friends of the world (James 4:4), and children of the devil (1 John 3:10).
If we dwell in our past, we negate the finished work of Christ on the cross, Who through His shed blood paid for all our sins, past, present and future (Romans 3:25). When we place our faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), He transforms us into fellow laborers with Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9), joint heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17), and children of God (Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:10).
Once we are saved, we should live in the now, enjoying the abundant life (John 10:10) given us by God our Father (1 Timothy 6:17), thanking God the Son for His sacrifice (Hebrews 10:8-10) that made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), and yielding to the Holy Spirit Who now indwells us (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), guiding, comforting and shaping us (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7). As the saying goes, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
That being said, it is good to reflect from time to time on what we were before we were born again (John 3:3,7; 1 Peter 1:23), and to remember and thank God for His many blessings (1 Samuel 7:12) that have worked all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). And it is also important to anticipate our glorious future – the eternal life (John 3:16) we will have with Christ when we leave this earthly body through death or the Rapture. Our past, present and future shape the melody of our life, composing a new song (Psalm 33:3; 144:9; Isaiah 42:10) to sing His praise (more on that next week)!
Yet it is that second beat of the waltz we call life – our present, lived out from measure to measure, from moment to moment, where we should focus our energy for maximal impact. We can’t change the past, and we can’t predict our own future to know when our earthly time will expire. In the meantime, the fields are white for a great harvest (Luke 10:2; John 4:35), the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37), and the night is coming when we can no longer work to further God’s Kingdom (John 9:4).
May we live each moment to the fullest, accenting that second beat of the present, thanking God for all things, praying without ceasing, and serving Him (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). May we offer our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), let His light shine through us (Matthew 5:16), and glorify Him in all that we do (Colossians 3:17,23). Dance on, child of God, dance on!
© 2014 Laurie Collett