Java dance: Origin, Styles, Steps, Music & More

The pages of European choreography memorize the Java dance as a lively derivative of the traditional waltz. 

Although it was banned from prestigious dance halls at some point, it survives the test of time and still appears in French celebrations from time to time, giving us the chance to appreciate such a fun and romantic dance.

Java Dance Origin and History

Java is a variation of the European waltz. Most sources claim that it originated in France in the first decades of the 20th century due to the high demand for a new style of waltz, preferably something faster, easier, and more laden with sensuality.

More intimate and quick-paced, the Java dance seemed to be exactly what dance lovers were rooting for and thus became well-received immediately.

Nonetheless, renowned bal-musette halls of dance across the country banned Java from their territory as they deemed it too sensual.

In contrast with what the traditional authors must have hoped for, so many dance manuals still had room for descriptions and details about La Java, hence its demise never happened as they expected.

Check more: Ultimate List of Traditional French Dances

Java Dance Style

People who have had the pleasure of enjoying and appreciating a Java performance describe it as “lively and charming”. These two vibes don’t seem to ever separate from each other.

Rhythmic is a key characteristic of Java, and it is present in all movements. Based on the “activated” sequences, we also have numerous ways to combine our body language with the rhythm.

The couples dancing to Java remain in a close embrace during the performance, and this part alone has various styles.

  • Elbow Hold: On the hand side of the dancer’s frame, they will hold their partner’s forearm or elbow.
  • Snuggle Hold: Close the distance between their shoulders and chests on the hand side.
  • Snuggle + Elbow Hold: The Lead holds the Follow’s forearm or elbow while the Follow keeps her right hand on his chest or cheek.
  • Neck Wrap: The Follow keeps her left hand on the Lead’s nape. You can combine this move with any of the three above.
  • Barrel Hold: The Lead’s arms are under the Follow’s. It can turn into a Barrel Hug.
  • Symmetric Hold: The right arms are under both of the left arms. It can turn into a Symmetric Hug.
  • Butt Hold: An infamous yet more intimate version with the dancer putting hands on the partner’s bottom.

Depending on the degree of intimacy they want to portray, the dancers can look straight into each other’s eyes or look further behind their partner. The Follow might lean her head on the Lead’s chest as well.

The accenting of music also has plenty of ways to execute.

  • Bounce to all 3 beats of a bar slightly.
  • Bounce to the first and the third beats of the bar slightly.
  • Bounce to the first beat of a bar slightly.
  • No bounce, only waltz smoothly.

The three-bounce and the no-bounce versions are the most widely used before and today, though all styles are possible because dancers are encouraged to do whatever suits them.

Java Dance Steps

According to experts, the lively and quick-paced steps of Java are much easier to execute when danced on the feet’s balls. 

With the weight of the entire body focused on a certain spot on your feet, the bounce, and the energy return will be better than when you land on the whole foot.

Dancers are encouraged to add a distinctive shoulder sway, though they need to be cautious to not overdo their movements. Exaggerated moves don’t go well with the nature of a waltz.

The description of Java’s steps is for the Lead, the Follow will mirror the moves unless stated specifically.

Right Turn (Valse à Droite)

With the Lead’s right (R) and the Follow’s Left (L), the Follow backs and does a La Java right-turning of Rotary Waltz in 3 counts. The next 3 counts are for the Lead to back around.

The Lullaby (La Berceuse)

It is a transition from Right Turn to Left Turn with R forward, R rotation, and L slide forward.

Left Turn (Valse à Gauche)

The Rotary Waltz left-turning in La Java style, with the Lead backs around on the first 3 counts, then the Follow’s turn to do the same.

The Backward Lullaby (La Berceuse en Arrière)

It is a transition from Left Turn to Right Turn with L forward, L rotation, and L slide forward.

Running Step (Java Promenade / Pas Courus / Pas Marchés)

The dancer whose back is in the LOD direction will be backed with quick steps corresponding to the beats. A record pointed out that the Follow usually backs, though it is not mandatory. 

The performers can add a little sway to spice the dance up a tad. Furthermore, they might replace the lullaby steps in a routine.

Side Step (Java Glissée / Pas de Côté / Glissades de Côté)

It is a series of steps to the Lead’s R (side, close, side, close, side, close, or side, close, side), leaving one foot free and ready for the next step. One source noted that was a vulgar move of the bust but went no further into details.

Hesitation Step (Grand Assemblés)

A large step R forward, close L to R, and repeat on the other foot – like an inverted Berceuse because of the alternation between a long step to open the posture and a short step to close another.

Flexing Step (Pas Fléchi)

Step R forward, close L to R, and a large step R forward with your knee sinking slightly or not, and repeat on the other leg.


Considered a relaxed part of the dance, you can do it however you want as long as you don’t exaggerate it or miss the music beats. Side-to-side and back-to-forth sways both work.

Additional Steps

The La Java routine can adapt elements from other dance styles, as long as those steps fit right into the Java music and sentiment.

Music for Java Dance

You will find Java music heavily influenced by European cultures. The trio of instruments for Java rarely changes and includes piano, bass, and violin.

Experts talk about Java music as a Mazurka rhythm carrying an energetic cadence. Its tempo ranges from 152 to 184 bpm (beat per minute), which hasn’t changed since the beginning of our day.

You can find various songs for Java by using the names in your search.

Java Dance Costume

Because the Java dance is a form derived from the waltz, the costumes for its performance are extremely similar to what dancers wear in a waltz.

The female dancers dress in a very formal set with a ballroom gown and a pair of dance shoes with high heels.

The male dancers wear formal shirts, dance trousers, and matching shoes.

Depending on the occasion, there might be a dress code or a theme to follow. Either way, the outfits should adorn elegant colors and remain as synchronized as possible.

Final Words

From the early years of the 20th century, the Java dance has had its ups and downs. After the fame in 1919, came negligence. 

However, based on the details and the developments added to the records, we can tell La Java has never truly died, and the most evident proof is that French people still enjoy dancing to it now!

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