Zwiefache are turning couple dances that alternate between even
and uneven rhythms in regular and irregular intervals. These dances
are known from Bohemia, diagonally across the German language area
into Bavaria, Frankonia, Swabia, Rhineland- Palatine and Alsace.
Zwiefache are documented as early as the middle of the sixteenth
century. However, the evidence is musical only and it is not known if
they were danced. A musical notebook dated 1740 gives the tune to 'Nagelschmied'.
It is the first documentation of a specific dance that is still
There has been much discussion among dance scholars as to the
ethnic origins of Zwiefacher forms, resulting in a large body of
literature on the subject. The questions whether the dance came to the
German area via Bohemian immigrants, or to Bohemia (where it is called
'Bavorak' i.e. 'Bavarian') with German settlers, is still not
answered. It is certain that cross-fertilization took place.
The word 'Zwiefacher' (pronounced 'tsweefacher') derives from
'zwie-' which implies duality: one entity with two aspects, as opposed
to 'zwei'- tswi- (two), meaning two separate entities that are alike.
Other words expressing this concept are 'Zwielicht' (twilight, light
that is neither light nor dark),
'Zwilling' (twin: one ovum, two people ) and 'Zwieback' (one
cookie with two distinct halves twice baked), 'Zwiesel' ( a bifurcated
Branch), 'Zwitter' (Hermaphrodite: an animal with both sexual
characteristics); 'Zwietracht' ( Feud: one object of contention- two
opposing views) English uses the syllable 'twi-' : ('twin',
'twilight')- to express the same idea.
It is possible to see the word written as 'Zwiefacher', 'Zwiefache'
or 'Zwiefachen'. This is due to the case endings which are determined
by grammatical context. However, it is never spelled or pronounced 'Zweifacher'
(tswi...)*. Native born Germans understand the difference between 'Zwie-'
and 'Zwei', both in concept and in pronunciation. It is not a dialect
term, nor does it have anything to do with the most recent spelling
reform. This reform concerned itself with capitalization of nouns,
writing two adjectives together or separately, splitting syllabi and
whether two compound nouns -one ending in two consonants, the
following one beginning with the same consonant- should be spelled
with all three, or drop one of those consonants.(Schifffahrt or
Schiffahrt ?- a boat trip)
The problem arises among English-speaking dancers. From years
of experience as a German language teacher, both on the High School
and Graduate level, I know that it is difficult for students to
distinguish between * Me' and 'ei'. Even if the student might have had
German speaking parents, studied the language in high school or
college or even lived in Germany, he might not understand the
conceptual distinction between the prefix 'zwie-' and the number 'zwei'.
If a North-German dancer does say 'Zweifacher' he probably never heard
Zwiefacher music and interprets the term as meaning one of those
dances which alternate between 16 or 32 meas. 3/4 time and the same in
2/4 time, the classic dance form of a slow 'Schreittanz' followed by a
fast 'gesprungener Nachtanz' ( a slow, calm stepped dance followed by
a faste, leaped, hopped dance). However, these types of dances are not
Zwiefache because the figures and the musical phrase could stand alone
as independent dance, while the irregular change of 3/4 and 2/4 meas.
of Zwiefache can't be separated.
Zwiefache are known by other names as well. 'Heuberger' in the
Black Forest, 'Bayrischer' in the Palatine, (not to be confused with 'Boarischer'
which is another type of dance) 'Eintreter' in the Upper-Palatine,
'Grad und Ungrad' in the Bavarian Forest and many more . Not only are
these dances known by many names, but they are danced in many
different ways. In the 'Kuhlandchen', a formerly German speaking area
in the Czech Republic that was settled by people from Fankonia, these
rhythm -changing dances are called 'Mischlich' (literally translated
'mixed one' from the infinitive 'mischen'- to mix) They alternate
between Polka, Waltz, and Pivot steps. In the Egerland, also a former
German language area of the Czech Republic, Zwiefache are sometime
danced in figures instead of continuous turning. Some authors and
dancers classify as Zwiefache also those dances that alternate between
Pivot and Two-steps. Two examples are 'Weiss Blau' and 'Hott Scheck'.
Today, this dance type is very much alive and still exists
outside the organized folk dance movement. The dancing style is very
smooth and upright. Partners hold each other in ballroom position or
in closed position. The best dancers are thought to be those who turn
calmly and remain almost in place, rather than spinning wildly and
traveling at great speed across the dance floor. Folkmyth has it that
some could dance on a round bread board or under a chandelier without
Since Zwiefache are danced by people of all walks of life, even
by those who are not FOLK DANCERS , they are considered social dances
specific to certain regions. However, that does not preclude that folk
dancers do not also cultivate this dance in their groups. Zwiefache
are seldom 'taught', instead, dancers listen to the music or sing the
words to the tunes. Speaking or singing the words helps to determine
the pattern of the dance.
Together with traditional dances like the Boarischer, Zwiefache
continue to form a large portion of the repertoire of the South-German
dance tradition. KPG
The above material is based on an article written for the
syllabus of a summer cause for German Teachers at St. Olaf College,
Northfield, MI, 1977.
German 'ie'- English 'ee' (long 'ee')
German 'ei'- English “i”
L; Barenreiter Verlag, Kassel 1961
E.; Derschmitt, H.
1, 2, 3,
Joseph Preissler, 1974
Schuplattler und Volkstänze'
Franz, München, 1925
Max Hieber, München, 1958
C; Walther, U.
von A bis Z'
Preissler Verlag, 1955
und Musikanten- Zeitschrift