The first documented usage of the word Zwiefach was in 1780. It loosely translates as "two times" or "double". Although this may be indicative of the two different time signatures, it is believed that the title actually refers to the couple being tightly wound against each other, a departure from earlier traditions. The dance is still known by various other names in different regions, such as Schweinauer, Schleifer, Übern Fuaß, Mischlich, Grad und Ungrad, Neu-Bayerischer and, above all Bairischer (meaning Farmer Dance a name sometimes confused with the Bavarian Polka).
The number of different names for the same dance should not be surprising, the dance is older than the modern German language. Nor should one be surprised that the tunes themselves have multiple names. One German dance researcher, Felix Hoerburger, cataloged 112 different Zwiefacher tunes with 474 different names.
The Zwiefacher alternates between odd and even time signatures, changing from 3 to 2 beats per bar. The changes may occur in a regular way - for example, two measures per time signature, may change only once, or may change irregularly throughout. Early Zwiefachers were played before the modern bar line was invented.
The couple turn very quickly in close position, similar to the Waltz. Physically, the rhythmic shift looks like a change from normal waltz steps to drehersteps (pivots), occasionally also to polkasteps.
Lyrics were often created as a mnemonic device in order to help learn Zwiefachers melodies by heart. This led to many songtexts for the same melodies. New lyrics are still sometimes used together with old melodies, as in the McDonald's parody "Hunger kriag i glei" by "Bayrisch-Diatonischer Jodelwahnsinn" which uses the same music as the Suserl-Zwiefache.
Examples in European classical music
- Carl Orff composed one dance of his Carmina Burana in the Zwiefacher form.
- The Furiant in Act Two of Bedřich Smetana's The Bartered Bride is a variant of the Zwiefacher.
- In Telemann’s “Kleine Kammermusik” of 1716, in the B-flat major suite, Aria 6 is a Zweifacher.
- Eisenkeilnest (http://www.dancilla.com/wiki/index.php/Eisenkeilnest)[permanent dead link]
- 's Luda (http://www.dancilla.com/wiki/index.php/S%27Luada)[permanent dead link]
- Schaufelsteil sheet music (http://www.folkloretanznoten.de/Schaufelstiel.pdf)[permanent dead link]
- Lercherl Zwiefacher (see the external links section)
- Austrian folk dances
- Austrian folk dancing
- German Wikipedia Zwiefacher page
- Die Zwiefachen, Gestaltung und Ungestaltung der Tanzmelodien im nördlichen Altbayern, 1956
- http://www.germandance.org/zwiefache.html (dance style/flow, spelling, pronunciation, noun endings) Archive from 2008.
- http://www.dancilla.com (videos, MIDI files, descriptions - in German)
- https://web.archive.org/web/20060908030203/http://www.phantomranch.net/folkdanc/dances/zwiefach.htm (dance notes)
- http://www.folkdancing.com/Pages/seattle/Zwie-Pattern.html (a list of over 200 recorded Zwiefacher dance patterns)
- http://www.stammtischmusik.at/noten/zwiefache.htm (sheet music, lyrics, dance patterns, and videos for 53 Zwiefacher)
- http://www.germanfolkdancers.org/ (history, spelling, definition)
- http://ballibre.org/ Creative Commons Zwiefache on BalLibre.org