La Valse, composed in 1918 by Maurice Ravel, is generally interpreted as a dark waltz depicting the death and destruction of World War I. George Benjamin used the terms "birth", "life", "decay" and "death/destruction" of the waltz in his analysis of this work, to describe the four structural sections of the piece. By adapting Benjamin's terminology, I attempt to describe the evolution of the life-cycle of the piano waltz as genre, focusing on both structural and extra-musical issues. This document begins with an overview of the extra-musical elements such as decadence and danger associated with this popular dance since its beginnings. It is followed by discussions and analyses of waltzes by pianist-composers, which represent the different sections of the life-cycle of the piano waltz, beginning with Schubert and von Weber. The section of "decay" is adapted to depict the transformation of the waltz as it was stylized by composers such as Chopin and Liszt, leading up to Ravel's La Valse as the work celebrating both the "life" and "death" of the genre.