The waltz is a graceful and enjoyable dance style that is suitable for social and performance contexts. It is a popular style of partnered dance that has become a staple of ballroom dance competitions, weddings, and other social events. This style of dance is a classic and is easy to learn, making it an ideal choice for any aspiring dancer. In this article, we will provide an overview of the steps and techniques involved in the waltz and provide advice on how to learn and perfect this style of dance.
What is the waltz?
The waltz is a traditional ballroom dance that is derived from Austrian and German folk dances. The waltz is typically characterized by its smooth and flowing steps, elegant turns and gliding steps, and its consistent 3/4 time signature. The classic form of the waltz is usually done in a closed position, meaning that partners’ arms are extended and the lead steps the follower around the floor in a counter-clockwise direction. Modern versions of the waltz may incorporate more complex open position steps and turns, as well as other elements such as quick turns, or telemarks.
History of the Waltz
The origins of the waltz can be traced back to 16th-century Germany and Austria. During this time, couples were known to dance in an improvisational style, characterized by progressive turning figures and quick accelerating tempos. These early dances were termed laendlers and were performed primarily in the alpine regions.
The modern form of the waltz came about by the mid-19th century. This new version of the dance, which incorporated more complex figures, was achieved by reducing the tempo, allowing each step to take more weight or have more ‘drive’.
At this time, the waltz had become a popular choice for couples to dance in ballroom settings and the style quickly spread across Europe.
Key Steps of the Waltz
The basic pattern of the waltz is a six-beat pattern, known as a ‘natural’ turn. It consists of three slow steps and three quick steps, each taking three beats of music. The slow steps are stepped on counts 1, 2, 3 whilst the quick steps are stepped on counts 4, 5, 6.
The natural turn is the basis for all of the waltz’s steps and is often referred to as the ‘box’ step, in which the feet are simply marked or drag to the beat of the music. The natural turn can also be incorporated into named steps, such as the reverse turn, the natural spin turn, and the open side-by-side.
In addition to this basic pattern, there are a range of more complex turns and steps which are used in waltz dancing. These mostly involve open body positions or changes of hold, depending on the dancer’s preference. Examples of complex figures used in the waltz include: TheFleckerl, The Natural Telemark, The Continuous Change of Places and The Cross-Hand Right Turn.
In dance competitions and in performance contexts, figures are incorporated into the dance routine to create additional interest and challenge. Figures can range from simple patterns to more intricate figures, and each can be adapted to your dance level depending on the tempo and complexity.
Simple figures include turn patterns and patterns that stay in a section of the dance floor. They include but are not limited to:
The Natural Turn: The natural turn is the most commonly used figure in the waltz and can be placed as important accentuated points in the routine.
The Chasse: The chasse is a simple turning step that can be used to move around the floor. It is usually done in a closed position and can be performed continuously or alternated with non-turning steps.
The Outside Switch: This is a simple figure that involves switching partner’s positions in an open movement.
The Natural Spin Turn: The natural spin turn involves spinning around 180 degrees and often results in the couple being positioned side by side.
The Fleckerl: The fleckerl is a hopping figure that requires the couples to quickly change their positions within support turns of the waltz.
The Open Side-By-Side: This figure is a basic pattern which involves stepping side-by-side. It can be used to build up speed and a sense of energy.
For those with more advanced skills, more complex figures can be used to create more individual and intricate routines. These include figures such as:
The Natural Telephone: This figure involves changing the lady’s hold to an open position and executing a telemark movement.
The Continuous Change of Places: This figure involves progressing around the floor, changing places with the lead and follower continuously.
The Cross-Hand Right Turn: This is a more challenging pattern that requires the couple to rotate and change their hands several times throughout the figure.
The Reverse Turn: The reverse turn is a figure which involves the couple going from a closed to an open position and then back again.
Tips for Learning the Waltz
Learning the waltz can seem intimidating for beginners, however, with the right guidance and practice, anyone can master this graceful style of dance. Here are some tips to help you refine your waltzing technique:
Find a partner: Practicing with a partner is an essential part of learning to waltz, as it gives you the opportunity to work on precise timing and movement.
Practice regularly: As with any new skill, the more you practice, the better you will get. Aim to practice a few times a week in order to gain a more thorough understanding of the steps.
Take group classes: Group classes are a great way to get familiar with waltzing, as they provide a sense of safety and structure. They allow you to learn the steps in a social setting and develop your confidence as a dancer.
Find a reputable teacher: Look for a reputable teacher who has experience teaching the waltz and can provide helpful feedback throughout your learning journey.
Immerse Yourself in the Music: It is important to listen to and understand the music in order to pick up on the correct rhythm and steps of the dance. Aim to listen to waltzes and watch performances or performers to get an idea of what it feels like to waltz.
Waltzing is a beautiful and graceful dance style that has been a mainstay of the ballroom dance world for centuries. It is a complex dance style, but with the right guidance and practice, anyone can pick up the essential steps and perfect their technique over time. Hopefully this guide has provided an overview of the steps and techniques involved in the waltz, as well as tips on how to learn and perfect this classic style of partnered dance.