The basic Waltz patterns are the foundation for most ballroom dances. The elegant sweeping movement of the Waltz develops strong balance and control, and the ability to move with ease. Correct posture, rise and fall, and smooth movements should be stressed to achieve good styling. Waltz remains to this day as the standard “honour dance” at various formal occasions, weddings, anniversaries and graduations.
The elegant sweeping movement of the Waltz gives dancers a chance to practice balance and to move lightly with ease.
- Posture–Learn to relax shoulders for a more confident look
- Rise and Fall–Explore the essence of Waltz styling
- Balance Combinations–Strengthen ankles & develop momentum control
- Drive and Drift–Develop flow and movement
- Alignments–Use room alignments to move line-of-dance
- Control–Ease of movement and coordination
- Compare/Contrast–Viennese Waltz, Fox Trot, Rumba, Tango, Bolero
The original form of Waltz is now known as the Viennese Waltz which began its history some time in the 1600’s, making it the oldest of the contemporary ballroom dances as a contiguous form. Today, Waltz, as a term on its own, now refers to a much slower tempo dance.
The first noted instance of the slower tempo waltz was originally known as “The Boston”. As the name implies it was first done in the Boston, United States area around the mid 1800’s. Reportedly Lorenzo Papatino, a dance professional from the time, demonstrated a dance at the home of a local socialite. It was danced in 3/4 time, so it was definitely a Waltz, but a much slower tempo than was usually danced. This new innovation proved to be popular and was taken up by the upper classes of the area as a social dance.
By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s this new dance was brought to England by the social connections of the those in Boston to London sometimes referred to as the “Boston Club”. Originally danced side by side, it wasn’t until after World War 1 that the Waltz as we know it truly began to take shape. Dance experts in England started with very few step combinations that expanded to a limited amount of material over time. By the 1920’s the English Waltz, as it came to be known for a time, was clearly standardized, competitions began to run and it eventually became the International Style Waltz of today.
In the United States the American Waltz was taking shape in the dance studios there and was developing on a parallel path to the English version. The methodology there was quite different than in England, in this case watching what good dancers were innovating over the years on the social dance floor and attempting to compile and codify the material and technique. This resulted in a much wider range of material, changes in dance positions and greater social adaptability that characterize this style.
Another related dance is the Country Waltz where the traditional Waltz patterns are adapted to the 3/4 time country music. Although quite similar to the American Style Waltz some of the variations are unique to this style and the patterning is often shared with other country dances such as Two Step and County Shuffle. There are also other variants of waltz, such as “Cross Country Waltz” done as a round dance on Old Tyme Country dancing and a more recent resurgence of the “Cross Step Waltz”, a social dance quite similar to the Country Waltz.
Over the years these styles have influenced each other and quite recently they have all come to use the same technical base. Professional competitions are run in all three of the main styles in North America in their respective divisions, International Standard, American Smooth and Country Western. Whichever the style, the Waltz as it is danced today still brings an elegance and sophistication to the floor that is unmatched by any other dance. It remains today as what might be called the “honour dance” seen at weddings, graduations, anniversaries and other special occasions.
The Waltz is written in 3/4 time and has a slow to medium tempo with the musical accent occurring on the first beat of each measure. The basic count for Waltz is 1, 2, 3. The tempo of the Waltz is recommended at 28 to 30 bpm (bars per minute).
Although Slow Waltz is a much more recent dance than its faster counterpart the Viennese Waltz, the slow Waltz still usually has quite a traditional feel. Prior to the 1920’s almost all western world music was written in 3/4 (Waltz) time. During the 1920’s, with the success of the popular music of the time, many of these pieces of music were converted from 3/4 time to the more ‘modern’ sounding 2/4 and 4/4. This trend remains so to this day. A modern release of a 3/4 time song is a rare event, although there are a few contemporary examples of waltz music released.
The basic components of Waltz are walking steps and side steps. It is usually introduced as a “box step” pattern (forward, side, together, back side together) starting either with the left or the right foot depending on the direction of rotation. In its beginning stages it is great starter dance to learn weight changes with a clear, even rhythm.
As always the International Standard Waltz must stay in closed contacted dance position to be danced properly whereas the American Smooth Waltz and the Country Waltz allow for a freer interpretation with turns and position changes. Rise and fall, swing and sway are some of the styling characteristics which ultimately make the simplest Waltz patterns elegant and beautiful.
At its highest level the Waltz is a highly challenging dance with strong sweeping movements, graceful lines and suspended, counterbalanced pauses. The objective is the embodiment of romantic love, of gliding effortlessly in a true and balanced partnership.
Waltz songs and artists include:
- Moon River – Andy Williams
- Open Arms – Mariah Carey
- Could I Have This Dance – Anne Murray
- Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley
- You Light up my Life – Debbie Boone
- Take it to the Limit – The Eagles