Waltz differs from the other dances because it is danced to a piece of music with a 3/4 beat. What this means (for those of you who are wondering what fractions have to do with it) is simply that instead of counting to 4 (or 8) the beats of the music only go to 3 (or 6). How do i know this? You ask. Well.... usually it is fairly easy to hear a strong beat on count 1 of most pieces of music. The rest depends on the number of beats before there is another one! Waltzes also have a sort of swinging quality to them that makes them easier to distingush as well. (If you dont feel like counting!)
One of the most common ways to begin to learn waltz is to get the basic rhythm and footwork in your head through learning the basic box step. Though this step is not entirely practical in a social situation as it does not move around the room, it is a fantastic way of enabling a beginner to feel comfortable and to gain confidence with the dance. For those with more experience, it is always beneficial to go back to basics to work on control of movement, partnership, and rise and fall – all important characteristics to develop in this dance.
The following footwork should be danced in a Ballroom hold: the lady’s right hand in the man’s left, his right hand on her shoulder blade, her left hand positioned just under the tricep muscle (just below the shoulder on the man’s arm) with the hand resting lightly in a V (separating thumb from fingers). The stance (or “frame”) should be well held and the distance between the pair should be less than in the Latin dances and, when comfortable, should even progress to “body contact” – when the space between the ribs and hip bone on the right side of the lady are touching the same space on the man’s right side. In Ballroom hold, the lady is slightly offset to the man’s right… always staying to the right of his tie – should he be wearing one!
Begin by stepping straight forward onto your Right foot. (Count 1) Be sure to transfer your weight on every step.
Step to the side onto your Left foot. (Count 2)
Close your Right foot to your Left foot. (Count 3) If you were drawing a line of the pattern you just made, it would be an ‘L’. This is the first half of your “box”.
Now move your Left foot straight back (Count 1) being sure to transfer your weight completely.
Then step to the side onto your Rigt foot. (Count 2)
And close your Left foot to your Right foot (making sure you transfer weight so that you can start again on your Right). (Count 3)
You have now completed another ‘L’ shape that closes your box and brings you back to the exact spot on which you started.
The follower’s movement exactly mirrors that of the leader. You begin by stepping straight backwards onto your Left foot. (Count 1) Make sure you have transferred all your weight onto that leg.
Next, step to the side onto your Right foot. (Count 2)
Close your Left foot to your Right foot with a change of weight that releases your Right foot on Count 3.
As you have just completed the first half of your square, you are going to step forward with your Right foot on Count 1.
Step side onto your Left foot. (Count 2)
Close your Right foot to your Left foot – with the change of weight – for Count 3.
Notes for both the leader and follower:
- Be sure to transfer your weight after every step especially on all of the count 3’s. At this stage, and for most of the steps, you will never use the same foot twice in a row. One of the most common errors in Waltz arises from people not completely transferring weight making it impossible for them to use the correct foot for the next step. If you are having trouble, try counting "Right, 2, 3, Left, 2, 3, etc" to remind you which leg will be moving forward or backwards.
- This step makes a box. Each count of 3 makes half a box. Picturing this can sometimes make the footwork easier to remember.