& Dan Finch
Waltz is one of the first rhythms a dancer learns. If it weren’t
learned early, it might be considered exotic like tango, and one might
decide it is not worth the effort. After all, it has unusual timing—the
only popular rhythm danced in 3/4 timing—and it has that unrelenting
rise and fall necessary to keep it slow and in time with the music.
It wasn’t always that way. As waltz evolved from various folk dances in
Europe in the 1800s, the music was very fast—like today’s Viennese
waltz. Many attempts were made to make it more danceable by slowing
down the steps, if not the music. In the United States, as the 1900s
dawned, at least three forms of waltz were being danced: The
“hesitation” waltz called for only one step on each measure of that
fast music; the “canter” waltz called for two steps in each measure;
and the “Boston” waltz, which simply slowed down the music and danced
one step on each beat—the familiar 1-2-3 we have today. The original
European waltz became today’s Viennese waltz, retaining the faster
One early 1900s variation combined the hesitation and the canter
waltzes, dancing three beats of music like the Hesitation Waltz and the
next three beats like the Canter Waltz. You know a hesitation—step and
hold. You know a canter—step draw close. That’s exactly what the
combined rhythm does. The vaudeville team of Vernon and Irene Castle
popularized this “new” waltz in 1913. It faded from the dance floors
some time after that, but in the last few years, it has become the
newest rhythm in round dancing.
How Does It Work
It goes like this: Step on counts 1, 4 and 6 in six beats of music.
Standard three-step figures can be done in this way by taking step 1
over three beats of music (1-2-3), then step 2 over two beats of music
(4-5) and step 3 on the last beat (6). Count it as 1- - 4 - 6. Yes, it
sounds complicated. Forget the detail and say SS&. This is not
technically correct musically but it works in most cases to simplify
For example: Maneuver is done in six beats by stepping on counts 1
(forward for Man), 4 (forward turning right face) and 6 (close). Almost
any figure can be adapted to work in this rhythm. The foot placement of
figures and all the partner positions—closed, semi-closed, open and
shadow—that you know in round dancing apply. Feeling how it works with
the music will come naturally with a little practice.
Why Should We?
This rhythm gives us a way to dance to some very nice music in 6/8
timing, much of which we think of only as listening music. Viennese
waltz is beautiful, historic and romantic, but also taxing to maintain
for an entire two-minute dance. With the Hesitation Canter Waltz (HCW),
you can dance to that music in a more controlled, slower pace.
There is more to like about it. The technique is less rigid than slow
waltz. The rise and fall is less pronounced. It’s more fun, some say,
because it encourages a natural sway that gets you into the music.
The Roundalab (RAL) Manual of Standards has not yet recognized the
rhythm but defines “hesitation” as “temporarily suspending progression
with weight retained on one foot for more than one count.” “Canter” is
a waltz figure defined in the manual. A dozen dances have been written
in HCW, in phases IV through VI. Two advanced examples are Mark
& Pam Prow’s You’re My World (sung by Helen Reddy), and Curt
& Tammy Worlock's Cinderella (sung by Stephen Curtis Chapman).
Consider this combination: 2 left turns (1- - 4 - 6; 1- - 4 - 6; )
Hover telemark (1- - 4 - 6; ) Open natural (1- - 4 - 6; ) Outside spin
& pivot to Rudolph ronde & slip (1- - 4 - 6; 1- - 4 -
6; ). Can’t get any simpler than that.
You do have to deal with syncopations, like turn left and right chasse.
Try 1– 3 4 - 6. That would be like two canters in a row.
Yes, I know all those numbers get ridiculous. Trust me, you won’t be
counting. You know the figures, feel your way through this one.
a club newsletter, April 2016,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, September 2017.