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Hesitation/Canter Waltz Introduction

by Mark & Pam Prow

Abbreviated History of Waltz

Waltz originated in Europe in Austria and Bavaria. It was created as a peasant dance in early Austria. When it was introduced into the ballrooms in the early nineteenth century, it was met with offense by many because it was the first dance to utilize a modified closed dance position.

When the waltz was presented in the US it developed as two forms, the Boston, and the Hesitation. The Boston was a slower waltz with more gliding steps, fewer and slower turns than the Austrian (Viennese). The Hesitation was developed to allow dancing to the quicker European music without exerting the physical energy to take steps on all three beats of music. In the Hesitation Waltz a step on the first beat of music was taken while the other two were held.

Many other variations of waltz were danced in the US in the nineteenth century. One of these variants was the Canter. The Canter involved taking two steps for each measure of music, normally on counts 1 and 3, normally moving forward or backward.

However it was the Boston and Hesitation waltz patterns that prevailed. The best of these rhythms are combined into the International and American Waltz figures that we know today.

Basics of Hesitation/Canter Waltz

The Hesitation/Canter Waltz that has been developed for round dancing combines timings from the hesitation and canter rhythms to accomplish the commonly known steps of the Viennese waltz, allowing dancers to enjoy the following action of the rhythm without the physical exertion.

The hesitation/canter waltz is done to music with a meter timing of 6/8. The music should have a strong beat on count one. In addition, the music should have a strong center canter section, or pulsating 3-4 beat driving into count 6 then connecting back to count one. Listening to the music, one should get the feeling of:

Da-dada-da	Da-dada-da
1  3 4  6 	1  3 4  6

A recommended speed is about 30 measures per minute or about 180 bpm. In comparison most slow waltzes are danced at 28-30 measures per minute, while Viennese waltz is danced at 58-60 measures per minute.

A movement with one step per three beats is considered a hesitation. A movement with two steps per three beats is considered a canter. By combining hesitations and canters together in a 6 beat measure, we have the basis of the HC waltz.

Guidelines for figure timing in the Hesitation Canter rhythm

Figures that have two weight changes such as drag hesitation, change of direction, and hesitation change have a basic timing of two hesitations. 1- - 4 - -.

Some standard waltz figures that have three weight changes such as left and right turns, forward waltz, that have a closing or locking action on the last step have a basic timing of a hesitation followed by a canter. 1 - - 4 - 6. Note that all standard waltz figures may not be suitable for HC waltz.

Figures that have 3 weight changes that require early rise for heel turns, such as impetus and telemarks have a basic timing of a canter followed by a hesitation 1 - 3 4 - -. Note that the hesitation part of this timing might be delayed to accomplish the completion of turn associated with these figures.

Figures that have four weight changes such as vines, chasses, double reverse, etc have a basic timing of two canters: 1 - 3 4 – 6.

Dancing the Hesitation Canter Waltz

Once you start feeling the rhythm of a HC waltz, you can truly appreciate the true beauty of this rhythm. The techniques of dancing slow waltz can be used with freedom in the HC waltz, including fall and rise, swing, sways, and proper foot placement.

One interesting aspect of the HCW rhythm is the timing of standard waltz figures. Most waltz figures have a lowering into a heel lead on the first step. However additional compression (slight lowering) occurs on count 3 to push and swing into the canter portion of the figure on count 4. This actually creates a long 2nd step with rise rather than a short step. Then the closing or locking step occurs on count 6 with a lowering action preparing for the hesitation step on count 1.

The rhythm also allows dancers to emphasize the rhythmic fall and rise of normal waltz, with more time between the first and second steps. Also, the traditional swing of the second step of waltz can be better understood with the HC rhythm, since dancers have more time between the first and second steps of a standard three step figure.

HC routines as of 4/18/2011:

I Believe In You – Read approx phase 5

This is Your Song – Prow approx phase 4

Have You Ever – Prow approx phase 5

I Love You – Prow approx phase 5

Hallelujah Waltz – Read approx phase 6

Mary Poppin’s Waltz – Hamilton approx phase 4

She’s Got You – Shibata approx phase 5

My Love is Unbreakable – Herr approx phase 5

This is a new concept for Round Dancing

By no means is this a bible on Hesitation Canter Waltz. It is a new concept rhythm for round dancing. To our knowledge there is no syllabus on Hesitation Canter in the ballroom world. It is our hope that you will enjoy dancing this rhythm as much as we do.

From clinic notes prepared for the ICBDA Convention, 2011.


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