to Intermediate Waltz
Mark & Pam Prow
Waltz is probably the oldest of
the ballroom rhythms, dating
back to the 16th century in Europe. Out of all
the smooth ballroom
rhythms, waltz is unique, having multiples of 3 beats per measure,
most other rhythms that are danced with 2 or 4 beats per measure. In
dancing, waltz is by far the most popular rhythm. At a typical
are usually more waltz routines on the program than any other rhythm.
ballroom and social dancing, there are many forms of
waltz. In round dancing, at least four forms of waltz have been used
or Slow Waltz:
Danced at ~84-96 beats per minute. Music is 3/4 time.
at ~150-180 beats per minute. Music is 3/4 time.
Danced at ~180 beats per minute. Music is 6/8 or
Tango/Vals: Danced at ~180
beats per minute. Music is 6/8 or 12/8 time.
Transition from Beginner to Intermediate Waltz
Other than the many new figures
that are in intermediate
waltz, there are concepts that become more important as one progresses
intermediate and advanced dancing. We have divided these into two
Frame and Movement.
Probably the most important part of the
dance frame is posture. Each partner should dance with their bodies
standing tall with the ribcage lifted off the hips. The head should be
not tilted to the side. The neck should be straight. If one stands
wall, the heels, shoulders, and head should all be touching the wall.
weight should be centered between the balls of the feet and the heels,
toward the balls of the feet.
– The standard hold (closed position) in waltz
has the couple offset to each other's right side. Lead hands are joined
face level of the shorter partner with the upper arms sloping slightly
The man's right hand is straight from the wrist with the fingers
woman's back lightly around the shoulder blade. One important contact
the man's wrist contacting underneath the woman's upper arm. The last
contact in closed position is mid-body contact. This is the right part
partner's body, starting at the upper thigh and continuing to the mid
This exact point of contact can vary based upon the height difference
Rise and Fall
– One of the main things that gives
ballroom waltz its flowing characteristic is the rhythmic rise and fall
couple during dancing. This is accomplished by one primary action: the
and straightening of the knees. The action of lowering before a figure
of the primary actions in leading for the man. In semi-closed position,
lowering clears the man's right side for the woman to step forward
losing contact. Other techniques can enhance rise and fall, such as
swing, and sway of the body.
of the Legs – As in other rhythms, the feet
should pass under the hips when moving. This seems like an easy
concept, but it
takes practice. Especially on the second step of turning figures, it is
flair the leg out to the side instead of passing it under the body.
can create imbalance in the partnership since the balance shifts away
centerline of the partnership.
– Generally the first forward step of a
figure (count 1) will be done with a heel lead. Most of the time, the
step will be executed only on the ball of the moving foot without
the heel. The third step is usually also taken on the ball of the foot,
after weight transfer allowing the heel to contact as lowering starts
next figure. When moving backward on count 1 (lowering), it is
the toe is used. Especially for the woman, if the ball of the foot is
backward with weight before the man takes weight, the chances of a foot
Motion and Alignment – At the beginning
level of waltz, we were taught four basic movement directions: Line of
Reverse Line of Dance, Wall, and Center. Most figures in round dancing
been taken or adapted from ballroom figures. Many figures starting at
intermediate level are designed to be executed on the diagonal. If you
four points of a compass, N, S, E, W, the diagonals are NE, SE, SW, and
– The basic movement in waltz uses three
weight changes for each measure of music. Some figures, including
figures and hesitation figures, involve one or two weight changes per
Syncopation in dancing can be viewed as a variation from the normal
beat of a
rhythm, usually adding steps or actions in between one or more of the
Body Movement – One of the most difficult
concepts to grasp in dancing waltz and other smooth rhythms is the
contra body movement. Many times in dancing waltz (and tango,
foxtrot) we use contra body movement. Simply put, the motion of the
moving at an angle to the facing direction. In round dancing we have
common dance positions that can utilize some sort of contra body
banjo, sidecar, semi-closed, and shadow.
moving in contra body the feet of each partner are
generally moving along one line. If one took multiple steps in contra
they would get the feeling of moving "forward and side" or "back
and side," then crossing the other thigh as the leg moves forward or
when moving in contra body (except shadow
position), the leg moving forward closest to the partner will have a
thigh as will the leg moving backward farthest from the partner.
examples of contra body positions or movement include:
semi-closed when moving forward with the
trailing foot or back with the lead foot.
forward step in banjo with the right foot or
back with the left foot.
first and fourth step of Weave 6 from
check in shadow position.
There are many new concepts, as
well as new figures, to work
on when learning intermediate waltz. These concepts are used throughout
dancing, especially in the smooth rhythms, like foxtrot, quickstep, and
The amount of information may appear to be overwhelming. Try to focus
concept at a time. For instance, work on frame while dancing more
routines. As one works to improve frame, movement, and figures, dancing
become easier and more enjoyable.
clinic notes prepared for
the ICBDA Convention, July, 2014.