La Esmeralda

(The Esmeralda, Esmerelda)



Contemporary Description


The Position

Waltz position throughout.


The Footwork

Four-Slide Galop, turning on the fourth (4 counts), then one full turn of Polka, turning a total of 540° (4 counts). "Slide-and-slide-and-slide-and-turn, slide-and-turn, slide-and-turn."

Repeat opposite, dancing it over the elbows (8 counts).


Creative Variations

These aren't actually described in the sources below, but they're also fun, and well within the realm of 19th century possibilities.

Inverse Esmeralda: Flip the two parts, dancing two Polkas, then a Four-Slide Galop. Let the music guide you in deciding which should come first.

Reverse Esmeralda: Reverse either of the variations above, turning to the left instead of the right.


The Music

Polka music.


© 2015 Nick Enge


(Click to expand)

Historical Descriptions


The Esmeralda (Hillgrove, 1857):

This dance is composed of four steps of the Gallopade in passing straight down the room, and then two steps of the Polka in turning. The gentleman commences with his left foot and the lady with her right, and the position is the same as for the waltz or polka. (See page 79).

1st. Commence with four sliding steps, the gentleman keeping his left foot forward and the lady her right, finishing on the fourth step with a hop, and turning half rund (2 bars); then take two polka steps in turning completely round (2 bars.)

After this they commence with the sliding step again—the lady commencing with the left foot and the gentleman with the right, the same as before, and so on, alternately commencing with first one foot and then with the other, at pleasure.


La Esmeralda (Hillgrove, 1863):



[This description devolved significantly since the original in 1857. Without the 1857 description (and concordant descriptions by other authors), this description could be interpreted as a different variation entirely, i.e., the Six Slide Galop.]

Music in Two-Four Time.

This dance is composed of four steps of the Gallopade in passing straight down the room, and then two steps of the Polka in turning. The gentleman commences with the left foot, and the lady with her right, and the position is the same as for the waltz or polka.


La Esmeralda (Spencer, 1869):

Music in two-four time.

The gentleman commences with the left foot, making two Galop steps sideways, then turning with three Galop or Polka steps; recommence with right foot.


Esmerelda (Tousey & Small, 1878):

This round dance has become almost obsolete in fashionable circles, so that a description is not essential.


The Esmeralda (Cartier & Baron, 1879):

Execute one galop step sidewise, commencing with the left foot; then make the turn with three polka steps. Repeat the same, beginning with the right foot, and so on.


La Esmeralda (Gilbert, 1890):

The first two measures of this dance are the same as the first two measures of the Glide Polka [Four-Slide Galop]. The third and fourth measures are repetitions of the second measure. (Glide Polka, two measures. Polka, two measures).


The Three-Slide Polka (Esmeralda) (Wilson, 1899):

[This is actually a description of the Four-Slide Galop, listed as an Esmeralda.]

The music contains two beats to a measure. The steps are all taken straight to the side, and a half turn is made on the fourth count, so that the right and left feet lead alternately.

(Two Measures of Music)

Counts 1 2 3 4
Steps Slide, Change Slide, Change Slide, Change Leap, Hop
First Time Right, Left Right, Left Right, Left Right, Right
Second Time Left, Right Left, Right Left, Right Left, Left


Polka (Esmeralda) (Newman, 1903):

The sliding movements with the L.F. as described above (1 & 2 &) [Slide L.F. to 2d Pos. (1), R.F. to 3d Rear Pos (&)], 1 B., and three polka steps; turning starting with L.F., 1 B. Repeat all with R.F., 2 B's.


For more, including descriptions of 25 different waltzes and hundreds of variations thereof, see Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living a book by Richard Powers and Nick Enge.


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