Five-Step Waltz

(Valse à Cinq Temps, Five Step,
Cinq Temps, Waltz in 5/4 Time)

{1846 - Late 19th Century}


Five-Step Waltz is a family of couple dances from the mid to late 19th century that are danced to music in 5/4 time.

Two versions of the dance were introduced in 1846. One was introduced in Paris by Jules Perrot (and described by Philippe Gawlikowski and Henri Cellarius), and the other was introduced in New York by Mr. Saracco and Mlle. Angelina. Three additional versions of the dance were introduced in the later decades of the 19th century.

Perrot's Valse à Cinq Temps (1846)

This is a five-step waltz composed by balletmaster Jules Perrot for the ballet Catarina in 1846. Descriptions were published in 1846 by Philippe Gawlikowski and 1847 by Henri Cellarius, but neither of these descriptions is clear enough to confidently reconstruct a comfortable version of the dance that is 100% faithful to them. What follows, therefore, is a simplified reconstruction that follows the spirit of Gawlikowski and Cellarius' descriptions, if not quite the letter of them [PG46, HC47a, HC47b, HC47c, HC49, CD56, HC58, EH58, LB67, ED70].

1-2-3-4: First four counts of a Leap Waltz.

5: The Lead glides (brushes) the left foot forward and into the air, while the Follow glides (brushes) the right foot closely behind the right, smoothly transitioning into the leap that lands with that same foot on the next count 1. This energetic transition appears to be what is being illustrated in the drawing at the top of this page.

Cellarius noted that first half turn happens on 1-2-3, there is little rotation on count 4, and the second half turn happens on count 5. You might be tempted to cheat the turn early, using both 4 and 5 to turn, but it's actually easier if you follow Cellarius' advice and wait until count 5, using the brushing action itself to get around.

This, like most waltzes, can be reversed, turning to the left instead of the right [HC47a, HC47b, HC47c, HC49, CD56, HC58, LB67, ED70]. The easiest way to do this is to change the rotation on the brush step, sending the Follow in front to back around on 1-2-3.

Saracco and Angelina's Five-Step Waltz (1846)

This is a different five-step waltz, "invented by Monsieur Saracco, choreographist, and Mademoiselle Angelina, first teacher of the Parisian dancing academy of Mr. Cellarius" around 1846 in the United States. Their innovation was announced in music published in New York in 1846, but the earliest description I've seen is from 1854 [DC54]. It's essentially a five-count version of the Polka Mazurka.

1-2-3: The first three counts of a Polka Mazurka, "slide (1), cut (2), lift (3)," straight along LOD.

4-5: The Lead slides left foot across LOD as the Follow slides right forward between his feet, starting to turn halfway to the right (4), then hop on those feet to complete the turn (5), while bringing the free foot close to the supporting ankle [DC54, EF59, EH62, TH63, EH66, LB67, TH68, EH68, DF78, JS80, LC82, MK83, JS89].

Some versions have a leap instead of a slide on count 4 [LB67, OH79, SA81, CR85, AD85, AD86, AD88 MG90, AD00, AD05, AD13], but the slide was described in more sources, and we find it a bit easier to dance it that way.

This, like most waltzes, can be reversed, turning to the left instead of the right [EF59, EH62, TH63, EH66, TH68, EH68]. In this case, the Follow backs around on count 4 instead of the Lead.

Hennig and Dodworth's New Five-Step Waltz (1879)

In the late 19th century, several new Five-Step Waltzes were developed, including this one, which was first published alongside a piece of music by O. E. Hennig, and later included in Allen Dodworth's books. It modifies the beginning of the Saracco and Angelina waltz to fit in two slides instead of one:

1-2-3: Slide-and-slide, cut (1-and-2, 3).

4-5: Leap around, turning halfway to the right (4), and hop (5) [OH79, AD85, AD86, AD88, MG90, WD92, AD00, AD05, AD13].

Like Saracco and Angelina's original version, this can also be turned to the left [AD86].

Cartier's New Five-Step Waltz (1879)

This "New Five-Step Waltz," described by P. Valleau Cartier in the late 19th century, is interesting because it splits the five counts into 2 + 3 instead of 3 + 2.

1-2: Slide along LOD (1), close along LOD (2).*

4-5: Waltz halfway around to the right (3, 4, 5) [CB79, PC82].

Though not explicitly described, this can also be turned to the left. In this case, the Follow backs around on count 3 instead of the Lead.

This version works best for a song that sounds like 2+3, like The Vine Cot Waltzes à la Cinq Temps. For songs that sound like 3+2, it can be adapted to be danced with the waltz first and slide-close second.

* The original description says "make two slides sidewise, commencing with the left foot," which could either be interpreted this way, or as two quick slide-closes (1-and-2-and). A single slide close is much more comfortable, so it's the Occam's Razor solution. This is also consistent with the living tradition Balfolk version, which is waltz-2-3-side-close. An early 20th century "Five Step Waltz" also uses a single slide-close, but in this case it's in 3/4 time and has the side close first, like the 19th century version (side, close, waltz-2-3 in 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 timing) [FC14a, FC14b].

Mahler and DeGarmo's Five-Step Waltz (1885)

This is a late 19th century adaptation of the Varsoviana to 5/4 time, as described by William B. DeGarmo in 1892. An earlier description by Jacob A. Mahler also seems to be in the same general family, so we'll give him partial credit for the idea as well.

1-2-3: First half of a Polka Redowa, "slide (1), cut (2), leap (3)," turning halfway around.

4-5: Point the free foot out along LOD (4), then draw it back in to the supporting foot (5).

This can also be done with hops, for a more energetic version, in which cases there's a preliminary hop on the & before 1, as well as hops on both 4 and 5 [WD92]. In a modern context, it can also be done more lazily, with a basic Waltz on 1-2-3 instead of a Polka Redowa.

Mahler's description isn't very clear, but appears to be a version of this step that has the point on count 3 instead of count 4: slide (1), cut (2), point (3), draw back (4), leap around (5) [JM85].

The Music

Music in 5/4 time [PG46, HC47a, HC47b, HC47c, HC49, DC54, HC58, EF59, EH62, TH63, EH66, TH68, ED70 DF78, CB79, OH79, JS80, SA81, LC82, PC82, MK83, CR85, AD85, JM85, AD86, AD88, MG90, AD00, AD05, AD13].

In the mid 19th century, Cellarius specifies 152 bpm [HC47a, HC47b, HC47c, HC49, HC58]. In the late 19th century, Hennig specifies 138 bpm [OH79], and Dodworth and Gilbert specify 144 bpm [AD85, AD88, MG90, AD00, AD05, AD13].

For a list of thirty 19th century five-step waltzes with free downloads of the sheet music, see Five-Step Waltz Music.

Here's a Spotify playlist of seven of those 19th century Five-Step Waltzes recorded by my friend Jen Bayer. The first four are from the 1840s, and the remaining three are from the 1880s.


© 2015, 2018, 2021 Nick Enge

For more dance descriptions, see our three books on dancing:
The Book of Mixers: 100 Easy-Teach Dances for Getting Acquainted (2022) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge,
Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge, and
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge.

For full-length teaching videos, visit: University of Dance.

For help crafting a life you love, visit: Project Quartz.

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