The Waltz

(La Valse à Trois Temps, The Pivot Version)

Contemporary Description

This is the mid-19th century version of the Waltz, with an assisted pivot on the backing half.

The Position

Waltz position throughout.

The Footwork

1: The Lead turns 90° clockwise, bringing his left foot around in front of his partner, across LOD, and ends up giving weight onto the left foot by stepping back onto it. The Follow turns to her right and steps right foot straight forward, slightly between his feet, along LOD. At the end of count 1, the Lead is backing, like a protective shield, in front of her.

2: With his left foot still pivoting in place on the floor, the Lead pulls his right foot back out of her way and gives weight onto it, somewhat behind his left foot, helping him continue to rotate around. The Follow takes a small side-step left along LOD.

3: The Lead replaces full weight on his left foot, continuing to pivot around. The Follow closes her right foot to her left with weight, continuing to rotate. By this point, the couple has switched places, turning 180°, while traveling along LOD. Specifically, she has passed by on the inside lane on counts 2 and 3, while he has pivoted around, pretty much in place, tracking her.

4-5-6: The Lead does exactly what the Follow did, and vice-versa.

The Music

Music in 3/4 time.

Contemporary Waltz Variations

Contemporary variations of the Waltz can be found on the Rotary Waltz page.

© 2015 Nick Enge

(Click to expand)

Historical Descriptions

The Waltz (Hillgrove, 1857):

The Waltz, now called the common or plain Waltz, to distinguish it from the more modern ones, has been known for many years, and is still danced at all public balls; and as it is quite probable that the old waltz will still retain its position in the ball room for some time to come, a short, description of it may prove quite useful.

Description of the Waltz.

The Gentleman commencing with the left foot and the Lady with the right.

1st. The gentleman slides his left foot diagonally forward in front of his partner.

2d. He then slides the right foot past the left in the same direction, little back of the fifth position, with the heel raised and the toe to the floor, slightly turning the body.

3d. He then turns upon both feet—on the toes—so as to bring the right foot forward in the third position, turning half round.

4th. He then slides the right foot forward between his partners feet.

5th. He then slides the left foot forward again, slightly turning the body.

6th. Turn on both feet, and bring the right foot in front to the third position.

And thus:—In the first three counts they turn half round, and in the second three half round again, which completes the circle.

The lady has to do exactly the same, commencing with the right foot at the same moment as the gentleman, and executes the fourth, fifth and sixth time, and then continues with the first, second and third times, or steps, and so on, constantly turning and following the couple before them.

The Waltz (Hillgrove, 1858):

[Same as Hillgrove 1857]

The Waltz (Ferrero, 1859):

Advice to Waltzers.

The gentleman stands in front of his partner, a little to her right, so that while standing, his right foot is between those of the lady. He encircles her waist with his right arm; holds her right hand in his left, and raises it about the height of the waist; he should extend it naturally, and gracefully.

Particular attention should be paid to the height of the hand, for, if held too high, it is liable to come in contact with the faces of other dancers, while executing rapid waltzes.

The lady should rest her left hand gracefully on the gentleman's right shoulder, but should avoid leaning her weight upon him; both turning their heads slightly to the left, and keeping them in that position without restraint while dancing.

Give your countenance a cheerful expression, and avoid that appearance of effort which many exhibit while waltzing.

The gentleman should invariably guide the lady; his left hand will assist him in turning in either direction, for its slightest movement will indicate to his partner the one he intends to take.

Ladies ought to abandon themselves entirely to the guidance of their partners, and obey the slightest motion indicating a change of direction; as the success of the dancers depends upon moving in concert.

The dancers should observe a suitable distance between them, as it is not only necessary to the execution of the steps, but is demanded by a proper respect for themselves and those around them. We would particularly urge this, as the practice of leaning too heavily on the gentleman is a fault which is common to the generality of waltzers.

Dancers should endeavor to vary their direction by going forward, backward, turning to the right and to the left, and changing continually; as the dance, when not varied, is exceedingly monotonous.

It should be the duty of the gentleman to keep on the alert, and avoid coming in contact with other couples.

The lightness and elasticity which are the peculiar excellence of successful waltzers, can be acquired only by continual practice; but by shunning, as much as possible, that appearance of laborious effort, before alluded to, the student will more rapidly attain the proficiency which he desires.

The description of the following round dances has reference to gentlemen standing in the third position, left foot in front; the lady being in the same position, right foot in front.

The Waltz.

The Waltz is one of the oldest of modern dances. We have read of its having been introduced from Germany into France by the triumphant soldiers of Napoleon, but we believe it to be of Spanish origin.

It has been in use in almost every civilized nation, and is still held in high estimation by the Germans, who adopt it on all festive occasions where dancing is introduced.

With the exception of the quadrille and country dance, it was almost the only dance in use at the assemblies in this country twenty years ago, but it has been nearly superseded by the redowa, and various other dances of a similar character, the most of them having their elements in the polka, which is the parent of them all.

The waltz, when well executed, cannot be surpassed by any of the more modern dances in point of graceful movement, and has probably been discarded for the reason that the continual whirling in an unvarying movement, which is its peculiar characteristic, produced a dizziness that is avoided by the opportunity afforded in later dances of going in any direction the dancers desire. The Step of the Waltz.

Standing in the third position, right foot in front:

Place the right foot forward (count one); then the left forward, slightly turning it inward (count two); draw up the right foot in front of the left, in third position (count three) place the left foot out (count four); draw the right foot so that the toe may be behind the hollow of the left foot (count five); then turn on the toes, so as to bring the right foot in front of the left, in the third position (count six).

The above is intended for the lady; the gentleman executes the same, but commences with the 4, 5, 6, while the lady executes the 1, 2, 3; turning half round with three, and the other half with three, making six steps in all.

The Waltz (Hillgrove, 1863):

[Starts the same as Hillgrove 1857, then adds:]

N.B.—The following is a very simple and easy method for learning the Waltz.

The Waltz.

1st. The gentleman slides his left foot diagonally forward, in front of his partner (count one).

2d. Slides the right foot past the left in the same direction, turning slightly to the right (count two).

3d. Brings the left foot behind the right, still turning to the right (count three).

4th. Slides the right foot forward, between his partner's feet (count four).

5th. Slides the left foot forward again, still turning to the right (count five).

6th. Turns on both feet, and brings the right foot in front, to third position (count six).

The lady executes the same steps, but commences with 4, 5, 6, while the gentleman executes 1, 2, 3. And so on, alternately, turning half round with three steps, and then half round again, with the other three. In all six steps, which occupy two bars of music.

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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