Class Notes

Class Notes – Waltz Survey

201 years ago waltz spread to the world from the Congress of Vienna.  It originated in Vienna 50 to 100 years before that, evolved from the Ländler and the Weller.  The word “Waltz” comes from the Latin “Volvere” – to revolve; turning is in its DNA.  The waltz was the first worldwide dance, and is still the most popular dance on the globe.

This lesson will address all the most popular forms of turning waltz, and we will stick to the basic turning steps.  Many figures have been choreographed for waltz, but most people still dance only the basic turns – especially the Viennese people.


Rotary waltz (Turning waltz) – tempo 110 to 165 (very wide range).  Feet together like dancing in a bucket.  To turn 180º use shoulders to lead the woman across on beat 5 and 6.  Women must provide power or get dragged around – if he is dragging you, speed it up.  Women’s and man’s moves and technique are the same except that he drives the car (navigates).

Viennese waltz – tempo 170 to 190.  Same dance, except the trick is to not get tired.  Viennese dancers spin and spin for hours.  Key Tip: On beat 4 step into the woman’s space.  On beat 1 lead her to step between your feet.  CCW turn is the same but women must provide extra power because they are behind (to the right); comes from the “Boston” (Box Step).

Tango Vals – tempo 200 to 230.  Listen for QQS and do box step, or open box (or polka or 2-Step).  Mix with One-Step and Viennese.  Or do tango steps (especially turning); there is no restriction to what steps you can do.  You can Improvise.  Waltz is an “UP” dance; project your energy upward.

Blues waltz – tempo 150 to 230.  Fast 3/4 beat (or 6/8 beat) with low energy.  Similar to tango vals – dance QQS.  Do the Box Step, Open Box, 2-Step, or Polka step (turning).  To add spice, shorten beat 6 (second Q), especially if you hear it in the music.

Slow Blues waltz – tempo 80 to 110.  Blues One-Step or Box Step.  Focus entirely on your partner, and not on the steps.  Move feet minimally.  Cuddling and weight-shifting is OK.

Crosstep waltz – tempo 114 to 124.  Opposite foot – beat 1 on R.  Many many figures available, but you can also dance the basic all day.  Both partners do the same, and both provide the energy.

Contra waltz – tempo 124 to 140.  Folksy mixture of walking, turning, figures, etc.  Focus is on easy, friendly – no focus on style or accuracy.  E.g. turn any amount, then change to another figure.  Feel free to play and improvise.

How to start out?  1. Lean back on 1, 2, 3 (International style); 2. Reach Left around (American Style); 3. Position yourself during the intro.; 4. Walk forward on 1, 2, 3;  5. Back into the LOD.

Possibility:  Charlie Parker, the world-famous saxophonist, said, “Don’t play the saxophone.  Let it play you.”  I would say don’t waltz the music; let the music waltz you.

By: Jay Aland 6/12/16