The waltz is one of the most famous and classic of all ballroom dances. Waltz comes from the German word meaning to glide or roll, waltzen. Although there are many derivations of the dance, the waltz primarily comes in two versions, the Viennese Waltz and Modern Waltz. The waltz was scandalous when first introduced and decried as immoral. This was the first time a man and woman were so close to one another during a dance. Purists of the time were in shock that a man had to place his hand on the women’s waist during the dance. However, this did not prevent the dance from gaining traction and growing in popularity worldwide. Today, in ballroom dancing terminology, a fast waltz is referred to as a Viennese Waltz. The American style waltz has some open dance positions, unlike the traditional waltz, and the legs of the dancers don’t close but pass by one another’s.
After spreading through Vienna and Germany, the waltz then made its way through other European countries. Later, it became more permissible in England when the Russian ambassador’s wife was seen dancing the waltz at a ball. Also contributing greatly to the progression of waltz was its catchy music and soothing tones. Two of the greatest waltz musicians in the mid-1800 were Johann Strauss and Franz Lanner. Fortunately for this classic dance, by the end of the 19th century, the waltz was an established dance that was commonplace in social engagements. In the famous scene from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the two characters perform a waltz in the mansion’s ballroom.
Another well-known variation of the waltz is hesitation waltz. Coming to prominence in the early 1910s by famous ballroom pair Irene and Vernon Castle, it makes use of its pauses or, as the name implies, hesitations. The hesitation would leave the moving foot in the air temporarily.
The waltz is performed with the upper torso held straight and across the partner’s upper torso. Generally, the two partners dance counter-clockwise and sway as they take side steps. The gliding motion is what makes the dance so regal.
The basic steps of the dance are not difficult to learn and many beginner ballroom dance students learn the waltz in the early stages of their ballroom dance careers. For more advanced students, variations of the waltz mixed with more moves and faster tempos can be taught. The dance is versatile and may be performed at different social functions. The video on this page demonstrates the basics of the dance so you can begin practicing.