The waltz originated among the rural communities of Europe, soon making its way to upper society, despite its reputation as "scandalous." It is performed to musical pieces with a bobbing, three-fourths time -- most famously, "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss. Today, both versions of the waltz -- International and American styles -- remain intimate, elegant dances that are easy to learn and master and continue to be performed at formal events and competitions.
In the eighteenth century, the waltz was largely a dancing tradition of the peasantry of Europe, particularly in the Bavarian region, where they had no reservations about touching their partners. The higher classes of the times, however, looked down upon this more intimate, closed position, and stuck with the more classical minuet and allemande dances. Eventually, the waltz made its way up the social ladder into the formal ballrooms of Germany and Austria. Its lively and energetic moves were smoothed and refined to fit the more reserved atmosphere of the ballrooms of the day, although it retained much of its "shock value" and notoriety appeal for many. Over time, many variations of the dance were created, and eventually spread to the rest of the world.
The waltz is performed to music in three-quarters time (three beats to a measure), which has the effect of a frequent rise and fall during the dance. This requires a relaxed body and an upright posture, with the shoulders parallel to the floor. Partners should face each other, but be slightly off-center, each looking over the other's shoulder. They should keep facing each other while moving forward or backward, but their heads should point in and follow the direction of turns.
Man's (Lead) Steps
Start in the closed position with your feet close together. On the first beat, step forward with your left foot. On the second beat, move your right foot forward and to the right in a right-angle movement, like an upside-down "L." Do not let your foot touch the ground until it reaches the end of this "L." On the third beat, slide your left foot to close with your right, returning you to closed position slightly forward and right of where you first started. The next three beats mirror the steps of the first three. On the fourth beat, step backwards with your right foot. On the fifth beat, slide back and to the left with your left foot in a backwards "L," again hovering just off the ground until you reach its end. On the sixth and final beat, slide your right foot to close with your left foot right where you began. Repeat throughout the music.
Woman's (Follow) Steps
The woman's part is the same as the man's, but staggered -- that is, when he leads with a step forward with his left foot, you will follow with a step backwards with your right foot, as he would do on the fourth beat. Thus, on the second beat, you will slide back and to the left with your left foot in the backwards "L," then, on the third beat, bring your right foot in to close with your left foot. The next three beats are the first three of the man's part. On the fourth beat, step forward with the left foot. Then, on the next beat, move the right foot forward and right in a right-angle (the "upside-down L"). On the sixth and final beat, bring the left foot in to close with the right.
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