In the 19th and early 20th century, numerous different Waltz forms existed, including versions performed in 2/4 or 6/8 (sauteuse), and 5/4 time (5/4 waltz, half and half)

In the 1910s, a form called the “Hesitation Waltz” was introduced by Vernon and Irene Castle. It incorporated hesitations and was danced to fast music. A hesitation is basically a halt on the standing foot during the full waltz measure, with the moving foot suspended in the air or slowly dragged. Similar figures (Hesitation Change, Drag Hesitation, and Cross Hesitation) are incorporated in the International Standard Waltz Syllabus.

In California, the Waltz was banned by Mission fathers until after 1834 because of the “closed” dance position. Thereafter, a Spanish Waltz was danced. This Spanish Waltz was a combination of dancing around the room in closed position, and a “formation” dance of two couples facing each other and performing a sequence of steps. “Valse a Trois Temps” was the “earliest” Waltz step, and the Rye Waltz was favored as a couple dance.

In contemporary ballroom dance

In contemporary ballroom dance, the fast versions of the Waltz are called Viennese Waltz.

International Standard Waltz

International Standard Waltz has only closed figures; that is, the couple never breaks the embrace.

American Style Waltz

The American Style Waltz, in contrast to the International Standard Waltz, involves breaking contact almost entirely in some figures. For example, the Syncopated Side-by-Side with Spin includes a free spin for both partners. Open rolls are another good example of an open dance figure, in which the follower alternates between the leader’s left and right sides, with the leader’s left or right arm (alone) providing the lead. Waltzes were the staple of many American musicals and films, including “Waltz in Swing Time” sung by Fred Astaire.

Waltz is one of the five dances in the Standard (or Modern) category of the International Style ballroom dances. It was previously referred to as Slow Waltz or English Waltz.
It is a Waltz dance and danced to slow Waltz music, preferably 28-30 bars per minute (84-90 beats per minute). Preferably, the 1st beat of a measure to be accented. Waltz music is in 3/4 time.
Most of the basic figures have 1 step per 1 beat, i.e., 3 steps per measure. Advanced figures may have 4-6 steps per measure, and this, coupled with various turns, makes the dance very dynamic despite the relatively slow tempo. At the same time, advanced dancers often use slow steps and elegant poses to create contrast (sometimes referred to as “light and shade”).

Waltz is usually the first dance in the DanceSport competitions in the “Standard” category. The dance is danced exclusively in the closed position, unlike its American Style counterpart. Like all dances of Standard category, it is a progressive dance.

Waltz is characterized by the pendulum swing body action. Other general elements of ballroom technique important for Waltz are foot parallelism, rise and fall, contra body movement and sway.
Timing: 3/4; Beat: 28-30 measures per minute; Count: “1 – 2 – 3” (with an accent on “1”); Danced competitively since: 1923-1924.

It originated from the dances of several different peoples in Europe but its main predecessors were the “Matenick” and a variation called the “Furiant” that were performed during rural festivals in the Czech Republic. The French dance, the “Walt”, and the Austrian “Lindler” are the most similar to the Waltz among its predecessors.
The king of dances acquired different national traits in different countries. Thus there appeared the English Waltz, the Hungarian Waltz, and the Waltz-Mazurka.
The “Waltz” is derived from the old German word “walzen” meaning “to roll, turn”, or “to glide”. Nowadays the dance has three main forms:

  • The Ballroom Waltz – a slow dance with measured steps that moves around the room in a controlled fashion with lots of figures
  • The Viennese Waltz – a fast dance with lots of turning, the feet positions are based on ballet though for a correct Viennese Waltz
  • The Folk Waltz – what most people know as waltz, and can be done to various speeds of music

Music Examples:

1. Nocturne by Secret Garden
2. Moon River by Tony Evans
3. Fascination by Nat King Cole