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Arthur Murray Dance Studios is Your Place to Learn the Waltz

The Waltz (or Slow Waltz), is a smooth and progressive ballroom dance known for its many turns, its distinctive cadence, and its particularly romantic vibe. Once you see the Waltz, it’s impossible to forget. Some notable past films that featured the Waltz include “An American in Paris”, “My Fair Lady” and the recent “Shall We Dance”. Arthur Murray dance instructors love teaching this classical dance; its romanticism and elegance make it a popular favorite among dance students.

What Exactly is the Waltz?

The Waltz has strong roots in European folk dancing, and in many different European languages. The word ‘waltz’ is synonymous with the words ‘turns’ or ‘spins’. This ballroom dance is primarily performed by two dance partners in closed position, to music in three-quarter time. The Waltz remains one of the world’s most recognizable dance styles, and is often the dance of choice at weddings and other formal events.

The History of the Waltz

Historically, the Waltz has quite the pedigree. Inspired by the Viennese Waltz (the oldest of all ballroom dances), the Waltz made its appearance in Europe in the 18th century. However, history makes reference to several sliding, gliding folk dances popular among Bavarian peasants as early as the 16th century, in which dance partners hold their bodies close together and spin endlessly.

Although the Viennese Waltz – a ballroom dance essentially consisting of constant turns – became popular for its fast tempo, the speed of the dance limited dancers’ movements and dance steps. The Waltz gained attention because it didn’t move as fast as the Viennese Waltz, thereby giving dancers more freedom to move. With its slowed down tempo, the dance also encouraged more intimacy, helping to solidify the Waltz as one of the more romantic social dances.

Today, the Waltz is often danced in the closed position, but this wasn’t always the case. Originally, partners held each other in semi-closed and side to side positions, often with intertwined arms. As well, the original version of the Waltz dictated that dancers’ feet were constantly turned out, and a pronounced rise of the foot was employed, two characteristics of the original dance which limited dancers’ movements in their own ways.

In historical context, the Waltz made a tremendous impact on social dancing in society. Up until its introduction, all previous European dance forms resembled line dancing: all dance participants would perform preset, sequential patterns and dancers faced out to spectators just as much as they faced each other. By doing so, everyone present – whether dancers or spectators – took part in this communal custom.

The Waltz introduced a more personal and even private relationship between dance partners. This caused it to be scandalized by many early critics, who complained rather vigorously of the Waltz’s inherently ‘anti-social’ nature. The Waltz was the 18th century’s version of Dirty Dancing – rebellious noblemen and noblewomen would eschew the Minuet and sneak away to dance the ‘forbidden’ Waltz among the servants.

How Arthur Murray Teaches the Waltz

As mentioned previously, the Waltz is a social dance that is both elegant and intimate, two reasons why it’s so popular today. Dance instructors at Arthur Murray Dance Studios love teaching this dance to students because it’s easy to learn, and almost as easy to master, which coincidentally are the very same reasons why students enjoy this social dance too. There are two official versions of the Waltz, the International Standard Waltz and the American Smooth Waltz. The former preserves the original Waltz’s form factor of the closed position, whereas the American Smooth Waltz allows for both closed and open positions.

The Waltz frequently uses rise and fall during the dance, which requires a straight posture with shoulders parallel to the floor. Partners face each other so that they are each looking over their partner’s shoulder. They continue to face each other as they move forward or backward, with their heads following the direction of their turns.

The Waltz’s basic box step (for leads) is performed as follows:

  1. Start in closed position, with feet close together.
  2. Step forward on your left foot on the 1st beat.
  3. Slide your right foot forward and to the right on the 2nd beat.
  4. On the 3rd beat, slide your left foot to close with your right foot.
  5. On the 4th beat, step back on your right foot.
  6. Slide back and to the left with your left foot on the 5th beat.
  7. On the final beat, slide your right foot to close with your left foot.

In addition to the basic Waltz box step outlined above, the dance instructors at Arthur Murray incorporate several routines and dance steps that involve partners breaking contact almost entirely at times. Some examples include the Syncopated Side-by-Side with Spin (both partners spin), and Open Rolls, where the dance follower alternates between the lead’s right and left sides. We teach beginners all of the essential footwork, rhythm and tempo specific to the Waltz, and as you progress, more advanced notions of the dance are introduced.

For example, we teach a variety of hesitations (or halts on the standing foot during a full measure, while the other foot either remains suspended or is slowly dragged across the floor); some of the hesitations we cover include the Hesitation Change, the Drag Hesitation and the Cross Hesitation.

Waltz Music

Waltz music, by and large, is easily identifiable. It is typically in three quarter time with an average of about 28 – 30 measures per minute. There is usually a heavier accent on the first beat of a measure’s three beats. As expected due to its continental European beginnings, folk music (more specifically, polka) was the original music of choice for the Waltz. At Arthur Murray, we provide dance students with a wide range of musical selections spanning orchestral arrangements to vocals. At any given time, we can perform the Waltz to Henry Mancini Orchestra’s “Moon River” and Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” just as easily as we can to well-known vocalists such as Nat King Cole or Anne Murray.

Arthur Murray Dance Studios is Your Source for the Waltz

Arthur Murray Dance Studios teaches hundreds and hundreds of students yearly with professional dance lessons in Tango, Cha-Cha, Salsa, Rumba and the Waltz. We do more than simply provide dance instruction; we take special interest in our students’ progression and guide each one throughout their evolution.

Our dance system is a progressive one that adapts to each student’s skill level and optimizes their progress. As students advance, they are guaranteed to have a multi-level dance system that will support them, every dance step of the way. Arthur Murray doesn’t simply teach with private lessons and classes; we also have a variety of social events to encourage you to try new things in a supportive environment. The Waltz is just one of the many ballroom dances that is waiting for you, so contact Arthur Murray today to schedule your $20 introductory dance lesson.

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