How to Ballroom Dance Waltz: An Introduction for Beginners

The waltz is one of the oldest and most beautiful ballroom dances.

It comes from the German word, walzen, which means to roll, turn, or glide.

How to ballroom dance waltz

This ballroom dance is done in three-fourths time, and there is a strong accent of the first beat.

It is one of the first dances that people learn when they take up ballroom dance.

Brief History of the Waltz

The waltz originated outside Vienna in the alpine region of Austria.

In the 17th century, people danced the waltz in the ballrooms of the Hapsburg court.

However, turning dances, such as the waltz, had been enjoyed by peasants in Austria and Bavaria even earlier, and back then, people danced the waltz to simple peasant yodeling melodies.

In the mid-18th century, people in France enjoyed the allemande form of the waltz.

During this time, people intertwined the arms at the shoulder, and the close-hold started here.

People enjoyed this dance, and by the end of the 18th century, high society was dancing the waltz. 

The waltz was met with criticism as well.

Dancing masters complained that the basic steps were easy to learn and didn’t require the practice of the minuet and other court dances.

Others found it immoral with its closer hold and quick turning moves.

Religious leaders found it sinful.

Continental courts in Europe and England were slow to adopt the waltz for these reasons.

Often those who included the waltz at balls were condemned and criticized.

However, this condemnation increased the popularity of it.

After the French Revolution, the Bourgeoisie in Paris embraced the waltz. They had almost 700 dance halls in Paris. 

The waltz was first danced in the United States in 1834 in Boston.

Although social leaders didn’t approve, by the middle of the century, the waltz was firmly established in American Society.

By 1800, three-fourths of all the dances were waltzes.

Two different forms of the waltz developed at this time.

The Boston waltz was a slow waltz with long sweeping steps.

It led to the International style that is still around today.

The second type was the hesitation, and it has dancers take one step to three beats.

These steps are still used in the waltz today.

Today, the two forms of the waltz are the Modern Waltz and the Viennese Waltz.


How to Waltz

When you begin to learn how to ballroom dance, you will learn the waltz.

The waltz offers you a great foundation for ballroom dancing.

You will start by learning the box step.

Once you master it, you will learn to turn and then how to travel around the room. 

The timing is important to understand.

The count is 1,2,3 … 1,2,3. Similar to the old Waltz from many years ago, there is a strong accent on the first step of the beat.

Most figures will start on the 1.

The beats are all even tempo, and it is usually a slow dance.

The Box Step

The box step is the basis for the waltz.

The easiest way to envision it is to pretend you have a box in front of you. You can imagine stepping on the corners of the box.

The count is 1,2,3, and this will make up half of your box.

Take a look at how you do it:


Man’s Box Step: 

  • Forward with left foot
  • Side with right foot
  • Close with left foot
  • Back with right foot
  • Side with left foot
  • Close with right foot

Lady’s Box Step

  • Back with right foot
  • Side with left foot
  • Close with right foot
  • Forward with left foot
  • Side with right foot
  • Close with left foot

When the man leads, he should press his weight forward as he starts out by stepping forward with the left foot.

The lady should follow effortlessly.

The forward and backward steps have a falling action and the side steps have a rising action.

You should both start with your knees bent and press down and forward so that you are ready to rise on the second and third steps.

How to ballroom dance at home

Turning Left on the Box Step

You will want to master the box step before you add the turn.

You will do the basic box step with a turn.

The steps are the same, with forward, side, close, back, side, close for the man, and the opposite for the lady.

However, on the second part, you will turn one-eighth of a turn to the left.

The turn comes as you are finishing the second half of the box. 

Waltzing Around the Room

How to ballroom dance waltz: The waltz is a dance that travels counterclockwise around the room.

Once you have learned the basic box step and the left turn, you are ready to learn how to glide around the room.

You will need to vary the box step.

The box step keeps you stationary, but if you want to travel, you will need to continue in a direction.

The man will start with the left foot, and go forward, side, close, just as in the box step, but the second half will also move forward with forward, side, close.

The lady will start the same as well, taking the right foot and going back, side, close, but the second step will also be back, side, close with the opposite foot. 

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