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The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in 3/4 time, done primarily in closed position. The most common basic figure of a waltz is a full turn in two measures using three steps per measure.

The waltz first became fashionable in Vienna around the 1780s, spreading to many other countries in the years to follow. The waltz, and especially its closed position, became the example for the creation of many other ballroom dances. Subsequently, new types of waltz have developed, including many folk and several ballroom dances.


The waltz is assumed by some to be a descendant of the lavolta. This is unproved, and the fundamental differences in technique make it hard to imagine how the one could be so closely related to the other. The main reason to assume such a descent is merely that these are two of the earliest European turning dances in closed positions for which we have explicit written instructions. It is likely, however, that they could have had a common ancestor. The Laendler has also been suggested as a possible ancestor.

In the 19th and early 20th century, numerous different forms of waltz existed, including versions done 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" incorporated pauses and was danced to fast music. In the 19th century the word primarily indicated that the dance was a turning one; one would "waltz" in the polka to indicate rotating rather than going straight forward without turning.

Various styles of waltz

  • In contemporary ballroom dance, the fast versions of the waltz are called Viennese waltz.
  • International Standard Waltz has only closed figures; that is, the couple never leaves closed position.
  • 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 secondary partner alternates between the primary partner's left and right sides, with the primary partner's left or right arm (alone) providing the lead.
  • The Cross Step Waltz is a newer style of waltz where the first step is a cross-step into the line of direction. This was popularized in classes at Stanford University and allows for a much richer assortment of variations.
  • The tango style of dance has a "creole waltz", or Vals, which is danced in three, but with steps that are idiomatic to the tango.

Waltzes were the staple of many American musicals and films, including "Waltz in Swing Time" sung by Fred Astaire.

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.