“Dancing is creating a sculpture that is visible only for a moment.” – Erol Ozan
Just in case you needed a reason to start learning the waltz, according to a study by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York, dancing can reduce senility by 76%. Additionally, there are both physical and mental benefits to dancing. Even a seemingly relaxed style like the waltz will burn calories and help improve your posture.
In this article, we’ll be looking at everything you need to know about waltz lessons in dance schools, academies, or studios, private waltz tutorials, etc. We’ll also be having a look at the origins of the style, how it developed, and the variations you can study nowadays.
Waltz is one of the oldest couples’ dances around. Before learning how to do it and making your way onto the dance floor, you should learn more about its fascinating history.
The Waltz was popularised in Austria and is thought to originally be a Viennese dance. It became popular in the 1780s before making its way to Western Europe. The word “waltz” comes from the German walzer which means “to turn in a circle”. If you’ve seen people doing the Waltz before, you’ll understand why that’s pretty much the perfect name for it.
Austria, and more importantly Vienna, is home to the waltz. (Source: jarmoluk)
The origins of the waltz are a bit fuzzy. However, it’s widely accepted that it originated somewhere between Germany and Austria.
Of course, like most dances, the waltz must surely be derived from another dance. Waltz appeared during a time when court dances were very popular. In terms of dancing, the waltz was somewhat of a revolution as people usually danced side by side rather than face to face.
At the time, people danced the minuet, especially in courts like those at the Palace of Versailles. This new dance in a “closed couple” digusted many. People thought dancing with a partner in this way was an obscene and shameful practice. The French Revolution changed all that, though.
A lot of court dances were forgotten as waltz took over and it started being taught as a dance in its own right. Waltz music was very popular amongst composers who would create “waltzes”.
Nowadays the waltz is seen as an older form of a ballroom dance and isn’t very popular amongst the younger generation. However, almost everyone has heard of it or done a few steps just for fun.
Various styles of waltz developed in different places around the world over time. To choose the right dance classes, you should know more about the different styles of waltz.
I could tell you that Viennese Waltz is danced over musical phrases made up of 8 measures and that the average tempo is around 150 beats per minute but, unless you study music, you probably won’t be interested. The important thing to remember that it isn’t very fast and there are several types of Viennese waltzes (both International and American). Partners dance closely together and can also separate.
Viennese Waltz, in general, is usually danced while turning to the right. However, couples sometimes turn to the left so that they don’t get dizzy. Viennese Waltz was popular with composers such as Johann Strauss II and Offenbach.
Johann Strauss created a lot of the music that you’ll waltz along to. (Source: MeineMaennerwelt)
The English Waltz is an evolution of the Viennese Waltz which appeared at around the same time as the latter. Unlike its Austrian counterpart, the Slow Waltz uses a duple meter where the second beat is a pause.
Get out your accordions and berets! This type of waltz was popular in French courts. Valse Musette has couples turning in smaller spaces. It’s also performed at a higher tempo than classical waltz. This type of waltz is similar to the Java waltz variation, which appeared around the same time in France.
There are several ways to learn how to dance the waltz as a couple and the most common is from a dance school.
In your very first dance lesson, your dance teacher will probably show you the basics of the dance. In fact, you might even learn a bit of waltz choreography to get you started with a bit of footwork for other dance styles, too.
The most important thing is to learn the main steps before focusing on where you should be or positioning your body. The best way is to learn basic steps. Just like learning to play the piano, you need to start off slowly to make sure that it all goes in.
When you waltz, you get to dress up really nicely. (Source: stokpic)
That’s how a tutor is often essential in helping you avoid picking up any bad habits. One it becomes second nature, you’ll be able to do each step more quickly.
You’ll learn how to position your body: your arms should be away from your body and help at chest height. The dancers’ chests mustn’t come into contact, only the right side of the pelvis should make contact.
The woman’s right-hand needs to be in the man’s left so that he can place his right hand under the woman’s scapula. They then need to practise turning.
The problem with classes in dance schools is that they’re often group classes. Several couples will, therefore, need to share the room. You don’t want to step on any toes.
The schedule needs to work for both partners. Whether it’s a dance course, weekly classes, evening classes, intensive classes, classes for beginners, etc., you should get in touch with dance school to see what they’re offering.
You can also learn about other styles of dance (pasodoble, Argentine tango, rumba, Bachata, Salsa, Kizomba, mambo, tap, African dance, cha cha, Puertorican salsa, Oriental dance, swing, ballet, etc.). You can learn to dance for your wedding day, an end-of-year show, etc.
Not everyone lives in a big city. If you live in the country, it can be difficult finding a dance school. Furthermore, teaching waltz isn’t as common as it once was in the past. It’s easier to find classes for jazz, salsa, flamenco, Zumba, breakdancing, contemporary, hip hop, etc.
To fill this void, a number of dancers have decided to offer private tutorials. Today, this type of learning is very common. Learning the waltz with a private tutor is a great way to personalise your lessons.
Your waltz tutor will start with an appraisal of your skills in order to work out your level (absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate, expert). They’ll then ask what type of waltz you’re interested in.
If you want to get good at the waltz, you’ll need to practise and perform regularly. (Source: pixelia)
This is why it’s important to look at a tutor’s profile before you get started with them. Some prefer classical waltz styles whereas others prefer more modern styles.
Many tutors on Superprof offer the first hour of tutoring for free so that you can see what they teach and whether you get along with them.
By choosing a private tutor, you can choose which hours work for you. This is especially useful when learning as a couple and there are two schedules to work around. The only disadvantage of learning with a private tutor is that you can’t benefit from changing partners. To find other dancers, you should go to special evenings or soirées.
To find your perfect private tutor, you should look for bulletin boards in local businesses or online. You can often find posters for tutors on the former.
If a waltz dance isn’t for you, don’t forget that you can also get private tutors who specialise in ballroom dance, the foxtrot, polka, Latin, samba, etc. You’re spoilt for choice when looking for a dance instructor!
There are also tutors offering a mix of different styles in case you’re struggling to choose just one. Of course, these styles are usually related. You probably won’t learn ballet alongside the tango but you could study a number of different styles in a Latin dance class, for example.
If you’ve just got engaged, don’t forget you can also get private tutors to help you and your partner get ready for the first dance at your wedding. Don’t worry if you’ve never danced before, you just have to learn a few steps. Of course, if you have greater ambitions and are thinking about doing a specially choreographed routine, they can also help you with that!