How to do basic waltz steps. (Men's and Women's parts)

How To Waltz

The waltz is the first dance most people think the might learn when they decide to learn to dance. Whether they want to dance for their wedding or just for a social event the waltz tends to the dance they start with.

Well here is some bad news: the waltz is a difficult dance: the social or rhythm foxtrot or rock and roll are definitely easier for most people. You want to know how to waltz so lets start with the basics.

Waltz Hold

The waltz, like other ballroom dances are danced in what is known as "closed hold". You get into a closed hold like this:

  • The main offers his left hand to the lady while standing with his weight on his right foot;
  • The woman approaches the man and gives him her right hand.

  • The woman takes up position which is slightly offset to her left of the man.

  • The proper hold is full body contact along the woman's right side - bu for a social dancer its fine not to be in full contact.

  • The woman rests her left hand on the man's upper left arm as he places his right arm on he shoulder blade.

Social Waltz

Photo:Wigwam Jones via Flickr
Photo:Wigwam Jones via Flickr

Waltz Timing and Movement

Waltz music has 3 beats to the bar. The dance moves around the floor in the anti-clockwise direction. Whatever else happens don't go in the wrong direction!

The man leads, the woman follows - my partner tells me this is non-negotiable, at least on the dance floor. The man is in charge of timing movement, choreography, the woman follows and enhances his movement. As the old saying goes: "Ginger Roges did everything that Fred Astaire did, backwards in high heels"

The Basic Waltz Steps

For brevity - I will give the man's steps: the woman does the opposite: man forward right - lady back right!

The first beat is the driving step, the man will normally start forward left foot.

The second step is right foot sideways - to the right

The third step the left foot closing to the right foot and lowering preparing to start forward right.

Over the three steps the man turns 1/4 turn.

The man steps forward again on beat one - forward right foot, side left, right foot closes to left foot and changes weight - see easy!

How to Learn to Dance

Written words are powerful things - but not when it comes to learning to dance. If you want to learn to dance; take a class either a group class or a private lesson with a teacher or with a partner and a teacher.

Its almost impossible to put into words all the nuances of even the first 6 steps of the waltz. I haven't even mentioned the rise and fall which gives the illusion that the dancers hover motionless - check out the video below for some excellent competitive dancers showing just how beautiful the waltz can be.

And get out there and give ballroom dancing a go - its the best intellectual and physical exercise you can have!

So check out your local town for ballroom dance classes in your area - if you live in my town you may find useful information at my Wellington Dance Classes website!

Waltz is the first dance shown

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Comments 36 comments

topstuff profile image

topstuff 8 years ago

Now i can understand the steps involved in Walts dance,before reading i didn't know still i cann't imagine to do.Thumbs up

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

I'll tell you a secret I went to dance class in 1996 to learn to waltz. I have been competiting since 1997 - I stil find the waltz the most difficult dance - and I would love to master the basic step :-) The funniest thing are beginners who have done the 6 week course and think they can dance! You never stop learning - even the world champs still take lessons!

honestway profile image

honestway 8 years ago from Spain

Hi Lissie, what a fabulous idea!

Just shows how diverse the talent and imagination is here in Hub Pages. Good on you for thinking up writing about a waltz!


Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

LOL Terry - but to be honest - I was answering a request - I don't often do it anymore but Ican't resist dancing - its one of my passions along with travel -why do my passions have to cost me money instead of making me any LOL!

topstuff profile image

topstuff 8 years ago

O is hubbing not Lissies passion.

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

LOL topstuff - actually hubbing does have moments of passion for me - but its not quite the same as dancing - though it, usually , hurts less!

ProCW profile image

ProCW 8 years ago from South Carolina

Hey Lissie! Thanks for answering my request! What a fine job and fun hub! I love to dance too, but not just waltz. I love the complete array of both standard and rhythm dances!


PS. If we had to dance together to the second piece of music in the video, the Tango... you might have to back lead. :) Again, fine job!

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

LOL - ProCW glad to hear you are a dancer - Ihad to concentrate a bit giving the man's steps rather than the ladies! Don't you love how many people they get on the floor in the video - I was at that competition - it was a very small floor!

MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 8 years ago from Sydney

Lizzie I learnt to dance in 1956. Loved the waltz.

The memory on that lovely day has gone. Val and I do not go dancing anymore. A little painful

great hub Thank you

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

Thats's a little sad MrM - one of the teachers at our current studio is over 80 -I thought he was 20 years younger: he has been dancing for 60 odd years - so cool!

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

I have not ever had the opportunity to dance, but I do get the chance to watch dancing competitions, including sports dance in yearly regional venues here. Waltz very lovely, Tango is my favorite All your dance articles are fantastic - Thanks for the Hub!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Another great dance hub from you. I always love to read them.

The only dancing I've done in recent years is with my uncle, who is in his late 70s, and that would be the polka. A few spins around the floor with my uncle, and that's enough for me for the year!

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

Thanks for dropping by Patty and Sally - I am sore sore sore at the moment - practicing hard for the New Zealand Nationals in a few weeks!

ProCW profile image

ProCW 8 years ago from South Carolina

Oh, I forgot to tell you something, Lissie. I put a link to this hub somewhere for you. Its URL is attached to the sofa on the left of the door inside my room. If you double click the sofa, music notes come out. If you single click, you can open the hyperlink to this page! :) Check it out if you like. :)

Histiletto profile image

Histiletto 8 years ago

Hey Lizzie, thanks for the info.

When ever the gracefulness and difficulty of dance is brought up, the comment is usually followed with the note that women have to endure the same steps, only backwards while wearing heels. As a man, who is not unfamiliar with the wearing of high heels, this subtle challenge is intriguing. Could I dance in heels? Walking in them is no problem. Could I overcome having two left feet on the dance floor, as the saying goes? I guess I won't know, if I don't try.

So, I have decided to take some dancing lessons in heels if I can find a place, program, school, and/or individual who will work with me. What do beginner's lesson cost for an adult? Will I have to get a pair of dance heels or will the ones I wear now suffice? Is there anything else I should be aware of or is there any advice and/or comments to be added beside the stereotyping labels everyone has heard. I assure you that I am a hetero male, who wears high heels with his "manly" attire.

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

Male or female you need special heels - as you turn with your weight on your heels the heels need to be strong. The thing with heels is that female instructors dancing the male part tend to wear low (cuban 1.5") heels - because waaring high heels (2" or 2.5" are most common) really only works for someone dancing the womans part. Its to do with lead/follow position I think! How tall are you? That might be an issue too - though not insurmountable and probably easier in American style - I know international style a lot better.

I guess the issue then is then which part you want to dance. There is a gay dance scene which is generally man/man lady/lady dancing but if you want to stay in the straight scene you may have a problem with high heels dancing as a man because o the way the heels push your body weight forward . Though you can easily get 3" heels in man's latin shoes so maybe that will work for you?

If you want to learn the ladies part wearing women's heels I think you are going to have to find a teacher prepared to teach you - which would certainly involve private lessons - shouldn't be hard to find a teacher though - in Australia a private lesson is A$70/hour. If you want to start with a group lesson then not so high heels might be OK dancing the man's part

Histiletto profile image

Histiletto 8 years ago

Thanks Lissie,

Learning to dance the male part for the common styles of dancing in this area may be all the challenge I can handle, at least for now. In my stocking feet, I'm about 5' 8". With 5" heels and no platforms, my height is closer to 5' 10". This doesn't make me the tallest drink of water and there are many men who don't wear heels that are much taller, so I don't quite see the reasoning for the difficulty I would have in the male position wearing heels. Unless there isn't a female partner tall enough, but that may be more of a problem for later advanced dancing. Most of the time, I wear an equivalent of 4.5" stilettoes, anyway, because these court shoes have 5/8" hidden platforms along with 5.25" stilettoes. 

With all of my apprehensions in this course of action, it sounds like it could be a lot of fun being able to become more open about who I am while meeting other people and it will give me more time to exercise and keep in shape. Who knows what can be accomplished, if one will but take the opportunity. Thanks again for your help. Life is too short, not to have lived fully and I have allot to make up for.

2patricias profile image

2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Hi Lissie - When Wonderful Husband and I were staying with a friend recently, she played some waltz music. I tried to explain waltz step to WH - he said that starting with left foot felt un-natural! I think this is a lost cause.....sigh.

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

LOL - would saying that you are going to go off in some other man's arms work? BTW he can start with the right foot if he really wants to!

Histillelo - 5" heels are too high for dancing for anyone. The most common height is 2.5", ocaisionally 3" if you have a long foot At 5" your body is out of alignment and it won't work - sorry!

betherickson profile image

betherickson 8 years ago from Minnesota

Hi Lissie! This is surely a helpful hub. I love it. Keep it up. :)

nytclubber 8 years ago

nice. you've really got the basics to dancing waltz!

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand Author

LOL nyt - that's because I do dance the waltz reasonably well !

Simple 7 years ago

Im a figure skater so when it was suggested to me to learn the waltz i caught on very fast

James 7 years ago

My wife made me take a few lessons with her but I could never get the hang of it. This helped me out a ton. This page has some good tips too.

Salsa Dancing 6 years ago

Cool hub, I'm a salsa dancer and I can draw quite a few paralells between salsa and waltz, however waltz seems to be a lot more elegant and formal, and salsa seems to be more accessable and diverse. I took up salsa because it was so easy to simply walk into any salsa bar in the world, and ask someone to dance, and throughout the course of the night be able to danc with 10 or more people. So you get to practice very easily and get good quite fast.

Salsa Dancing 6 years ago

Also another thing I would like to add is the learning to dance is a bit like learning to drive a car, sure reading about how to drive a car can be fascinating but ultimately yuo'll never actually learn to drive a car until you go out there and try it for yourself in a class or ballroom.

RYPcontent profile image

RYPcontent 6 years ago from Chatham, IL

I am always amazed when ever I go dancing by the number of people that can't do the basic waltz box step. Thanks for this resource.

davidbelden profile image

davidbelden 6 years ago from San Francisco

Great hub. I look forward to improving my waltzing soon!

James 6 years ago

The waltz is my favorite ballroom dance. Good coverage of the dance.

josh 6 years ago

i like but it is hard for me to learn in ballroom dancein class

dennisdancer profile image

dennisdancer 6 years ago from Poole

Lissie, pls correct your mistakes on mens basic Waltz

A beginner man will dance a left foot closed change to begin with LF fwd RF to side close LF to RF NO TURN

then he does Nat turn RF fwd starting to turn right LF to side close RF to LF making 3/8 of a turn to r not a 1/4

then back LF turn body to R & point RF to centre of room

close LF to RF still turning body to right to face diag to centre of room, follow with reverse turn ( also you put man fwd RF lady back RF how is this possible ?)

Lissie profile image

Lissie 6 years ago from New Zealand Author

Dennis you need to get out and do more dancing and less unpaid proof reading! My dance teacher would disagree with your first point. 3/8 or 1/4 - who cares certainly not a beginner - I'm writing a hub not reproducing a technical dance manual LOL. If people are interested in the technicality they should go to a good teacher! profile image 6 years ago from Bournemouth Dorset U.K.

I am all for anything which encourages people to dance, you are right, too much technicality is a put-off from the start, I hope I am not guily here. And especially the written word - then it is awful! Even personal tech. instruction is heavy work! Although lessons are invaluable - if the student wants to advance technically they possibly require private lessons anyway. Your piece about preparing for a Competition was grand, thank you for all the trouble you took. God Bless Paula

Lissie profile image

Lissie 6 years ago from New Zealand Author

Thanks Paula - I'd agree you can't learn technique in a group class!

larrybo profile image

larrybo 5 years ago from Brookfield WI (USA)

All encouragement that gets people out dancing is good. My wife and I took it up 8 yrs ago, and just love it. We have met lots of nice people and are having a great time. Easiest dance for people to learn is Rhumba. The dance that people in the US will most most get the chance to dance to, is Swing. These are both good dances to learn early, to build confidence. Enjoyed your post.

funmontrealgirl profile image

funmontrealgirl 5 years ago from Montreal

I would love to do this.

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