Learn How to Dance the Waltz

Bride dancing with father at her wedding.

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The waltz is a popular dance for lots of formal occasions like weddings (especially for daddy-daughter dances), quinceañeras, and coming-out parties. It is elegant and looks wonderful to those who are watching from the sidelines. The good news is that it is one of the easiest dance steps to learn and to execute. With some very basic instructions and a little practice, you and your dance partner can have fun and look like you know what you are doing.

The waltz is a dance which has morphed over time from an old German folk dance, and it is danced to a 1-2-3 beat. Most waltzes are slow, and by mastering the basic dance step, you can survive the waltz pretty easily.

If you have ever seen a ballroom dance exhibition or competition, you know that the waltz is often quite elegant and fluid. The dancers can seem like they are floating around the floor. While your initial waltz may not be quite that impressive, you can quickly learn the basics and then with some practice, the image can be quite impressive.

Basic Step for Waltzing With Any Partner

  1. Take your partner in your arms in a classic dance stance with your right hand on her waist and your left hand in her right hand. Her left hand should be on your right shoulder. This will feel pretty natural because you have seen it done many times. As you dance this waltz, she will follow you doing the mirror image of what you are doing.
  2. Listen to the music for a couple of moments and get the 1-2-3 beat in your mind. Then, on a first beat, step forward one step with your left foot. In the "mirror," your partner will be stepping back one step with her right foot. Got it so far?
  3. On the next beat, step forward and to the right with your right foot. Your right foot should make a bit of an upside-down "L" shape to get there. Again, your partner should move her left foot back and to the left so, at the end of the step, you are still facing each other.
  4. Shift your weight to your right foot without moving your left. It's just a gentle leaning movement.
  5. Now, on the third beat, slide your left foot over to your right and you will be standing with your feet together. Again, your partner should be mirroring your steps. Now you will look like you did right at the beginning.
  6. Now, on the fourth beat of six, step back one step with your right foot. You partner should be stepping forward with her left.
  7. On the fifth beat of the music, step back and to the left with your left foot, then shift your weight to your left foot.
  8. On the sixth and final beat of this dance step, slide your right foot forward until your two feet are together. Again, you and your partner should be back together, feet together, facing one another just like right before you started.
  9. Now, you start again just like step two with stepping one step forward with your left foot, only turn both you and your partner about 1/4 turn to the left. Then repeat the pattern.

If it feels like you just made a box with your feet, you've got it. Practice over and over again with the music until you are comfortable with this basic waltz step, and enjoy this simple but elegant dance.