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Most people know the Waltz as a beautiful and graceful dance where the partners glide across the dance floor.  But what differentiates it from the other ballroom dances?

Time Signature

All Waltzes have three beats in a measure.  That means that when you are looking at a sheet of music for a Waltz (example below), the top number at the very left of the staff will be a three.  Look at the image below to see an example of a time signature for waltzes. Because of the time signature, it is very easy to recognize a Waltz once you know what you are looking for.  


For the most part, there will be one chord per measure, with the root of the chord being played on the downbeat and the other notes following in the next two beats of the measure.  If you look at the image below, you can see the root of the chords on the bottom staff and the rest of the notes in the chord on the top staff.  

Dimitri Shostakovich wrote a great example of how the root of the chord is very clearly on beat one and the other notes are on beats two and three, conveniently called Waltz No. 2.  


Because there are only three beats in the measure, there is a six-step pattern that falls on each beat of two measures of the music.  The pattern for leaders for the basic box is pictured below.  

Another characteristic of the Waltz is the rise and fall action.  This refers to the feeling the dancers get as they reach out to the next step with their toes and then landing on solid footing.  Every move in a waltz is smooth and elegant, so this rise and fall action should be performed in a very smooth manner.  

Slow Waltz vs. Viennese Waltz 

The Slow Waltz and Viennese Waltz (or Fast Waltz) are similar in the fact that they are both danced to the same time signature and both have the same basic steps.  The main difference between the slow Waltz and Viennese Waltz is the tempo. The Viennese waltz has a much faster tempo, which allows the dancers to move around the floor and rotate more quickly.  

Here are some popular examples of Slow Waltzes and Fast Waltzes:

  1. Slow
    1. Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
    2. You Light Up My Life – Debby Boone
    3. Misery – P!nk and Steven Tyler
  2. Fast
    1. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
    2. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
    3. Tightrope – Michelle Williams (from “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack)

If you have more questions about the Waltz, contact us, come to a group class, or ask your instructor!  

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