Introduction: Waltz. Quintessential Ballroom with its distinctive 1-2-3, 1-2-3 beat.
Frame: Standard. Count: Waltz. 1-2-3.
Leaders and Followers: This section is devoted to how you move in waltz (driving) via exercises. Both leaders and followers should practice these. Ultimately, you do 2 natural turns, closed change, 2 reverse turns, closed change, repeat.

Instructions (Leader and Follower Perspective)
In waltz, you move not by stepping, but by lowering your weight such that your leg consequently moves. This action is known as driving. This page will begin with simple exercises before working up to more advanced exercises.


Exercise 1a: Side-to-Side Weight Lowerings.
Start with your feet and legs together. Let us choose the left leg to be the standing leg. Lower your weight onto the ball of your left foot by bending your left knee. Consequently, your right leg should slide out to your right. Your right foot should be in contact with the floor only through the ball of the foot, not the heel, etc. You should have no weight on your right foot. In fact, it should be impossible since most your weight is on your left foot.

Now, straighten your left leg. As a consequence of your straightening, your right leg should come back to its original position, on its own. This section will emphasize the importance of rising and lowering to move yourself rather than actually stepping into position.
Repeat the above exercise with your right foot as your standing leg.


Exercise 1b: Side-to-Side Weight Lowerings. More Info.
Let's incorporate the waltz count into our exercise.
1. The standing leg lowers, the other leg consequently slides out to the side. As before, if your right leg is sliding, it slides to your right. Left leg, to your left.
2. The standing leg rises, the other leg consequently returns to its original position.
3. Both feet go onto toes. You should be at the apex. This is an addition, but in waltz, on 3, you should rise to your apex. Look at any videos of Waltz because you can see a general rise-fall in all the couples, with the rise coming on the three count.
And: Shift weight from your standing leg to your other leg. Since you’re on toes, this should be a very slight shift. The weight shift should be from the ball of one foot to the ball of the other foot. If your weight shift exceeds this, and goes to the outside heel for example, you’re going to teetor-totter and fall. Hence, weight control is very important.

Repeat this count, but with the other leg.

Note: Each time you do this, you should push yourself to go even lower. Build up that leg muscle!
Note2: While going lower each time, make sure not to bend your back. It's cheating, it's bad for your back, and your center of mass gets all out of whack.


Exercise 2: Side-to-Side Drives
What we're going to do now is instead of remaining in one spot, we're going to slide from side to side.
1. The standing leg lowers, the other leg consequently slides out.
2. You are now in a lowered position. In previous exercises, you straightened your standing leg. Now, you transfer your weight from your standing leg to your sliding leg. When weight transfer is complete, you should be in the same position, but mirrored (so if your right leg had your weight, your left leg now has it). Your weight transfer should be a smooth transition, so look in the mirror and watch your body. Body should still be upright, and motion is constant, not jerky.
3. As before, your standing leg straightens and you go onto toes.

Note: Do NOT begin transferring your weight until you have fully lowered yourself. To do so means you are placing weight on your sliding leg, reducing the efficiency of your drive.
Note2: Admittedly, if you were to strictly follow the directions, your head would trace out 3 sides of a rectangle, with 90 degree angles. Now, that is pretty jerky and ugly, so as you get faster, the corners of your rectangle will become rounded. That being said, the note above about not reducing efficiency still applies. If your rounded rectangle becomes too rounded, then you will find it much harder to drive since you have placed weight on your sliding foot.


Exercise 3: Forward Drives
You've now learned how to drive side to side. Now you will learn how to drive forward, which is tricky, but also a key basic technique of waltz. We start normally, with feet together. But this time, instead of driving side-to-side, we learn how to drive forward and back. Let's start with going forward. Note: Having a mirror to look in is extremely helpful. You should place yourself that the mirror reflects your side profile.

1. Standing leg lowers, this time, your other leg slides out but going forward. Don't lock your sliding leg knee, but it should be pretty straight. You should also be sliding on the ball of your foot, which has two advantages: 1) for weight transfer later on. 2) minimize surface area which minimizes friction. Looking into the mirror, your legs should form "λ" or a lower-case lambda. In the mirror, your legs should match each other from hip to knee, and then diverge in two directions at the knee. Keep your back straight: you want to neither crunch forward or stretch backwards.
2. This is the driving forward part, and also the trickiest. As you lower yourself, you will eventually reach a point where you can no longer lower (or you could, but it would be extremely uncomfortable. So stop there). At that point, your back foot pushes off, giving your front foot a boost. As you push, your back foot goes onto its toes, your front foot is now sliding on the heel, with toes pointed slightly upwards (don't curl your toes. That causes tension in your calf). As you transfer your weight forward, you will enter something we call split-position.
Split Position: This position is quite tricky to balance. Your front foot is on its heel, you back foot on its toes, and your weight is "split" or centered between your two legs. Note that this position occurs for an instant, but it occurs nonetheless. The purpose of pointing out this position is so that you can recognize a transition state when transferring your weight forward.
3. Your front foot rolls, going from being on the heel to being on the toe. Your back foot, on its toes, comes forward. You now go into apex position, with both feet on toes.


Exercise 3b: Backward Drives
Driving backwards is similar to driving forward (unfortunately this doesn't apply to cars). However, there are some differences. These differences come because of split-weight position and how when moving forward, your front foot can roll onto its toes, but when going backwards, your front foot has to roll onto its toes while the foot is sliding backwards.
1. Standing leg lowers, your other leg slides backwards. The sliding foot should be on the ball to minimize friction.
2. Similar to going forward, there will come a moment where you cannot lower any further. At that point, your front foot pushes off, sliding backwards on its heel. Again, for a moment you will be in split position.
3. Both feet are together and on toes.
Note: Regarding between steps 2 and 3, when you were driving forward, your front foot could roll from heel to toe. But going backwards, your back foot can't do the same. During split position, your back foot is on its toes, so how does it go from down to up when it's already up? The answer: As your front foot slides backwards on its heel, your back foot lowers from being on its toes to being flat (though weight still on ball of the foot). Then when the front foot reaches the back foot, both can rise onto toes.


Exercise 4: Box Step
This is the culmination of all previous exercises, but you are not quite there yet with waltz. From here, you will advance onto doing natural and reverse turns, which are how you truly move in waltz. But let's go over box step. This is called the box step because....you trace a box (square) on the floor! ('betcha didn't see that coming, now didja?)
Pick a leg to start on. If you choose your right, you trace a box on your left. Left leg, a box on your right. A box takes two 1-2-3 counts of waltz. The instructions below assume a basis of right foot first.
1. Do a forward drive with the right foot. Do the split-position.
2. Your left foot comes forward to be with your right foot. Normally, your right foot would roll from heel to toe, allowing both feet to reach tiptoes. Instead, as your left foot comes up next to your right, your right foot rolls up to the ball, not to toes. When the feet are together, the right foot then pushes into a horizontal drive.
3. Left foot has slide out, so now the right foot comes next to it, and both feet go onto tip toes.
1. Left foot drives backward. Do split-position.
2. Right foot slides backwards to be with the left foot. Similar to Step 2 above, your left foot pushes your right foot into a horizontal drive.
3. Right foot has slide out. Via weight transfer, left foot slides next to your right. Both feet go onto toes.
You should now be in the exact same position you started in.
Note: When doing a forward drive, you don't do a complete forward drive, like the one in the exercise. This is because to move to the side, you can't finish a forward drive: that causes you to go onto tip toes on count 2 instead of 3. Instead, you drive forward, collect your energy, and then push off to the side to finish and go onto toes.


Tips and Tricks
Crescent Moon: It may help, when moving, to have your feet trace out a half-moon shape instead of a straight line. This curve will help later on when actually doing natural and reverse turns.
Don't Step, Drive: We're so used to stepping that driving can be a little awkward, but trust us here, driving looks good, is efficient, and it's what you want to do in waltz.
Partner: Driving alone is tricky enough. When doing it with a partner, it can be even trickier (different height, clashing feet, different timing). So practice, practice, practice!


Advanced Concepts
Understanding timing and musicality in Waltz.
  • There are two basic concepts of time in waltz. In waltz music, each measure is divided into 3 beats evenly spaced apart in time. In waltz dancing, timing is defined by the rise and fall of your figure (this is your frame, for practical purposes).
  • Steps are a vehicle for facilitating good (or bad) timing, but in themselves do not constitute good (or bad) timing. Timing and musicality is based on the interplay between timing of the dance and timing of the music.
  • For the majority of bronze and some silver level dancers, timing can be improved by lengthening the "2-and" in terms of rise and fall. Imagine a sine wave, where the peaks happen on "2-and" while the troughs happen on "1". It's easy to see here that on "3", you should still be up on your toes.
  • Similarly, you will have collected your feet and returned to neutral by "3-and", after which you will continue to lower until the "1" (and depending on your figure, this is where you will most likely be doing the driving).
  • For example, in a Chasse from Promenade, if your last step happens on "3" (which is the most common case), it will be a step onto toes, i.e. no falling before the step. But if you take your step on the "3-and" (which is less common but also okay), you will take time to lower before arriving on that step. As you can see here, both variations of steps can have "good: or "bad" timing, and it depends on how you control your rise and fall.
  • If you practice Waltz with this mindset, you will quickly find your sense of musicality improving, and your figures will begin to demonstrate greater precision, control, and fluidity.