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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum & Cindy Hadley—

A Waltz Clinic

WALTZ HISTORY: Waltz was once considered scandalous. It originated in Germany-Austria over 400 years ago among the folk people. The seemingly wild, never-ending rotations and the extremely close hold of the dancers made it unseemly to the upper class. But it was too much fun to do, and in Austria in the 1700’s, especially in Vienna, the gentry adopted it. Great musicians such as Josef Lanner and Johann Strauss created wonderful music that made the waltz even more popular. It is said that Napoleon’s army took the waltz back to France, and then it spread to England in the early 1800’s. From there it spread to the rest of the world. The waltz reportedly first came to the United States in 1834 to the Boston area. Here, by the late 1800's a slower variant eventually emerged. This slower variant later became popular in England as well and became the waltz we know and love today. The original fast version is still being done today in contemporary ballroom as the “Viennese Waltz.” There are at least two styles of the “slow” waltz. The English (aka International) Standard Waltz has only closed figures; that is, the couple never breaks their embrace. The American Style Waltz, in contrast to the International Standard Waltz, involves breaking contact almost entirely in some figures (for example, Roll 3). Round dancing’s waltz is a mix of both American and English International styles. After World War II, Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw revived American folk dancing, especially square and round dancing. The waltz was part of round dancing, which took ballroom couple dance figures and sequenced them into set routines to specific songs. Songs and their choreographed round-dance routines, such as “Tips of My Fingers,” “Could I Have This Dance,” “Answer Me,” Manuela,” “Castles and Kings,” “Cavatina,” and “Sam’s Song” were beloved and danced all over the world. By the 1970s, The International Association of Round Dance Teachers, Inc., also known as Roundalab, standardized round-dance waltz figures into six difficulty levels, from phase one through phase six. Phase one contains the easiest figures such as Box, Circle Away & Together, and Balance Left & Right; Phase six contains the most difficult figures such as Big Top, Split Ronde, and Telespin. Waltz is the only rhythm in round dancing that has figures in every difficulty level from phase one through phase six.

WALTZ CHARACTERISTICS: The waltz is one of the most romantic, smooth, and flowing dances that you can experience. The dance features close contact, beautiful picture figures, sways, and a rhythmic rise and fall. The first step in most figures is usually a long gliding one that lowers, the second step is normal-length and begins the rise, which culminates in the very short, even closing, third step where the dancer reaches maximum height before beginning to lower.

Tips for Selected Phase 4 Figures:


  • Turn to BJO after first step – then stay in BJO for the entire figure.

  • Maintain good frame in BJO – not hip to hip; don’t collapse shoulders.

  • Although it is called a Diamond Turn it is actually an Octagon.

  • Third step of each measure is a crossing step – NOT A CLOSE.


  • Man’s upper body should stay upright – not be leaning forward.

  • Man should rotate upper body slightly toward partner.

  • Man should sway slightly toward partner.

  • Lady keeps toe pointed down toward floor to start and end.

  • Lady traces toe up to knee, then out and up, then lower to floor.

  • Lady’s toe goes as high as she can without lady “leaning back.”


  • Start like doing the first two steps of a Reverse Turn, but then get up on the toe and hold.

  • Don’t over-rotate – end in a good BJO position – not hip to hip.

  • Draw the free foot in (it can be used momentarily for balance).


  • Unlike regular Hover, first and third steps go in same direction.

  • Emphasize the hovering second step by changing the timing, by rushing the first and third steps to give more time on the second.


  • Stay in Closed Position at the end of first measure – not BJO.

  • Under-turn the first measure and overturn the second.

  • If going toward LOD, end in BJO facing DLW.


  • All three steps are exactly like Telemark to SCP (aka Open Telemark) except that at the very end the lady continues turning on her toe to BJO.

  • Lady heel turn on second step. Lady begins turning on right heel at end of first step, may turn on left heel, in any case finishes on left toe.

  • The above only works if your BJO, CP, and SCP are in good frame.


  • Begins with Thru step.

  • Take a wider than shoulder length side step.

  • Ends in Reverse Semi-Closed position (RSCP). Man’s right shoulder and upper body should be turned left face toward lady – not away from her. Lead hands should be above heads. End with right sway.

  • Whisk is “flat” – no rise.

Tips for Selected Phase 5 Figures:


  • Like a Thru (Semi) Chasse to SCP but with “ripple.”

  • On second and third steps go to RSCP with right sway looking RLOD.

  • On fourth step, lose sway, look LOD and go back to SCP.


  • Like a back turn (in CP or BJO) to a Right Chasse but with “tipple”.

  • Tipple is a left-side stretch (lady right-side stretch) when starting chasse and curving the chasse to man’s right, ending in CP.


  • Two measures with timing 123; 1&23;

  • First measure is a Cross Pivot to SCAR. Man maneuvers and then does a pivot 2, ending in SCAR-DLW.

  • Quickly rock & recover, then side to CP-LOD, then man crosses right in front of left (XRIFL) and lady crosses left in back of right to BJO-DLC.


  • Begin by LOWERING (knees should bend) first – not forward.

  • Then move forward with upper body turn to left (i.e. man does a right shoulder lead).

  • Feet should align in a single track.

  • Legs should feel crossed at the thighs.

  • Move forward enough to put most weight onto lead foot.

  • Should have good body contact – especially at hips.

  • Lady may stretch out upper body and head to finish the picture figure.


  • Begin with a Thru step.

  • Then quickly rock forward/recover, and cross in back rising to the whisk.

  • As you rock forward you can swivel your hip in toward partner, and then as you recover and cross behind you can swivel your hip away.


  • There should be a “springing” up action onto the last step.

  • There should be about a 90 to 120 degree angle between man's and lady’s points.


  • First step is the same as starting any Reverse Turn figure.

  • Stay in Closed position for the whole figure – this really helps.

  • Man’s second step is straight through partner in line with first step.

  • Man’s upper-body rotation and early rise indicates to the lady to do a heel turn on the second step. Stay in Closed position.

  • Man will simply toe turn on the right foot for the rest of the figure but continue body rotation. He can momentarily use left foot if needed for balance.

  • Lady will continue to rotate left-face with man and when approximately half around place right foot down to side around man.

  • Lady’s final step occurs by just turning left-face and doing a XLIFR.

Tips for Selected Phase 6 Figure:


  • Begins with a lead to lady to have her left foot free. This can be a quick rise and lower on right foot with man extending his left leg forward & side left indicating to lady to do the same.

  • Without stopping, the left leg will flare counter-clockwise to left side and then behind.

  • As the leg crosses behind, rise and take weight on left toe rotating body almost half around.

  • As body finishes the turn, lady takes an extra step side staying in Closed position with partner.

  • Finally man will step back while continuing another 1/8 turn with lady stepping in maintaining Closed position (i.e. a “slipping” action).

  • If beginning facing DLC, end facing wall.

  • Keep “core” tight (i.e. close to partner) throughout, and maintain balance by centering your weight over your own feet.

From clinic notes prepared for the US National Square & Round Dance Convention, 2011; reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, May 2013.


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