MAJOR SECTIONS: Figures | Articles | Links | Alph. Index | Search | Home

Figures in the Smooth Rhythms
Viennese Waltz
International Tango
American Tango
Two Step
Five Count
One Step
Figures in the Latin Rhythms
Cha Cha
Single Swing
West Coast Swing
Slow Two Step
Argentine Tango
Paso Doble
Dance Articles
Articles Home

Dance Figures

Dance Rhythms
Lead and Follow
Dance Styling
Fred Astaire Album
Other Sections
Dance Links
Music Clips For Each Rhythm
Search Site/Web
Contact Me

Page Contents
History & Technique
Specific Figures

Viennese Waltz—

3 beats/measure; 50-62 meas/min

The Viennese Waltz is an old rhythm, having thought to have originated in Austria and in southern Germany in the late 1700s as a peasant dance called the Ländler, characterized by 3/4 time and lots of rotation. What really turns this dance into a "Waltz" is maybe the use of closed position. It came to Vienna during the 1800s and quickly became extremely popular throughout Europe and America.

As in Modern Waltz, the first beat of each measure is a heavily accented "downbeat." The music then rises to a crescendo through beats 2 and 3. At the end of beat 3, the music falls again. One dancer described the feel of waltz music as "BOOM, cha, cha. The dancer feels this swelling and contracting in each measure. We rise and stretch with the music during the first half of each measure and then lower and settle during the second half (ready for the next measure). But the Viennese Waltz is danced much faster than the Modern Waltz, up to twice as fast. This means that the rise and fall is quicker and more shallow, and steps are small and compact.

Note below that we often control the fast tempo of Viennese Waltz by using "canter" timing, two steps per measure rather than three (1, -, 3;) and/or "hesitation" timing, only one step per measure (1, -, -;). Some waltzes are written using no normal waltz measures at all but only hesitation and canter timeing. These are called Hesitation-Canter Waltzes. Below, I have done some grouping of figures into hesitation and canter groups.

More and more, Hesitation-Canter Waltzes are being written to 6/8 music, rather than 3/4 music -- that is, 6 beats per measure (at ~30 m/m), rather than 3 beats per measure (at ~60 m/m). Let's do a little quick math. Six beats per measure at 30 measures per minute equals 180 beats per minute. Three beats per measure at 60 measures per minute equals the same 180 beats per minute. So, 6/8 music at 30 m/m sounds slow, but it is still "viennese" tempo. Controlling that tempo, we can dance each waltz figure (think forward waltz or one left turn) with a hesitation step and then two canter steps: 1, -, -, 4, -, 6; (note the 6 beats in one measure of music). As you dance such a waltz, it works pretty well to think of the timing as SS&. The whole dance has a wonderfully lilting feel.

See the Modern Waltz page for more waltz figures than are listed here, and remember, any Waltz figure can be danced with straight timing, 123, or with hesitation and/or canter timing.

Figure Name, Roundalab Phase Level, & Timing

1 = a musical beat on which we take a step

- = a beat with no weight change

Steps and Actions That Make Up the Figure

Each description focuses on the man, with the woman's footwork in parenthesis. If a woman's step is not given, it is the natural opposite or follow of the man's. Help: basic dance positions and steps, actions, directions, and abbreviations. Non-standard punctuation: a comma separates two beats of music, a semi-colon marks the end of a measure, and a slash (/) indicates a split beat, two things occurring in a single beat.

Here are some sequences to help you visualize the figure in context.

Reverse Turn or Viennese Turns

phase IV

123; 123;

hesitation-canter style to 3/4 music would be 4 measures: 1--; 1-3; 1--; 1-3;

hesitation-canter style to 6/8 music would be 2 measures: 1--4-6; 1--4-6;

In closed position facing DLW, step forward L (W bk R), commence turning LF, step side and back to face DLC, and cross lead foot in front of trail to face DRC (woman simply close R to L). Step back R (W fwd L) turning, side and forward to face line again, and close R to L (woman cross in front). It is a full turn over two measures and can be repeated. On count 3, the person backing always crosses in front, and the person moving forward always closes.

International style emphasizes a "side lead" and a sway to reverse in both the reverse and the natural turns (below). Step forward L (woman back R) turning LF, side R with right side lead and sway to reverse line of dance facing DLC, and then cross left in front of right; In the second measure, step back R and only now face reverse, step side L with left side lead and again sway to reverse facing DRC, and then cross right in front of left; As you turn, emphasize throwing or swinging your right shoulder down line; then your left shoulder; and so on.

Whirl gayly down the ballroom up to the point at which you might feel dizzy, and try to incorporate a feel of floating by holding the second step a little longer than the one beat. You will be rising a little during beat one. At the height of beat two, hold that step, hovering like a feather on a soft breath of air, and then take step three a little quicker, as you lower, to repeat the timing. Instead of, bum, bum, bum; bum, bum, bum; you might think: bum, BUM, ba; bum BUM, ba; (If that seems too fanciful, 123; works just fine.)
Viennese Turn with Inside Twirl

123; 123;
In closed position facing line of dance, step forward L (W bk R), commence turning LF, step side and back to face center, and cross lead foot in front of trail to face reverse (W cl R to L). Step back R turning (W fwd L turning LF under joined lead hands), side and forward to face line again (W sd & bk R continuing her LF trn), and close R to L (W fwd L completing LF trn).

It is a full viennese turn with a lady's reverse underarm turn during the second measure.
In Annie's Song by Eum & Hadley, there is a pick up side lock; viennese turns with inside twirl;; hover telemark; open natural turn;
Closed Change or Forward Change


In closed position, line of dance, step forward, forward and side with shoulder lead, and close. You can begin with either foot, and there is little body turn. This is the figure that allows you to stop your turning in one direction, get the other foot free, and begin turning in the other direction. It simply "changes" the free foot. So, we do a few reverse turns, a closed change, and then a few natural turns.
Back Closed Change

In closed position, RLOD, step bk, bk and side with shoulder lead, and close.

Back Passing Change

Of course, this figure (and any waltz figure) can be danced 123 to 3/4 music or 1--4-6 to 6/8 music.

In BJO RLOD step backL (Wfwd R),,, bk R with R shoulder lead,, bk L;
In My Love Is Unbreakable (HCW) by Herr, there is diamond trns 1/2 chkg;; bk passing chg; hover corte;
Contra Check and Switch

phase V


In closed position, lower into the right knee (woman L), begin to rotate upper body LF, and step forward L (woman back R) in strong contra-body position. Keep your hips in and up and your shoulders well apart. On beat 2, recover R beginning to turn RF, and then slip back L (woman fwd R) continuing to turn about 1/4. End in CP.

This is another good way to accomplish a "change" (see closed change above).

Right Turns

phase II

123; 123;
In CP RLOD bk L trng RF (W fwd R), sd R trng, cl L; fwd R between W's feet trng, sd L trng, cl R to CP having turned 3/4 to one full turn;

Beginning CP LOD, fwd R (W bk L) turning RF, sd L turning, cl R to L to CP RLOD; bk L turning RF, sd R turning, cl L to CP LOD; but this might also be cued maneuver; one R trn to a designated position such as DLC;

Natural Turn

phase IV

123; 123;

In closed position, DLC, step forward R, commence turning RF, side and back L to face wall, and close R to L to face diagonal reverse and wall. Step back L, side and forward turning, and close L to R to face diagonal line and center. An option is to shorten the side steps, turn a little more, and end facing line.

Again, a side lead, throwing your left shoulder down line and then the right shoulder helps you get around and almost automatically puts a nice sway into your frame (see reverse turns above).

This is really a foxtrot figure, but in round dancing, we freely share figures among the rhythms.

In Noche De Ronda by the Cunninghams, the introduction begins with viennese turns;;;; fwd waltz; 3 natural turns to butterfly wall;;; waltz away and together;; to a canter twirl;;
Open Natural Turn

From CP, BJO, or SCP LOD, step forward right turning 1/4 RF, side & back across line of dance turning another 1/4, and then back to banjo RLOD. In Annie's Song by Eum & Hadley, there is a natural turn to BJO RLOD [an open natural by this definition]; then 2 open natural turns in BJO;; impetus to SCP; pickup side lock;
Right Turn with Outside Twirl

123; 123;
In CP LOD, fwd R (W bk L) turning RF, sd L turning, cl R to L to CP RLOD; bk L turning RF (W fwd R trn RF under joined lead hands), sd R turnig (W bk L trng), cl L (W fwd R completing trn) to CP LOD;

It is two right turns with a lady's reverse underarm turn during the second measure.

Double Reverse Spin

phase V

Viennese, 3/4:
12-; (12&3;)
HCW 6/8:
1-3---; (1-34-6;)
With HCW timing, in CP DLC fwd L trng LF, -, (W bk R with heel turn, -,) sd R around W trng (W close L to R), tch L to R no weight turning up to full turn on R, -, (W sd R, -, XLIF of R);
In At Last Hesitation Canter by Goss in SCAR DRW we begin check fwd lady develope; bk run around 5 to CP DLC; double reverse 2X;; slow contra check; slow hover brush SCP DLW;
Continuous Double Reverse

1-3; ---;
(1-34-6; 1-34-6;)
With HCW timing, in CP DLC fwd L trng LF, -, (W bk R with heel turn, -,) sd R around W trng (W close L to R), tch L to R no weight turning up to full turn on R, -, (W sd R, -, XLIF of R); continue spinning LF (W sd R, -, XLIF of R, sd R, -, XLIF of R) to CP DLW having made almost 2 full turns;
In At Last Hesitation Canter by Goss we dance 3 riff turns man facing wall and fwd to SCP LOD;; slow side lock; change of direction; continuous double reverse;; contra check & switch RF to CP RLOD; rudolph ronde & slip LF to DLW; cross hover BJO DLC;
Reverse Fleckerl

123; 123;

Where the reverse turn makes a full rotation over two measures and progresses, the reverse fleckerl makes a full rotation in each measure and is done on the spot. It's as if you were challenged to do a really quick reverse turn on top of a really small, round, night-club table.

The steps are a little difficult to describe, because you are turning on every step. For instance, the first step is forward on the left foot for the man; however, he turns 1/4 LF during that first beat, so at the end of the step, his left foot is crossed in front of his right. With that sort of problem in mind, the man dances: front, side, front; side, behind, close (or vine, 2, 3); The woman dances the opposite: vine, 2, 3; front, side, front; As a couple, you turn in place two full rotations.

In more detail, beat by beat: in closed position, line of dance, step forward L between the woman's feet and turn 1/4 LF (she steps forward and side R). On beat 2, step side and back R turning 3/8 LF (she crosses L in back of R). On beat 3, cross L in front of R turning 3/8 (she closes R to L). In measure two, he steps forward and side R turning 1/4 LF, XLIBR turning 3/8, and close R turning 3/8. She XLIFR, side R, and XLIFR.

Normally, once you get going, you will want to enjoy it for a while. At least take 12 steps and four rotations. In Que Sera Sera, you do a reverse turn;; rev fleckerl;;;; step fwd checking, recover R, bk L checking; to a natural turn;; Notice that the check, recover, slip; is used in place of a forward change (above), and it accomplishes the same thing.
Natural Fleckerl

123; 123;

(see the little graphic at the bottom of this page)

The Natural Fleckerl is much like the Reverse Fleckerl (see above), beginning with the trail feet and rotating RF. The man dances front, side, front; side behind, close; The woman dances side behind close; front, side front; As a couple, you turn in place two full rotations right face.

In more detail, beat by beat: in closed position, line of dance, step forward R between the woman's feet and turn 1/4 RF (she steps forward and side L). On beat 2, step side and back L turning 3/8 RF (she crosses R in back of L). On beat 3, cross R in front of L turning 3/8 (she closes L to R). In measure two, he steps forward and side L turning 1/4 RF, XRIBL turning 3/8, and close L turning 3/8. She XRIFL, side L, and XRIFL.

In Annie's Song by Eum & Hadley, there are two progressive breakaways;; reverse fleckerl twice;;;; contra check & switch; natural fleckerl twice;;;; natural turn;
Shadow Skips

123; 123;
In shadow position LOD, hop sd L (W same footwork), XRIF, rec L; hop sd R, XLEF, rec R;

May be repeated.

Side Hesitation

1,-, -;

In closed position, line of dance, step side L, rise slightly and draw R to L, lower on L; You may repeat with trail feet. Note: only one weight change.
Forward Hesitation

1,-, -;

In closed position, line of dance, step forward L, rise slightly and draw R to L, lower on L; You may repeat with trail feet. Note: only one weight change. A back hesitation begins with a back step.
Progressive Breakaway

1,-, -;
In CP step sd & fwd L (W sd & bk R), pt R sd (W XLIBR to brief RSCP), hold (W rec R) to CP again;

Open Fence Line

1, -, -;

In open position, diagonal line and center, both with left foot free, cross LIF of R and hold.Do a natural turn to DLC;; then roll the woman RF, man transitioning (1, -, 3;) to open DLC; open fence line; roll her back LF to closed position (123;) man again transitioning by taking no step at all; canter telemark;; and finally change your sway, moving her head from open to closed; (again, from Shibata's Que Sera Sera)
Hesitation Left Quarter Turning Box

1,-,-; 123;

A slow waltz box is danced: fwd, sd, cl; bk, sd, cl; A left turning box is danced with the same steps, but you make a 1/4 LF turn on the first step of each measure.

This figure is danced with a hesitation during the first half box and the back half box as usual: In closed position, step forward L (woman back R), touch R to L, hold; step back R turning 1/4 LF, side L, close R;

Note that the slow waltz left turning box makes a full turn over four measures. The hesitation left quarter turning box makes a 1/4 turn over two measures. This is not a standardized figure, but I suppose that a hesitation left turning box (if it exists) would make a full turn over eight measures.
In the Goss' Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee, part B begins in closed position facint line with three hesitation left quarter turning boxes to face wall;;;;;; vine 3 to half open position; step R (woman L) point L; roll three to left open reverse; back R point L; continue roll 3 to open line; step R point L; and run 6 lady curving to pickup position;;
Ronde Circle Vine

1,-,-; 123;
In butterfly banjo position, sd L trng RF flaring R leg CW, -, -; XRIB continuing to turn, sd L, XRIF;

Note the hesitation timing in the first measure and the normal timing in the second. The amount of turn may vary, and the figure may be repeated.

Forward Brush Hop

1, -, 3;
In shadow position with same footwork, fwd R, hop up on R and brush L past R, fwd L;

Note the canter timing. May be repeated with the other foot.

Canter Telemark

1, -, 3; 1, -, -;

In closed position, diagonal line and center, step forward L turning LF, continue rotation but no weight change, step side and forward R around woman; step side and forward L to semi-closed, diagonal line and wall, hold, hold;
Canter Vine

1, -, 3;

In facing position, wall, step side L, rise, XIB; Then repeat: sd L, -, step through to open position facing line of dance lead feet free;
Canter Twirl

1,-,3; 1,-,-;

In butterfly position, man facing wall, step side L (woman side R), draw L to R and touch (woman draws R to L and turns RF under the lead arms full turn), close L (woman close R); step side L, draw R to L and touch, -;
Reverse Canter Twirl

1,-,3; 1,-,-;

In butterfly position, man facing wall, trail feet free, step side R (woman side L), draw R to L and touch (woman draws L to R and turns LF under the trail arms full turn), close R (woman close L); step side R, draw L to R and touch, -;


Alphabetical Index to
and Technique
Glossary of Terms
and Abbreviations
Fred Astaire
Videos & Books
Sources Harold Sears
Online since 2001 ©Harold and Meredith Sears, Boulder, CO, All rights reserved.