We define the waltz rather broadly: it includes any dance in
Western culture that is in 3/4 time, travels around a dance
floor and has a tendency to turn. There is a continuity within
varieties of what we call waltz and that continuity is linked to
the tempo of the music. The waltz is all about momentum. The
dance becomes what the momentum of the music will allow.
The basic pattern our culture perceives as a waltz is a turning
pattern, where partners face each other in closed ballroom
position. They keep that position as they move around the dance
floor in a revolving embrace allowing the tempo of music to give
the necessary centrifugal momentum for both partners to move
smoothly as one unit.
The ideal tempo for this basic pattern is in the 130 to 155 bpm
range. A comfortable tempo that is slow enough that the feeling
of the music can be expressed in a variety of ways. The couple
can leave the embrace, do other variations, and then come back
smoothly to the revolving embrace. The upper end of this range
was the tempo of the waltzes during the great age of the waltz
in the 1800's when it scandalized Europe with it's close
embrace, and breathless speed. (This according to dance
historian Richard Powers) This is also the range that is
ignored by what is presently codified as ballroom waltzes.
As the tempo gets faster, its gets more difficult to leave the
embrace and come back smoothly. This tempo demands that the
turning, if it is to be sustained, be the main focus of the
dance. The ballroom Viennese waltz that ranges from 165 to 180
bpm was developed for this tempo. There are also other
Beyond 180 bpm, the waltz becomes a kind of syncopated one step
in the tango waltz, the hesitation waltz, and other waltzes that
have been developed over the years that allow us to omit
stepping on every beat.
At the other end of the bpm spectrum are slow waltzes (90 to 100
bpm). At this speed there is not enough momentum developed to
dance in the revolving embrace pattern. The modern ballroom
waltz, with its long steps and sense of drama, was developed to
make up for this lack of momentum. This waltz is taught in most
studios very well and is not taught by Waltz Eclectic.
Increasing the speed a little to the 100 to 125 bpm the cross
step waltz with its equally balanced surge on beat one and four
by the lead and follow, respectively, and its smooth and flowing
steps, offers a transition between the long steps and angular
patterns of the ballroom waltz and circular rotations of the
turning waltz. It has the playful nature of the one-step
combined with the blissful feeling of the revolving embrace.
Within this musical spectrum, the waltz visits a wide range of
cultures and styles. It virtually takes you around the world in
musical gesture and nuance.
Waltz Eclectic dances are over 50% waltzes. The rest being swing, latin, foxtrot, night club step, tango, blues etc. There is however great variety in the waltzes we play both in tempo and mood. The ballroom waltz taught at dance studios is not a style that you will see much at one of our dances. Styles you will see are turning waltzes with lots of variation, cross step waltzes, redowas, hestitation waltzes, tango vals, blues, latin, swing waltz variations, threesomes or just about anything else that fits the tempo and passion in the music. The YouTube videos below are meant to provide a flavor of what dancing to waltz can be.