Monday, August 31, 2009

Why So Many Waltzes?

It's like asking why there are so many kinds of music. Music connects with us on a very personal level, and we all react differently to different styles of music. Dance is a physical expression of what the music makes us feel. With so many styles of music, it's only natural that there will be a variety of styles of dance. Let's look at the Waltz styles we've been discussing.

International Style Waltz - If your first dance steps were anywhere outside of the United States, this is probably the style of dance you learned. International Style is the standard for partner dancing - whether social or competitive - around the world. I love International Waltz because it teaches precision of technique and impeccable partnering - it is truly where two people appear to dance as one, as the partners never separate from each other once the dance has begun. It is elegant, timeless, and truly beautiful to watch.

American Style Waltz - If the first thing you ever learned about Waltz was a box step, then you probably learned American Style Waltz, which, surprise, surprise, is the style of Waltz taught and danced in the United States. (International style is of course taught here as well, but typically as a competitive style - if you're going out social dancing in the U.S., you'll see American Style most often.) In American Style, the partners are allowed to separate as often as they (i.e. the leaders) wish during the dance. This makes it a very expressive form of Waltz. That box step may seem pretty sedate, but as you learn to 'dance outside the box,' you'll find that American Waltz is at its best when the partners are not only turning and traveling, but also dancing into and out of each others' arms, as in underarm turns and dynamic side-by-side moves. I love American Waltz because its open movement and picture-story lines make me feel like the ballerina that I'm not.

Country / Western Waltz - Not surprisingly, a C/W Waltz is danced to a C/W song written in Waltz timing. Its style is in keeping with the spirit of the other Waltzes (turning and traveling dance, characterized by rise and fall), with a couple of differences. One is the music - a C/W song and a Ballroom song are bound to sound different. Also, C/W Waltzes are typically faster in tempo than an American or International Waltz, but not as fast as a Viennese Waltz. And, on the social dance floor, it is highly progressive, meaning that it is moving strongly down the line of dance, turning or not, pretty much all the time. There is a sense of movement to C/W Waltz that is hard to beat.

Viennese Waltz - Very likely the oldest of the Waltzes, it is also the fastest. Reminiscent of stately ballrooms in the courts of kings, Viennese Waltz combines the speed of a roller coaster with the rotation of the big swing at the fair - only Viennese Waltz spins in both directions. Oh yeah, and it's traveling all the while. This is an advanced Waltz, and typically reserved for dancers who have already cut their teeth on the regular American or International Waltz. Viennese Waltz is not for the faint of heart nor the sloppy of technique. It takes a lot of hard work - both in training, and during the dance itself - to pull this one off. But boy, is it ever fun!

So that's my two cents - now go try a Waltz!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Types of Waltz

So, how many types of Waltz did you come up with?

Depending on how you count, I got 4-6. The first two are easy: Country/Western Waltz and Viennese Waltz. Although all Waltz forms share things common to the genre, each version has its own "spin" on the dance. Country/Western Waltz has very progressive movement and is probably the next-to-fastest Waltz. The fastest? That's Viennese Waltz, which is simultaneously fast, progressive, and dizzifyingly rotational.

The other Waltzes, and the ones most commonly found in the social setting, American Waltz and International Waltz, are the ones that count as 2 or 4 styles, depending on how you look at it.

Why? At the beginning through Bronze levels of achievement, both American Waltz and International Waltz use closed footwork, like in the box step and progressives (or links) most of us know. But once you start learning the Silver level and above, both dances use what is known as continuity styling, in which your feet pass each other.

Some people look at a Bronze Waltz and a Silver Waltz and see two completely different dances. They're really not, but the advanced footwork used in Silver-and-above Waltz does make the dance look and feel very different from its Bronze predecessor.

Chew on that for a while, and I'll be back to tell you why I think each style is a valuable contribution to the Waltz genre.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Which Waltz are You Dancing?

How many versions of Waltz can you name? And do you know which one you are learning? I'll let you mull that one over and get back to you.

In the meantime, here's a couple of tips for beginners to Waltz. No doubt you've been learning the box step - it's where we start everybody in American style social Waltz.

One of the best things you can do to strengthen your Waltz is to make sure counts 2 and 3 of the box step are a side-close step. That means that once you take your side step on count 2, the other leg should then close completely to the planted leg on count 3. Sloppy Waltz-ers will leave inches-wide gaps between their legs on the third count.

To make it clean and neat, remember to close your feet!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pose for the Camera...Preview

Ever write an entire post, only to have it disappear in the publishing process? That just happened to me. You'll say it's operator error, no doubt, but I'm certain I hit the happy little button just the one time. Now the world will never know what I was going to say about our upcoming photo shoot. Probably just that it will be fabulous fun. And, really, isn't that enough?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Learning a New Dance: the Digital Age

Ok, all you adorable students of mine who keep nudging me towards iThis n' That, Face-something-or-other, and Why-Fi connections... I am. Writing blogs. You better hope my writing skills can keep up with my teaching skills, or we're all in trouble!

So remember your dance etiquette - it's not nice to leave your dance partner out on the floor (or a blog) by themselves...I expect lavish praise for trying out this first step of the digital 'dance.'

Happy dancing!