The basic steps for Viennese waltz

The Viennese waltz is a whirling dance in three-four time. In waltz the couple makes regular, rapid turns - each series of six steps represents a complete circle. The first waltz step is an impulse from the dancer, which enables him to turn strongly on the second step; the third step is a closing of the feet that should be as precise as possible, in order to fully control the rotation. In the second part of the movement, the other dancer assumes the controlling of the rotation while the first dancer only supports it with a little backup on the fourth step - and apart from that just follows his / her partner's movement.

The direction depends on the first step: for a natural turn, the leader will start with the right foot and turn on the right, whereas for a reverse turn, he will start with the left foot. The reverse turn gets its special character from the crossing of the feet - which also makes it a little more difficult than the natural turn.

When waltzing in a straight line - typically along the longer side of the dance floor - three steps make half a circle. In the bends - because of the conventional anti-clockwise rotation - a little less than half a turn is needed for a natural turn - a little more for a reverse turn.

The waltz step in short

For a better understanding, we would like to explain the role of each of the six waltz steps that form an entire movement:

  1. First step: the dancer steps forward with his right foot - or his left foot for a reverse turn - between his partner's legs. This initiates a lesser or stronger turn - depending on whether one wants to waltz in a straight line or to take a bend.
  2. Second step: on the count of 2, the dancer circles his partner, thus leading the dancing couple into a sidewards rotation. The larger this step is, the further the couple goes forward on the line of dance with each turn.
  3. Third step: the third step completes the first half of the circle: the moving foot joins the other one so that both feet are closely parallel. For a very short time, the dancing couple - as well as each dancer individually - stands in balance. This third step is especially important for controlling the rotation and the orientation on the dance floor.
  4. Fourth step: on the fourth step, both dancers exchange roles: the one who danced backwards on steps 1 to 3 now takes the active role and dances the same steps that her partner just danced (see above). The one who dances backwards supports his partner, and it is particularly important that he should adapt the size of his steps to the size of his partner's steps.
  5. Fifth step: especially on the fifth step, the backwards dancer should not step too far away, as his dancing partner is about to circle him (see second step). If both dancers maintain a correct posture and reduce as much as possible the space between them, the backwards dancer will be able to feel the movements of his partner and thus anticipate the length of her steps.
  6. Sixth step: the sixth and last step completes the circle. It is a closing step - just like the third step - with again the same temporary balance that enables the dancers to control both their rotation and their forward movement on the dance floor.

As mentionned before, the Viennese waltz can be danced in natural turns (turning to the right) or reverse turns (turning to the left). For a reverse turn, the third step will not be a closing step but a crossing of the feet.

The waltz frame

Viennese waltz posture

Photo: Vienna Kursalon

Whoever wants to learn how to dance the Viennese waltz should not only concentrate on the practice of the waltz step, for the frame also plays a decisive role in waltz. The dancing partners face each other and each of them shifts slightly to his own left. Both feet remain parallel and at the same level - part of the right foot points between the partner's feet. The body weight is on the support leg whereas the moving leg - i.e. the one that will move next - is relaxed. For a correct Viennese waltz frame, both knees are straight - although not completely straightened, as they must remain flexible and ready to move.

Each dancer should find his own balance without any support from his dance partner. The waltz frame involves four connection points between both partners: (1) body contact on the lower right side of the bodies, at a point that may vary according to relative sizes of the partners, (2) slightly under the lady's left shoulder blade, where the man's right hand lies with a little pressure, (3) on the lower side of the man's upper arm, where the lady's left hand lies without any pressure, and (4) in the man's left hand, which holds the lady's right hand loosely.

In Viennese waltz, both dancers look out over their partner's right shoulder. There are two main strategies against the feeling of dizziness - one of them is to choose a fixed point somewhere in the room and look at it as long as possible with each turn; another technique is to keep one's eyes straight ahead and let the surroundings pass by without looking at anything in particular. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages: each dancer should just choose the one that suits him best. At any rate, practice is the best way to get progressively rid of this feeling of dizziness - this is why we are now giving you the same advice that leads to perfect step technique: just practice again and again!

Learn how to waltz in Vienna

The best way to master the Viennese waltz and its basic step is certainly not to learn it on one's own, but to take part in a Viennese waltz class. On our website you will find some information about the following kinds of waltz classes:

  • Public waltz classes: a page on the subject of public Viennese waltz classes in Vienna's dancing schools, at which one can learn the Viennese waltz together with other dancers - and which mostly take place over a long period of time.
  • Private waltz classes: a description of the possibility to book a Viennese waltz class as a private event for a private group: this is for example a perfect opportunity for tourist parties who want to get a crash course in Viennese waltz during their stay in Vienna - but such classes are also a good idea for parties, balls and weddings!
  • Individual dance instruction: information about the opportunity to learn the waltz or improve one's dance skills thanks to an individual course for one single dancing couple taught by a Viennese dance instructor.

We hope that the Viennese waltz classes we just described will help you learn the waltz basic steps so that you can enjoy the Viennese balls at their fullest! If you have any question regarding waltz classes and Viennese waltz private instruction opportunities in Vienna, feel free to contact us any time at !