Waltz, One Step, and Tango Partnering Tips
By Richard Powers
Ideal partnering may be less critical in the Ragtime One-Step, which is a playfully forgiving dance where anything goes, but ideal partnering is more important in waltzing, where beautiful partnering can help create a magical experience. Here are some quick pointers to improve your waltzing.
FRAME (Waltz Position)
- M R arm, W L arm, is like a raised shelf, elbows lightly touching.
- W place your back into his hand.
- M R hand up between her shldr blades, not low on her back (Why? Her back cantilevers with pain if it's low.), with your finger tips just reaching her vertebrae.
- M don't poke your R hand's fingertips inward.
- M don't hold her closer or higher than is comfortable for her. Give her breathing room. Conversely, W don't pull yourself in toward him; hang back, brace back a little.
- Brace back with M L, W R hand.
- Both M and W: Don't crush ptr's hand. Firm frame (firm arms) but soft comfortable hands.
- W don't trap him with your L elbow keep "air under your armpits." Don't grip his bicep with your L hand (unless he asks you to backlead).
- Posture: "Look up with your chest." This isn't posing for a judge, but giving your ptr a better frame to hold on to. Good posture is more about a functional frame than appearance.
- You can test effectiveness of the frame by "tilting your ptr."
- There is a debate on W holding onto his back a little with her L hand, sharing the support. Many M appreciate the help in holding the two of you together as centrifugal force pulls you apart, and you'll see this in Vienna, but many "strictly ballroom" teachers think it's inelegant.
ROTARY WALTZ (Clockwise Waltz)
- M start facing out so you can spin into the waltz. This is to build up rotational speed before taking the first step, and also so you don't back up blindly on the first step.
- Turn a quarter before ct 1 so that M leads with his back, like a heat shield in front of her.
- W hold back a little when stepping fwd R on ct 1. M the same on ct 4.
- But do notice that you are stepping fwd R. Don't forget to travel then.
- Help your ptr lead with their back.
- Tug of war, then in waltz position, let go of hands, sit back. M sway her L and R.
- The analogy is like rolling down a hill in an embrace, taking the blow with your back.
- Spin your ptr without touching them, with them holding on to you above your elbows.
- Do it wrong be dead weight for a moment so your ptr knows how that feels. Both try it. It's hard work and not much fun to waltz with someone who isn't helping.
- Keep the rotation rolling like a run-on-sentence, without any pause or drop in rotational energy at the end of the phrase (like a semicolon at the end or a phrase).
- Turn your ptr smoothly like a Steadycam operator. If you turn your ptr smoothly, your own turning becomes smoother.
- Aim your body toward your ptr's ctr throughout the waltz turn, with "laser-beam alignment." Don't let your ptr squirm out of the frame. Don't wobble yourself.
- Take smaller, closer ftwk, while expanding the space between your upper bodies, so you become a V-shaped cpl, like a spinning top, not an A-frame.
- Rotary Waltz is different from a CW Box Step, but this assisted pivot is the better choice than box step when it comes to fast tempo.
- Leaders in steering through traffic map the room so you know where everyone is.
- How to steer: More rotation will veer R, less will veer L.
- W follows notice these changes in rotational energy and help him rotate more or less, acting like power steering.
- Comments on dizziness: Don't tilt your head, don't look down, if you don't like getting dizzy. Better advice: enjoy it.
REVERSE WALTZ (Counter-clockwise)
Reverse Waltz is based on the Box Step: step fwd on L; step side on R; step on L next to (or approach) R; step back on R; step side on L; step R next to L. W begins halfway through, step back on R.
- Optional: To travel a little more, cross L tightly over R with wt on ct 3 (W ct 6).
- Start with cradling (Berceuse) swaying, W backing, then turn more CCW.
- Passing lane is not on the outside Take a longer side step (M ct 2, W ct 5) to pass.
- Laser-beam alignment is now more important than before because Reverse Waltz tends to twist out of the frame.
- Hang back and swing your ptr past you, instead of stepping in toward them too much.
- Without touching, follow your ptr like a mirror, staying in front of your ptr while they rotate. Then do this while waltzing.
- CW Waltz and CCW Waltz both begin M L and W R, so don't foot-fudge to reverse a waltz. The difference in reversing is beginning fwd or bkwd on that foot.
- To reverse from CW to CCW and back, don't let your ptr cross the center line.
- W use power steering: notice and amplify this change in rotational direction.
- Many or most waltzers do rotary waltz (the assisted pivot) for CW and box-step for CCW.
ONE-STEP and TANGO PARTNERING
- Everything in the Frame section above applies to the One-Step and Tango, but with the understanding that circa 1914 American One-Step and Argentine Tango were just emerging as folk, grass-roots dances, without much influence of dance teachers, so almost any kind of handhold was seen back then.
- Walking in a straight line, W backing: Imagine you're walking on railroad tracks which have 4 narrowly spaced rails. M walk fwd only on tracks 1 and 3; W back up onto rails 2 and 4 (counting from the center of the room outward). Don't walk on your ptr's rails.
- Dance for the comfort and pleasure of your ptr. M choose transitions that allow her to flow into and out of variations smoothly, if you can.
- Dance musically, fitting the 8 or 16 steps of a variation within the 8 or 16 cts of the music.
- If somehow someone gets onto the wrong foot, M lead side steps (side-close, which is the easiest to follow) to re-synchronize, then walk out of it.
- W if you don't know what he's leading, keep your feet stepping in place in the meantime don't stop. M if you don't know what to lead, keep your feet stepping while you think of something.
- Floorcraft: The M principal obligation is to protect his ptr from harm or collisions.
- Look ahead to avoid roadblocks before you reach them.
- Try to avoid impeding other dancers around you, avoiding stopping or stepping back against LOD while in the middle of a pack of traveling dancers. That is, don't be a rock in the rapids.
- But also be aware that the couple ahead of you might stop so don't follow anyone too closely.
Used with permission of the author.
Reprinted from the 2004 Stockton Folk Dance Camp syllabus.