Tips for Waltzing!

Today we talk about waltz combinations, which to be honest, is my favorite type of combination ever.  I love waltzing across the floor!  I think it is partly because of the traveling – I like to move – but also because of the emotions in the music and the quality of the movement.

So, today we are talking about waltz combinations during ballet class, how to excel at them and how to enjoy them the most.

The music

What music do you think of when you picture a waltz?  Maybe the Coppelia waltz by Léo Delibes (watch it here) – I think every (ballet class) pianist knows that song by heart and plays it at least once a week.  It’s a great song to dance to!

Here’s an exercise: count any music you come up with in your head.  Try to count it as a 1-2-3 (or 3/4) beat, which is the waltz time signature. This is easier if you actually choose a song with a 3/4 beat.  Notice how the entire song has a different texture, a different heartbeat.  Waltzes are meant to be counted in this way, so why wouldn’t you do it?  Even if you are doing the right steps on the right count, your teacher won’t really get what he/she is looking for unless you are both counting and feeling the music in the same way.  So, I advise you to try counting every waltz in a three!

Take note that most modern pop songs have the 4/4 beat.  Our generation is getting used to this beat – we are losing the sense of our 3/4!  This often makes it difficult for dancers to grasp the concept.

Notice the musical nuances, as I like to call them.  The longer held notes are supposed to be supple and just barely hit the end position of a movement before melting out of it.  The shorter notes are supposed to be more explicit and staccato.  For example, a piqué arabesque on a sharp note should not have a softer arm that floats up and a leg that barely reaches the full position.  It should be fast and spontaneous.

Movement qualities

With the above concept in mind, you can start to develop various textures in your dancing.  This is part of artistry – what you emphasize and not only what movement you perform, but how you perform it.  There are many qualities that can be added to a step – resistance, suppleness, pride, sharpness…  They all serve different purposes.

The way to tell which movement quality to apply to a step is to listen to both the counts and the musical qualities.  The way you emphasize certain steps is very important to the artistic success of the role.

But, not only is the emphasis of specific steps important, the overall feel of the piece should be consistent and clear.  Variations are allowed when they aid the development of a character, of course.  

What do you think – leave a comment – about the the quality of this song?  It can be interpreted in different ways. That is why it so important to know what the choreographer wants.

Common waltz steps

Before I leave this short post, I want to talk quickly about what actually goes into a waltz combination.  These are some of the common steps in a waltz and their characteristics:

  • Traveling steps
  • Balancés
  • Turns
  • Fast adagio steps like développés
  • Port de bras

Thanks for reading today’s mini-post!  See you on Friday.

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