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Partners stand facing each other. Beginners will be farther apart to allow more room for error, experts will often stand with their toes touching. The leader (usually the man, as Viennese Waltz events tend to be rather old-fashioned) bends the left elbow and places the left hand on the follower's back between the shoulder blades, holding the right arm extended out to the side and bent upwards slightly. The follower (usually the woman, for the above reason) rests her right arm on top of the leader's left while holding the leader's right hand with her left. This position allows the leader good control over movement and pacing.


Okay, you've got the stance down. Put on some Viennese waltz music. Something by either of the Johann Strausses will work well. Listen to the simple 3/4 beat. Does it seem rather fast? The standard tempo for this dance is 180 BPM, or three beats per second, at one step per beat. Turn it off and find something slower to use until you've had much more practice.

The steps themselves are quite simple. Since the dance is in 3/4 time, you'll be switching the starting foot with each set of three.

First set

  1. Take a small step forward with your right foot, turning it 90 degrees to the right as you do so.
  2. Move your left foot forward, rotating 180 degrees clockwise on your right foot. Left foot lands toe first, facing opposite to its starting position. This step should be the biggest both you and your partner can do while maintaining proper balance.
  3. Bring the right foot in alongside the left foot. You should now be in the starting stance but facing in the opposite direction. You should have just executed a large spin around your partner, who hasn't moved quite as much.

Second set

You are now the center around which the dance pivots. You are taking small steps while your partner moves around you.

  1. Take a small step backwards with the left foot, turning it inwards so the toe is next to the right heel.
  2. 5. Pivoting 180 degrees on the left foot, place your right foot out in front of you. Think of the standard fencing stance, only without as much bend in the knees.
  3. Bring your feet together, back to the position and facing with which you began.

This is the order for the leader. The follower will do set 2 first, followed by set 1.

Leading and following

It is of the utmost importance that both partners understand and perform their unique roles. If you're leading, you are in charge. It's your responsibility to control the direction, speed, and pace of the dance, taking your partner's abilities into account all the while. If you are following, you follow the leader, making sure you communicate your abilities and limitations. A good way to learn this is to practice the steps of the dance while both of you are holding the same broomstick parallel to the floor. You should try to keep the broomstick at the same position without either of you moving your arms.


Practice by yourself until the movements are permanently wired into your motor cortex. Practice with a partner, one who can tolerate stepped-on toes, kicked shins, and the occasional pratfall. Practice with other partners of varying sizes. Practice with a large group. Practice, practice, practice.

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