The Modern Waltz is a slow-feeling dance with long gliding steps, to music with 3/3 timing and 28 - 29 bars per minute.
The Waltz is thought to have originated fom a folk dance of Austria and Southern Germany. In the early 19th Century, the "Waltzen" became popular through many parts of Germany and Austria. By 1800 it was described as being danced with light shoes, and having the same quick gliding rotating movements and steps as the Waltzen but done to a slower tempo.
A more sedate form of the fast Viennese Waltz, danced at a leisurely 90 beats per minute, also evolved in America around 1870. This version of the Waltz retained the characteristic turning figures and added others such as a dip, and was danced with the partners holding their hands on each others hips. The Boston also had the distinction of being the first ballroom dance to be done with feet parallel rather than turned out as in ballet.
The present form of the Waltz has been variously described as being derived around 1910 in England both from the European and American versions. Either way, dancers began taking advantage of the slower tempo to add more figures, some with extra syncopated beats, some with slow "picture" steps. These give the dance light and shade, and make it more interesting to perform and to watch.
The slower and more straight forward steps make this a more intuitive dance to learn than its Viennese counterpart, but complexity is eventually found in the usage of the long steps and the great variety that so easily comes to this dance. This popular Waltz is done at all competition levels.
The basic figures are based on a diagonal pattern that produces a smooth progression around the floor, travelling anti-clockwise. A dance of even weight changes, and a slow tempo, it is easy for beginners to pick up. However, competition dancers still require fitness and strong legs to dance it well.