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Beginning waltzing is about the turning basic. Making it work, not stepping on your partner, getting around, being mostly on the rhythm and enjoying it.  Intermediate dancing is about all the cool variations.  what works, what doesn’t, what feels really different and cool. Eventually it’s about timing and musicality. I’ve got a secret for you though, advanced waltzing is not about more, or fancier, variations. Advanced waltzing is about the perfect turning basic. It’s about the partnering, about that turntable feeling, the connection between you and your partner; perpetual motion.

A lead who asks me to waltz, starts with about 2 turning basics and then throws one variation after another at me and doesn’t stop for 3 minutes until the song is over is not uncommon. Nor is it impressive as far as I’m concerned. Honestly, I usually find myself wondering after about 30 seconds if this person even knows how to waltz. Do they even know the basic step? are they scared to dance?

Too many variations can also feel like my lead is showing off – and not to me. He stops dancing with me, and instead is dancing for an audience. I’m not a performer, for good reason. I like to dance with people I dance for my partner, not for people watching. And it drives me nuts if you ask me to dance, and then spend the whole dance showing off for someone else. If you want someone else’s attention, dance with them.

If you are terrible at a turning basic, 3 minutes of stumbling through it isn’t always much fun.  But how will you get better at the turning basic if you never try it? Don’t underestimate my ability (or that of any other follow) to compensate. If I may also suggest, don’t slight variations like a waltz walk or a half coupled up promenade. More impressive than a fancy variation, more impressive even than three minutes of a perfect turning basic, is not smashing your partner into another couple. Watch where you are going. Recognize when there isn’t room for a variation. There is nothing more impressive than taking care of your partner.

Don’t ever despair that you don’t know enough variations.  Especially in a turning waltz, a good, solid, basic step is enough. Whether you just began dancing last night, and can’t tell your left from your right yet (another secret, I still can’t tell my left from my right), you are in the midst of learning and feel intimidated that you can’t keep track of all the variations, or waltzing is like breathing to you, remember that a well executed, uncluttered dance is not just a valid alternative to stringing variations together endlessly, it is the more impressive option. IMHO.