43. American Waltz  

Of course you have been impatient to try the waltz. Every new skater always is. Any man who did his preliminary test waltz eight with real control is ready to learn the pattern, for the steps are identical without addition or subtraction. Ladies, however, must be sure they have truly strong OB rolls and must practice the outward transitions to OF threes on both feet before having the temerity to attempt skating them with a partner.

For I warn you: the waltz, while it is the most beguiling of all the dances, is the most difficult to perfect. The steps are simple enough, but the constant rotation of the partners around each other takes real study to control. It will probably be many sessions before you are a true expert.

It is a prime requisite of good waltzing that the shoulders must be parallel in an absolutely equidistant body position at all times. If you don't hold your partner correctly and dance fairly close together, this is impossible. One or both of you will start pulling away in a "snap the whip" that will destroy the necessary smooth rotation into each three turn and the control of the edges before and after.

Since the entire dance is skated on curves which form arcs of circles, your knowledge of technique will tell you that your body must be held upright and both of you must lean equally toward the center of the arc the skates are making. Both part­ners, when starting a new lobe, must obviously change lean simultaneously in order to keep the unison not only of lean but also of the direction in which you are skating.

Once control of the edges and the placing of the lobes have been learned, it will be the use of your skating knee that will determine whether or not you look as if you are really waltzing. Knees that do not bend cannot rise, and so the dance becomes stiff; knees that bend but rise too fast or out of rhythm with the music turn what should be a smooth flowing movement into a bounce. The ideal is a knee bend at the start of each stroke, a gradual rise as the free legs swing in unison, and a bend again before the new stroke. It is this final "cushioning" bend that gives dancing softness and prevents a look of "dropping" onto a bent knee from a straight one. On the stroke that leads into the three turn, the knee rises gradually but sooner, so that at the moment of turn the skating knee is straight but not rigid and remains thus during the two-count hold after the three. This means that the partner on the OB edge must also rise a trifle sooner and time the whole swing of the free leg to coin­cide with the movement of the three.

In general the passing movement of the free leg is close by the skating leg with the feet almost touching; even at the three turn, although there must be no holding or other break in the rhythm, the free foot brushes past the heel of the skate at the split second of the turn. The free leg moves from the hip with no break at the knee.

For real elegance the partners must not only observe all the rules of good skating posture that I have stressed so strongly in all your skating, but must pay particular attention to the ex­tension of the free leg both forward and backward. It should be turned out from the hip so that the inside of the free knee and foot is toward the ice on the backward extensions; the outside of the knee and foot should be turned as much as possible toward the ice (without lowering the free hip) when the free leg is in front. The free toe should be constantly pointed (press the toes down in your boot and pull your heel up), except at the moment of passing the skate.

Stroke close and softly. Use your skating knee and free leg in such harmony with the music that you feel a lilt and sway. You are doing the most time-honored dance on ice; in one form or another the "Ice Valse" has existed since the beginning of figure skating. Dances may come and dances may go, but the waltz, I'm sure, will go on as long as men and women put skates on their feet.


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