[ Wikipedia's page | Cross-Step Waltz History | Step Descriptions | 220 Variations | Waltz Groups | Music ]

Cross-Step Waltz

Cross-Step Waltz is the newest social dance form, spreading quickly because it's easy to learn yet endlessly innovative, satisfying for both beginners and the most experienced dancers.  It travels and rotates like traditional waltz but the addition of the cross-step opens up a wide range of playful yet gracefully flowing variations.

How does the cross-step facilitate creativity?

In most waltzes, dancers face each other squarely and dance directly toward their partners on the downbeat, or back away from them, whether rotating or not.

In cross-step waltz, the dancers essentially travel side-by-side at the musical downbeat, count 1, because their rear foot crosses through toward the direction of travel, placing them briefly in promenade position.  This parallel traveling allows an infinite array of variations that easily travel past and around one's partner.
 Both dancers can travel laterally together, as in promenades or grapevines.
 The Follow role can pass in front of the Lead role or turn independently, as in swing.
 Similarly the Lead can pass in front of the Follow or turn independently.
 Or the dancers can face each other and rotate as in traditional waltz.

And these variations can be done right at the count-1 downbeat of the musical phrase, without a delayed maneuver to "break out of the frame."  This enhances spontaneity and musicality.

The flexible frame of cross-step waltz also allows dancers to travel laterally in the opposite direction (counter-promenade position) on the secondary cross-step, count 4, doubling the directional possibilities in every turn of the waltz.  Every Basic Step offers an easy opportunity to travel "out the front door" (in the direction of the primary cross-step) or "out the back door" (toward the secondary cross-step).

Because of this multidirectional flexibility, cross-step waltz combines…
 the rotation of waltz
 the lateral travel of tango and foxtrot/quickstep (dancers travel together)
 underarm turns and figures of swing and salsa (dancers travel independently)
 the pivots of polka and hambo

Exiting a figure

Then an important part of innovating a variation is getting out of it, returning back to the basic step.  Returning to the frame of both box and rotary waltzes is a bit tricky, since someone must step into their partner at the same instant that their partner is also stepping back on the opposite foot.  If either the placement or timing is a bit off, someone can get stepped on.  Therefore exiting a figure is especially difficult if you're trying out new figures on-the-fly.  But in cross-step waltz you return to your partner's side, without intertwined footwork, which is significantly easier and safer.

The dual mode of cross-step waltz

During cross-step waltz, dancers alternate between basic turning, as in the first eight bars of the video above, and creative figures.

Some social dances are comprised of one basic step repeated, like the rotary waltz, traveling around the room.  Enthusiasts call this "trance-like."  Other social dances like swing, salsa and tango are comprised of constantly changing figures.  But cross-step waltz can be done in either mode, as the Lead chooses (or as the Lead senses that the Follow prefers).  Doing no variations other than the Turning Basic for three minutes can be sublimely satisfying.  Or a highly active succession of figures can be fun.  And shifting from one paradigm to the other offers variety and contrast.

This dual mode also allows the Lead to relax and coast with a Turning Basic if he wants to, without fear of boring his partner, unlike dances like the Hustle where he must come up with a new figure every second-and-a-half without a break.  This takes a lot of pressure off the Lead.  Follows also enjoy the break of serene traveling, instead of constantly being challenged to respond to a new figure every few seconds.

The advantage of beginning on the opposite foot  (Lead's right, Follow's left)

Traditional slow ballroom waltz, based on the box step, has a similar "Twinkle" cross-step, but the significant difference is that slow ballroom waltz must begin on the Lead's left (Follow's right) foot, resulting in the Twinkle cross-step opposing the musical downbeat.   i.e., the strong primary cross-step forward occurs during the weak second bar of music, count 4, while the weaker secondary cross-step inward has the strong musical downbeat, count 1.  This feels musically unsatisfying, so after only one or two cross-steps, dancers return to their basic box step.

The secret of cross-step waltz is that it begins on the opposite foot (Lead's right, Follow's left), allowing the primary cross-step to occur on the primary musical downbeat.  This feels musically satisfying, letting dancers play with cross-step waltz variations for the entire duration of the music.


The slow tempo of cross-step waltz allows a relaxed pace of creativity, offering a balanced contrast to the fast-paced creativity of swing and hustle.  This pace is also forgiving of mistakes, letting both Lead and Follow easily track each other through unintended variations.

The flexible frame of cross-step waltz enables spontaneous creativity but it's only comfortable at slower tempos.  If cross-step waltz is danced to fast waltz music, the twisting frame may become uncomfortable for the Follow.

Lead/Follow Roles

Some dancers enjoy cross-step waltz because the steps and roles of Lead and Follow are more equal than in most social dances.
 The steps of the Lead and Follow roles are more equal because they're mirror-image.  This makes it easy to quickly adapt to your partner's footwork.
 The roles are a little more equal because the Lead is constantly tracking (some say following) his partner, while the Follow role is more actively a co-pilot than in other couple dances.
 Role reversal is also easier than in most other dances because both roles have the same basic step, both crossing forward on the downbeat.  The Follow can take over the Lead while dancing, continuing the flow of movement without missing a beat or having to re-start.

The other waltzes are also wonderful.

"Cross-step waltz, my personal favorite, is the best partner dance in the world."
                                      — Zachariah Cassady, director of Waltz Etcetera in Seattle.

Yes, many dancers love cross-step waltz, as their favorite dance.  But in describing its advantages, this page does not wish to imply that cross-step waltz is superior to the other forms of waltz.  There are many wonderful and euphoric attributes of Viennese waltz, rotary waltz, vintage waltzes (including redowa, valse à deux temps, hesitation waltz), exhibition and International ballroom waltz, tango vals cruzado, valse musette, cajun/zydeco waltz, waltz swing and the many kinds of country and folk waltz.

A brief history of cross-step waltz

Cross-steps in general appeared in the first three decades of the 20th century.  In 1914, the "Cross Walk Boston" waltz created by Frank H. Norman foreshadowed the cross-step waltz, but most of the early crossed-step variations were in duple 4/4 time, in the American One-Step (the Eight Step and Snake Dip variations), Argentine tango (Cruzado, Ocho, Abanico), English version of the Fox-Trot (the Jazz Roll) and French "Fox-Blues" descriptions of steps that Americans brought to Paris in the 1920s.  Then around 1930 waltz tempos were slowed to walking tempo, about 108-120 bpm, allowing the French Fox-Blues to become a form of waltz, which they called Valse Boston.  It looked exactly like the Turning Basic and Waterfall described below.

See a more detailed history on Wikipedia's page.

Cross-step waltz was also demonstrated in the 1944 American Lindy hop film Groovie Movie.  Cross-Step Waltz is distinguished from the ballroom "Twinkle" by the Lead crossing his right foot over on the count-1 downbeat of the music, as is seen here.  In the ballroom Twinkle, the Lead's left foot has the downbeat.

The French Boston has mostly faded away, although it can still be seen today in southern France and occasionally in Paris.  It was revived in 1995, developed into social dance form with hundreds of variations, and re-named cross-step waltz.  Cross-step waltz has been rapidly spreading throughout the U.S. and around the world in the 21st century, and has recently become popular in Beijing.  See a YouTube video

Waltz Groups

More than thirty "mostly waltz" groups have sprung up across the U.S. in the past decade.  A typical evening of dancing focuses on waltz but usually alternates waltz with swing, salsa and other couple dances.

The addition of cross-step waltz to the repertoire has helped make mostly-waltz dances popular by providing a second significantly different waltz form to play with, offering a more robust waltz mix than if a single form of waltz is the only one danced all night.

Waltz groups in the U.S. and Canada
US Map Waltz Etcetera, Seattle, WA Waltz Night and More, Seattle, WA Mostly Waltz Night, Anchorage, AK Waltz Eclectic, Portland, OR Random Waltz, Portland, OR Friday Night Waltz, Palo Alto CA San Francisco Waltzing Society Vintage Waltz, Berkeley/Oakland East Bay Waltz Waltz & Such, San Diego, CA Wednesday Waltz Etcetera at the Avalon, Boulder, CO FoTD Waltz Night, Fort Collins, CO Waltz events in Strafford, VT Tapestry Waltz, Minneapolis The Waltz Party, by The St. Louis Vintage Dance Society, St. Louis, MO Mostly Waltz, by the Lexington Vintage Dance Society, Lexington, KY Waltz Adventure, Deaton Creek, GA Name, Atlanta, GA Waltz Brunch, Gainesville, FL Mostly Waltz Saturday Dance, by Triangle Vintage Dance, Raleigh/Durham, NC Waltz Wednesday, Charlotte Dance Gypsies Waltz Time, Glen Echo MD Mostly Waltz , Philadelphia, PA Mostly Waltz!, by Odd Socks, Toronto, Canada Ottawa Mostly Waltz Afternoon Elm City Waltz, New Haven CT Big Apple Waltz Waltz!, Cleveland, OH Open Waltz at Greenwood, Charlottesville, VA Mostly Waltz in Greenfield, MA Mostly Waltz, West Hartford, CT Mostly Waltz, Providence RI Mostly Waltz for Boston, Boston, MA

Roll your mouse over the red dots to identify the waltz groups.
Click on the red dots to view their Web pages.

The basic step and ten variations are described below
followed by the listing of another 220 variations.

Cross-step waltz tempos are within the 104-120 bpm range, with 112-116 bpm being ideal.

Music suggestions for cross-step waltz can be found

Watch the video at the top of the page to see most of these variations.

Frame (Waltz Position):  The Lead's R arm and Follow's L arm are somewhat raised but not stiff, with the top of his R arm lightly in contact with the bottom of her L arm.  His R palm rests gently on her L shoulder blade, giving a bit more space between partners than other waltz forms.  He should be careful not to poke the fingertips of his R hand into her back.  She braces back with her R arm, but both dancers hold each other with soft comfortable hands.

This is a flexible frame dance.  Both upper bodies are slightly aimed toward the held hands on count 1, the Primary Cross-Step, and slightly aimed toward the rear elbows on count 4, the Secondary Cross-Step.

 Basic Cross-Step Waltz:  1) He crosses R foot over his L with weight;  2) he steps side L with weight;  3) he replaces weight onto his R while also pulling his R back slightly.  Repeat opposite, crossing L over R.  She dances opposite, mirroring his steps, beginning by crossing L over R.

Hint: He can assist her cross-steps by lightly pulling back out of her way, never pushing into her.

 Zig-Zag:  He advances slightly with Basic Step as his partner over-crosses, without any rotation, to create a zig-zag path with the follow backing against LOD (Line Of Direction).

 Slightly Turning:  The Basic Step slightly rotating CW (clockwise) as a couple.  This meanders.

Hint:  Pull your R shoulder and R foot back out of your partner's way on a count 3.  He does this during the first count 3 then she does it during the next count 3 (i.e., count 6).

 Tossacross:  The leader dances Zig-Zag as he casts her gently from his R side to his L side, catching her in alternating arms.

 Orbits (Rolling Tossacross):  A Lead's CW Tossacross followed by a Follow's CW Tossacross.  Face LOD, Follow at the Lead's right side, in half-open waltz position, letting go of hands in front.  Both cross-step forward toward LOD, count 1, then he tosses himself across over to her right side, counts 2 and 3.  Both cross-step forward toward LOD, count 4, then he lets her toss herself across over to his right side in the same manner, counts 5 and 6.

Hint 1: Leads, don't toss her across too vigorously.  She's a dancer, not a puppet, so let her dance across without hauling her.  Conversely, follows be active in getting across, so he doesn't need to haul you across.

Hint 2: Track your partner's travel and flow with them, instead of focusing on your own footwork.

 The Turning Basic keeps the same footwork as Orbits but you hold your partner in closed waltz position throughout, turning 360° every 6 steps, traveling in a straight line toward LOD.  This is the fundamental step in Cross-Step Waltz.  The Turning Basic takes a little while to perfect, but once you have it, it flows easily.

Hint:  Leads, look toward your right just before count 4, to help direct her travel in that direction.  This is a visual lead, which is more comfortable than a physical lead pulling her in that direction.  In other words, he lets her dance by on count 4 instead of making her dance.

 Waterfall:  Turning Basic where the lead crosses behind instead of in front on each count 4 while the follow crosses in front.  On count 4, the Lead has passed in front of the Follow and is now in the "outside lane" where he steps back L, with his partner at his right side, by his right pocket.

 Follow's Solo (Ochos):  He completely stops on count 1 and stays in his crossed step as he leads her into a Basic Step in place.  This variation comes from tango Argentino.

 He-Goes-She-Goes:  A) He raises his L arm and travels straight forward under it, passing in front of her, then lowers his arm (cts. 1-2-3). Lead's hint: look forward LOD as you duck under instead of looking back at her, which would misdirect the intended direction of travel.   B) Walk forward with her at his L side (4-5-6).   C) He raises his L hand and loops it toward the left in front of her head to lead her into a CCW Follow's Underarm Turn (7-8-9).  Follow's hint: travel with him as you turn, as opposed to stopping and turning in place.   D) He lowers his L hand and sweeps her by in front of him back to his R side and catches her (10-11-12).  Follow's hint: complete a full 360° turn on part C so that you're facing forward LOD at the beginning of D, crossing forward instead of backing up into waltz position.

Optional ornamentation:  Either the Lead or Follow may do a grapevine step on Part B, instead of simply walking forward.  Count 4: Slightly face toward partner and cross in front.  5: Step side toward LOD.  6: Cross behind.  This is shown in the video as the Grapevine Rollaway.

 Frisbee:  The same as He-Goes-She-Goes except he leads her into a Follow's Free Spin (CCW) on part C.

 Lead's Underarm Turn:  Simply Parts A and D of He-Goes-She-Goes.

 The Cross-Step Waltz Mixer is described here.

• Videos of more than 300 cross-step waltz variations may be viewed on the Waltz Lab site.

220 Cross-Step Waltz Variations
as reminders of variations you may have learned in classes or workshops.

Many ballroom figures are memorized patterns that wouldn't be possible if both dancers hadn't previously learned their part.  However all of the figures on this page are lead-follow for freestyle improvised social dancing.  Previous exposure is not required for the woman's role to follow these figures.

 Reverse Turning Basic
 Reverse Waterfall
 The Square
 Zig-Zag Evasive Maneuver
 Lead's "A" Stance in Follow's Solo
 Direction Change from Follow's Solo
 Follow's Solo in Waterfall
 The same into Swingout
 Lead's Back Ochos
 Traveling Back Ochos
 Follow's Swingout
 Traveling Swingout
 Traveling Swingout Tuck-Turn
 Traveling Swingout Tuck-Free Spin
 Traveling Swingout Tuck Into Shadow Position
 Traveling Swingout Dishrag Tuck-Turn
 Open Two-Handed Tossacross
 Side Sways
 Swan Dive
 Leads Back Ochos into a Flip Pivot
 Alternating Flip Pivots
 2-Hand Bounced Ochos
 Bounced Ochos in Closed Waltz Position
 Cloud Hands Zig Zag
 Cloud Hands Lead's Back Ochos
 Waltz Walk
 The Eddy
 Waltz Walk Underarm Turn
 Waltz Walk Free Spin
 Double Outside Underarm Turn
 Follow's Initiated Double Underarm Turn
 Underarm Turn Free Spin
 Lindy Outside Turn
 Lindy Outside Turn Triple Free Spin
 Repeated Lead's Underarm Turn
 Surprise Outside Turn at end of He-Goes-She-Goes
 Lead's Underarm Turn, Pivaloop, Long Grapevine
 Pomander Turn
 Single Pivot
 Tripled Single Pivots
 Pivot Underarm Turn
 Pivot with Follow's Free Spin
 Pivot Rollaway
 Chained Rollaways
 Doubled Pivots
 Easygoing Extended Pivots
 Texas Tommy Pivot
 Whipped Turning Basic
 Lazy Cast-Away
 Jedi Waltzing (Innovation)
 Grapevine Rueda
 Long Grapevine Rueda
 Long Grapevine, Tuck-Double Outside Turn
 Long Grapevine, Outside Turn, Free Spin
 Long Grapevine, Parallel Free Spin, Double Outside Turn
 Long Grapevine, Inside And Outside Turns
 Long Grapevine, Inside Turn, Free Spin
 Follow's Backing Ocho (Zig-Zags)
 Exit from Follow's Backing Ochos
 Grapevine Exit from Follow's Backing Ochos
 Grapevine Underarm (Outside) Turn
 Grapevine Underarm Turn Sandwich
 Grapevine Free Spin
 Open 2-Hand Grapevine Free Spin
 Closed Grapevine Rollaway
 Grapevine Underarm Turn into Counter-Crossing
 Inside Turn, Grapevine
 Inside Free Spin, Grapevine
 Tandem Inside Free Spin, Grapevine
 Inside Rollaway, Grapevine
 Turns And Grapevine Sandwich
 Meandering Grapevine With Inside And Outside Turns
 Chained Inside And Outside Turns
 Open 2-Hand Chained Inside And Outside Turns
 Magic Wand
 Single-Hand Chained Inside And Outside Turns
 Pancake (Chained Free Spins)
 Inside Turn To Cradle Walk
 Cradle Promenade Changing Sides
 Double Unwind Exit From Cradle
 Deney Terrio Unwind Exit From Cradle
 Tornado Quintuple Unwrap From Cradle
 Exit From Wrap To Grapevine Free Spin
 Inside Turn Cradle Lunge
 Inside Double Turn To Outside Double Turn And Free Spin
 Inside Double Turn To Outside Triple Turn
 Open Grapevine
 Open Grapevine Rollaway
 Open Grapevine Underarm Turn
 Open Grapevine Free Spin
 Open Grapevine Combinations
 Inside and Outside Grapevine Combinations
 Open 2-Hand Tossacrosses To Grapevine Free Spin
 Inside Free Spin
 Pivot to Inside Turn
 Follow's Solo To Grapevine Inside Turn
 Waterfall Grapevine Inside Turn
 Waterfall Grapevine Tuck-Turn
 He-Goes-She-Goes Entrance to Pivaloop
 Dishrag Pivaloop
 Free Spin Exit from Pivaloop
 Double Pivaloop
 Pivaloop Extra Underarm Turn
 Lead's Wrap into Pivaloop
 Waterfall Grapevine Inside Turn into Pivaloop
 Reverse Pivaloop
 Cross-Body Inside Turn
 Cross-Body Lead into Chained Inside and Outside Turns
 Cross-Body Inside Turn Into Pivaloop Free Spin
 Orbit Inside Turn Into Reverse Pivaloop
 Walk-Around Drape
 Cross-Body Ochos
 Underarm Tsunami
 Shadow Figures (Sweetheart Variations)
 Shadow Walk
 Follow's Side Slips
 Shadow Wheel
 Reverse Shadow Wheel
 Follow's Underarm Turn
 Follow's Multiple Underarm Turns
 Lead's Side Slip
 Shadow Sweeps
 He-Goes-She-Goes Entrance into Shadow
 Quicker Entrance into Shadow
 Grapevine Underarm Turn Entrance into Shadow
 Traveling Swingout Entrance into Shadow
 Free Spin into R/R Hand Underarm Turn into Shadow
 Foot-Fudge into Shadow
 Illusion Turn (Shadow Flip)
 Shadow Windmill (Chained Follow's Underarm Turns in Shadow)
 Parallel Windmill
 Shadow Zig-Zag

 Basic Exit from Shadow
 Face-Loop Exit from Shadow
 Sombrero Exit from Shadow
 From Shadow Position, W On R Side, Transition To Lead's Hammerlock
 Tandem Turns
 Traveling Tandem Turns
 Transition To Skater's at his Left Side
 Transition To Skater's With Extra Inside Turn
 Side Pass To Skater's At His Right Side
 Inside Turn Transition From Skater's At His Left Side To Skater's at his Right Side
 Flip Turn
 Chained Flip Turns
 Crossed-Hand Waltz
 Right Forearm Grasp
 Runs Forward and Backing
 Runs Forward and Backing with Free Spin
 Open 2 Hand Fallback
 Two-Hand Mixmaster
 One-Hand Pivaloop Mixmaster
 Crossed-Hand Salsa Mixmaster
 Around the World
 Around the World Free Spin
 Traveling Loop-de-Loops
 The Wrap
 Waist Slide into Wrap
 Walk-Around Wrap
 Exit from Wrap to Shadow Position
 Exit from Wrap to Grapevine Free Spin
 Pivot To Salsa Parallel Breaks
 Pivot To Straight Salsa Breaks
 Cross-Swivels (Swivel Walk)
 Tango hesitation
 Corkscrew Molinete
 Left Turn Pivots
 Left Turn Pivots into Grapevine
 Forward Cross-Lunge, Side Step Recovery
 Tango Hesitating Dip
 Closing Tango Dip
 Hesitating Dip Into Pivots Into Follow's Double Underarm Turn
 Closing Underarm Turn
 Closing Underarm Turn with Genuflections
 Concluding Inside Turn Cradle Dip
 Lateral Dip (Cradle Dip)
 Traveling Roll-Off-The-Arm
 Free Spin Dip
 Traveling Free Spin
 Valentino Dip
 Sombrero Dip
 Improvise on the Spot (Make Up Stuff)
 Transition to Cross-Step from Box Step Waltz
 Transition Back to Box Step Waltz
 Cross-Through Traveling Box Step Waltz
 Transition from Rotary Waltz
 Transition to Rotary Waltz
 Cross-Step Redowa (to faster music)
 Tripling (Cutting In)
 Cross-Step Troika
 Slow Cross-Step Foxtrot
 Fast Cross-Step Foxtrot (Cross-Step One-Step)
 Role Reversal
 Use Orbits to get into Role Reversal
 Stealing the Lead (Messing with the Lead)
 Stealing the Lead with Free Spins
 Surprise Ochos
 Stealing the Lead with Surprise Side-Pass
 Stop-And-Go to phase-shift musical downbeat
 Stop-And-Go Transition from Rotary Waltz
 Stop-And-Go Transition to Rotary Waltz

Creators of these variations include (alphabetically) Angela Amarillas, Bill Boling & Beata Csanadi, Lilli Ann and Claire Carey, Zachariah Cassady, Susan de Guardiola, Walter Dill, Nick Enge and Danielle Baiata, Acata Felton, Donald Harvey, Michael & Kourtny Hicks, Sven Jensen, Ryan & Monica Shen Knotts, Ari Levitt, James Mendoza, Campbell Miller, Richard Powers, Issac Roth, Graham Waldon, Timothy Wong, and George Yang, plus over a hundred more innovators in the
Waltz Lab.

Comments, corrections or additions?  Write to the Stanford Dance Division:  StanfordDance (at) stanford (dot) edu

Copyright © 1995, 2012 Richard Powers

More dance descriptions

Dance music discography, classes, dance thoughts and more on the Home Page