In skating, if the foot went forward and the body back, the skater would land on her head. The same applies to dancing. If the gentleman's arm were suddenly removed, many ladies would undoubtedly fall backwards. This conclusively proves incompetence. Good waltzing means self-support - not being carried round by a long-suffering partner.
"Backing" was introduced by English dancers to obviate the possibility of giddiness; also because it was found easier to reverse after "backing" than to go straight from ordinary waltz turn to reverse turn. The gentleman puts the lady backwards, as behind her right steering is easier in that position, and it is also easier to start reversing.
The backing step for the lady is: First step. A long slide backwards with right foot. Second step. Left foot drawn back to join right, first position. Third step. Small step (in place, feet together) with right foot. Fourth step. Left foot, long slide backwards. Fifth step. Right foot drawn back to join left, first position. Sixth step. Small step (in place, feet together) with left foot. The gentleman does exactly the same steps forward, starting with his left foot. As the lady's right foot goes back his left comes forward and fills its place; so they should never clash. The important steps in the backing are the long slides with alternate feet on steps one and four, thus maintaining the rhythm of the waltz. Backing should never be done from side to side. This is very bad style, and most uncomfortable; it invariably means bumping several couples on either side in a crowded room. It is quite easy to steer a straight course with care.
All these seemingly slight points make just the difference between good and bad dancing.
When the reverse was first attempted in England it was looked upon with horror and disgust. Several determined efforts were made to popularise it, but it was always neglected. In many cases dancers were actually stopped when seen reversing. It was considered very, very "bad form" to reverse twenty-five years ago. This was chiefly due to men; they did not take the trouble to learn the step, but thought it rather fun to rush round the opposite way for a change. Without attempting any steps, they simply swung their partners round, often lifting them right off their feet. This, besides being dangerous, caused dresses to fly and collisions innumerable, and altogether was inelegant and ugly. It is only during the last fifteen years that reversing has been considered good taste. It has gradually gathered popularity, and is now (1911) quite the "thing." It has a proper step, and is actually the waltz itself reversed.
Comparison of the pictures illustrating the waltz and reverse steps will prove this; also showing that in the reverse a complete circle is again made, only in exactly the opposite direction to that of the waltz.
The First Step (Fig. 1). The lady slides her right foot forward outside her partner's feet. The gentleman slides his left foot forward between the lady's feet. These steps are the exact reverse of the first step in the ordinary waltz.
The Second Step (Fig. 2). The lady draws her left foot behind her right in the fifth position. The gentleman slides his right foot obliquely round outside the lady's feet.
The Third Step (Fig. 3). The lady rises on both toes, and drops her left foot in front of her right in the fifth position. The gentleman closes his left foot behind his right in the fifth position. At the conclusion of this step the dancers occupy exactly opposite positions to those in Fig. 1. pleted a circle
Fig. 6. The sixth step. The pupil closes her left foot behind her right in the fifth position. The instructor rises on both toes, and drops her left foot in front of her right in the fifth position. The dancers are now in the same positions as in Fig. I, having comthe Fourth Step (Fig. 4). The lady slides her left foot forward inside her partner's feet. The gentleman slides his right foot forward outside the lady's feet.
The Fifth Step (Fig. 5). The lady slides her right foot round outside the gentleman's feet. The gentleman closes his left foot behind his right in the fifth position.
The Sixth Step (Fig. 6). The lady closes her left foot behind her right in the fifth position. The gentleman rises on both toes, and drops his left foot in front of his right in the fifth position. The dancers are now in exactly the same positions as in Fig. I. They have completed a circle, as in the waltz, but have turned exactly the opposite way round.
In the reverse the lady turns on both toes at the third step, not at the sixth step, and the gentleman at the sixth step, not at the third step as in the ordinary waltz. Where the feet previously went in they now go out; but the long steps come on beats one and four, and the rhythm is the same. To reverse, the gentleman backs his partner, and starts reversing by turning her right shoulder towards the centre the room. The reverse then starts at the fourth step, because the dancers are in the positions of Fig. 4. The lady begins reversing with her left foot, the gentleman with his right. If the gentleman backs himself, the reverse starts at the first step, because the dancers are in the position of Fig. 1; but beginners will find it easier to start with the lady going backwards. After reversing, back again, and then begin the ordinary waltz.
Once the waltz is thoroughly known and understood the reverse is quite simple, and very easy. Some people imagine that "reversing" means travelling the contrary way round the ballroom. This is quite absurd. The dancers travel in the same direction; they merely turn the other way round, which, together with the transposed step, forms the reverse.
Waltzers should try to remember the following quaint simile: "Good waltzing looks like hot oil gliding over polished ice." This is the secret of the waltz, it is simply a glide.