The history of the Foxtrot

"The object of smooth dances is to move or travel smoothly around the room, covering as much of the dance floor as possible. The couple should be streamlined, two people moving as one, gliding fluidly and forcefully around the dance floor; if they were dancing on water, there would be no ripples in their wake. Imagine a room filled with stiff whipped cream. The dancers' goal is to move smoothly and powerfully through the cream, charting a clean path without disrupting any of the cream around them." This is one of the best definitions that we have heard about smooth dancing. It is from the book, "ABC's of Ballroom Dance". This month we would like to discuss one of these smooth dances, Foxtrot.

It is generally believed that a Vaudeville star by the name of Harry Fox began what today we call the Foxtrot. In the summer of 1914 Harry and his company of "American Beauties" put on a dancing act in the New York Theater. As part of his act, he was doing trotting steps to ragtime music, and people referred to this dance as "Fox's Trot".

During this period of Ragtime, beginning in 1910, a completely new phase of ballroom dancing was born. Partners danced closer together, ad-libbed to the music, and found this new ragtime music exciting and exhilarating. The Bunny Hug, Turkey Trot, and Castle Walk were but a few of the many strutting and walking dances that quickly caught the publics fancy.

The Foxtrot is no longer a fox trot at all, but rather a smooth, elegant dance. When watching a couple gliding gracefully across the dance floor one doesn't think of the ragtime music. When the British dance masters imported this American smooth ballroom dance to England, they smoothed away the trotting, hops and kicks to a much smoother version which has endured over the years. A variation of the Foxtrot is the Quickstep and even dances such as Lindy (Swing) and Hustle are derived to some extent from the Foxtrot.

The Foxtrot is the most significant development in all of Ballroom Dancing. The combination of quick and slow steps permits more flexibility and gives much greater dancing pleasure than the monotonous one-step and two-step which it has replaced. There is more variety in the Foxtrot than in any other dance, and in some ways it the hardest dance to learn.

Reprinted with permission of Ron & Rebecca Kellen & Bogie of the Mile High Ballroom of Prescott, AZ

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