Description of the Foxtrot
Foxtrot is the dance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This smooth and elegant dance had its beginnings in a New York theatre in 1914. There, a vaudeville actor named Harry Fox began dancing a series of trotting steps to ragtime music as a part of his act.
Eventually the dance evolved to incorporate the walking and brush steps that make this dance popular with beginners and advanced dancers alike. Foxtrot is danced to music with a 4/4 time signature (think Frank Sinatra) and has two rhythms: slow-slow-quick-quick and slow-quick-quick.
International Style Foxtrot uses the same music as their American Style counterparts, but the dances are different and more difficult. They are all done in closed position and the couples pass their feet instead of close them at the end of measures (no box steps in International Style!)
The timing is more complex and there are new technique challenges such as heel turns. American Style Foxtrot is the easiest Smooth dance; International Style Foxtrot is the most difficult.
Characteristics of the Foxtrot
Foxtrot has smooth gliding steps with a heel lead, controlled movement and an easygoing look. It has less rise and fall than the Waltz as the emphasis is on progression. The foxtrot is an all-purpose dance that can be performed to many different styles of music.
Time signature: 4/4
Tempo: 32-34 measures per minute
Timing: SSQQ and SQQ
Beat value: 2-2-1-1 and 2-1-1
History of The Foxtrot
Around the turn of the 20th century, influential African American musicians, such as Scott Joplin began composing syncopated ragtime music. A smooth dance like the Waltz just did not suit this type of fervent music and a new breed of dances quickly evolved in response to ragtime. One of the first was called Turkey trot, a one-step that included flapping the arms like a turkey. Then came a flood of others like the Monkey dance, the Horse Trot, the Grizzly Bear, the Bunny Hug and the Kangaroo Dip. Ragtime seemed to demand dances with jerky steps, possibly emulating the walks and the wild abandon of animals.
In 1914, a young dancer named Harry Fox did his version of trotting in the Jardin de Danse on the roof of the New York Theatre with the Ziegfield Follies. Fox’s fast and jerky trot became the hot new thing in New York.
On September 3rd, 1914, the “American Society of Professors of Dancing” started standardizing the steps of the Fox-trot. Oscar Duryea was hired to introduce the dance to the public. Duryea modified Fox’s dance, as the trotting could not be kept up for long periods without tiring out the dancers, so the trot was replaced by a glide or “Saunter.”
This “new Foxtrot” was an instant hit and has remained a stable part in most dancing syllabus ever since. In 1914, a piece of sheet music was created with the title “Original Foxtrot” by Jack Mcenness and Dorothy Hunter. In the same year, the Reuben Fox-trot was introduced by Miss Sonia Baraban and Charles C. Grohs, another was the Kangaroo Hop which was listed as a Fox Trot and Uriel Davy’s created the Davy’s Foxtrot as well.
There are assertions that the Castles originated the Fox-Trot from James Reese Europe’s version of W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues (1912), but the Castle’s called it the Bunny Hug! How Fox’s name got to it is unclear, however the original version had Castle similarities.
By 1915 the Foxtrot had become the most successful dance of the day. When the Foxtrot traveled to England, the jumps and the high jinks of the original dance were ironed out. What remains is a smooth, elegant dance more reminiscent of the Waltz than of the Trot’s hyperactive past. In fact, many of the Foxtrot patterns have been adapted directly from Waltz.