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Also called Slowfox, this dance carries the spirit of the American aristocracy. It is among the most technical and "flexible" dances...

Foxtrot - a short history of the dance


Beat: 4/4.
Temp: 28-30 measures per minute.
Count: "1 - 2 - 3 - 4", "slow - quick" and other variations.
Developed in 1913.

In the early days of the Twentieth Century, during the Ragtime Era, a whole flock of "animal dances" were briefly popular, formed out of the earlier Two Step. There was the Squirrel, in which dancers took small, mincing steps, a Duck Waddle involving quick walks and sways of the upper body to the left and right, a Snake, where dancers walked sinuously to banjo with a dip and then to sidecar. There was the Lame Duck, Chicken Scratch, Kangaroo Hop, a Horse Canter, and a Horse Trot. And of course, there was the Fox Trot.

The Foxtrot originated in the summer of 1914 by Vaudeville actor Harry Fox. Born Arthur Carringford in Pomona, California, in 1882, he adopted the stage name of "Fox" after his grandfather.

According to legend, he was unable to find single female dancers capable of performing the more difficult two-step.[citation needed] As a result, he added stagger steps (two trots), creating the basic Foxtrot rhythm of slow-slow-quick-quick. The dance was premiered in 1914, quickly catching the eye of the talented husband and wife duo Vernon and Irene Castle, who lent the dance its signature grace and style.

Harry was thrown on his own resources at the age of fifteen. He joined a circus for a brief tour and he also played professional baseball for a short while.
A music publisher liked his voice and hired him to sing songs from the boxes of vaudeville theaters in San Francisco.

In 1904 he appeared in a Belvedere Theatre in a comedy entitled "Mr. Frisky of Frisco." After the San Francisco earthquake and the fire of 1906, Harry Fox migrated East and finally stopped in New York.

In early 1914, Fox was appearing in various vaudeville shows in the New York area. In April he teamed up with Yansci Dolly of the famous Dolly Sisters in an act of Hammerstein's. At the same time, the New York Theatre, one of the largest in the World, was being converted into a movie house. As an extra attraction, the theater's management decided to try vaudeville acts between the shows. They selected Harry Fox and his company of "American Beauties" to put on a dancing act. An article in Variety Magazine stated "Harry Fox will appear for a month or longer at a large salary with billing that will occupy the front of the theatre in electrics".
At the same time, the roof of the theatre was converted to a Jardin de Danse, and the Dolly sisters were featured in a nightly revue.

The May 29, 1914 issue of Variety Magazine reported

"The debut of Harry Fox as a lone star and act amidst the films of the daily change at the New York Theatre started off with every mark of success. The Dolly Sisters are dancing nightly on the New York Roof. Gold cups will be given away next week to the winners of dance contests on the New York Roof."

The Foxtrot originated in the Jardin de Danse on the roof of the New York Theatre. As part of his act downstairs, Harry Fox was doing trotting steps to ragtime music, and people referred to his dance as "Fox's Trot."

In his versions of the dance Arthur Murray began to imitate the positions of Tango, which probably had played a role in the way the dance was performed later.

The Foxtrot might not actually have started as an "animal dance." One story tells of Harry Fox who scattered with scantily clad women in static poses. His act involved a fast, comical dance to 4/4 ragtime music from one woman to the next where he would deliver his jokes. The act was popular, the music was widely marketed, and Fox's "Trot" became popular in dance halls and dance studios. It was introduced to members of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in London in 1915.

The elite of the dancing world were soon trying to capture the unusual style of movement and when a very talented American, G.K. Anderson came over to London, and with Josephine Bradley won many competitions, he set the seal on the style of the foxtrot

In its earliest days, the Foxtrot was not the smooth: slow, quick, quick, of today (which if you think about it, is nothing like a "trot"). Back then dancers might have taken four slow steps down line and then eight quicks with just a little bit of a prance. They walked in a circle. There was a lunge, close, lunge, close; producing a full turn. There were hops and kicks. There was a definite strutting or trotting look. One of the first "definitions" of the rhythm came from an American teacher who said, "There are but two things to remember; first a slow walk, two counts to a step; second a trot or run, one count to each step."

As a result of the great popularity which ballroom dancing was enjoying, it was necessary to evolve a form of dance that could express the slow syncopated 4/4 rhythm and yet could remain "on the spot."
This did not mean that the "traveling" fox-trot was dropped, but the "on the spot" dance did provide a means of enjoying the music in a background which large numbers of people could afford and enjoy, and where various bands were all producing excellent and individual musicians and experimenting with and perfect all of the new sounds and beats from America.
The "on the spot" dancing was known appropriately as crush, then rhythm dancing. It is now called "social" dancing and possibly this conveys its purpose and limitations. It would be anti-social to attempt to stride around a ballroom crowded with dancers, to dance with only one partner when out with a party, or to be so engrossed with the performance of figures that any conversation is taboo.

The Foxtrot was 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 one-step and two-step which it has replaced. There is more variety in the fox-trot than in any other dance, and in some ways it is the hardest dance to learn!

The Foxtrot appeared in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and reached its peak of popularity in the 20's. The rapid growth in its popularity was due to the talented American dancers Vernon and Irene Castle.

In the context of International Standard category of ballroom dances, for some time Foxtrot was called Slow Foxtrot, or Slowfox. These names are still in use, to distinguish from other types of Foxtrot.

There is such a great variety of steps and figures in this dance like there is in no other balroom dance. This surely makes the Foxtrot one of the hardest ones to perform.
Contemporary Foxtrot has steps from dances such as Peabody, Quickstep и Roseland Foxtrot.

Foxtrot is fourth in the Standard program of all competitions - it is performed after the Viennese Waltz.
It should be said that the complicated charachter of the dance requires a lot of experience from the competitors and thus it is not performed by dancers in the "E" and "D" competitive classes.

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