v History of foxtrot

There is no question but that the fox-trot was originated in the summer o 1914 by the vaudeville actor Harry Fox. [...] As part of his act [in the New York Theatre] Harry Fox was doing trotting steps to ragtime music, and people referred to his dance as "Fox's Trot." [from: The Complete Book of Ballroom Dancing by Richard M. Stephenson and Joseph Jaccarino.}

Slow-slow-quick-quick is a basic 1910s tango rhythm, also 1910s fox trot. As for Harry Fox, my understanding is that the fox trot was named after him but that he himself did not "invent" it and made no claim to. Arthur Murray did not claim to have invented it, to my knowledge. I would hesitate to say who did. The early fox trot step patterns were used earlier in the one-step, two-step, and tango.

It is usually very hard to say who "invented" a dance form, unless it was a show dance that was popularized, like the Charleston, Black Bottom, or Varsity Drag. Even then you can look at the dance and discuss its roots in already existing popular dances. And also how people took the show dance and, in the ballroom, mixed it with dances they already knew; and how dance instructors changed it to what they wanted to see in the ballroom.

OK, so anyone who doesn't do vintage dance can see if these sequences look totally familiar or kind of alien or at least interesting:

Castle Fox Trot (Vernon and Irene Castle, 1914)
Two slow steps, then four quick steps which can be forward, backward, sideways (step-close), turning in Yale position (partners facing but each offset to his/her own left), or a grapevine.

This is a very common type of 1910s pattern. The quick steps are bouncy little trots; the slow steps are walks. Man backs woman along line of direction. Grapevines done across the line of direction.

The Princeton (Arthur Murray, 1925)
Do a two-step (step forward on left, close right up to left, and step forward left again) diagonally forward on counts 1 & 2. On count 3, while the weight is on the left foot, extend the right foot forward about 2 in. off the floor. Then dip backward on the right for counts 4-5. Do a two-step diagonally to the left on counts 6 & 7. On count 8, take long step forward with the right.

Couple is in closed ballroom hold, man backing woman. Steps are described for man's feet, woman on opposite feet. By the 1920s the bouncy style was not done in the "genteel" fox trot (as it was in the 1910s), but existed in subtypes such as the Toddle.

Westchester Natural Turn and Dip (Parson, 1936; late in period for us but the pattern works well for slow 1920s fox trot or blues music)

When the woman dips forward on her right foot she may if desired make a slight kick-up with her left. When the man dips backward on his left, his right must be kept extended with toe pointed to the floor. It may be raised from the floor ever so slightly.

If you want to do any Charleston much fancier than a walking "single" step or a "double" you have to get out of closed position. Particularly because most of the fancy steps require arm movements (though so do single and double steps when done solo); but anyway, arm movement options as closed couple are more limited. The way contestants handle this in period newsreels of Charleson contests, is they do some steps closed, then get apart and solo when they want to do something fancy, then get back together when they are done soloing. This method also works for the Black Bottom.

Monkey Knees (many sources)
Stand in crouched second, hands on knees. This shouldn't be too frenetic. Usual twizzling. Can be done in place or traveling.


[Fran Grimble]

> Foxtrot: American, International, Social, and Quickstep

> American and International; Foxtrot and Waltz

> Foxtrot timing

> Bronze level American Foxtrot

Contents of the r.a.d. FAQ

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Last modified on: 2000, Saturday December 23.