History of the
An Evolution of the
By Jason Altmar
The Beginnings of Foxtrot
In the summer of 1914, an American called Harry Fox performed in
New York. Born Arthur Carringford, he stage-named himself Fox
after his grandfather. He is credited by most as the originator
of the Foxtrot.
Harry had to take care of himself from the age of fifteen. After
brief stints in the circus and playing baseball, a music
publisher who liked his voice hired him to sing in the
vaudeville theaters in San Francisco.
After the earthquake in San Francisco and the fire of 1906,
Harry migrated east to New York. There he married Yansci Dolly
of the Dolly Sisters. The two were seen dancing a dance that put
everyone in a good mood. The audience named Fox’s dance “The
There exists a parallel account of the origin of the Foxtrot.
The New York Theatre was one of the largest in the world. It was
being converted to a movie house. The roof of New York Theatre
was converted to a Jardin de Danse. Harry Fox and his company –
“American Beauties” were selected to put on a dance act between
shows. Fox’s dance was an instant hit. He performed trotting
steps to ragtime music. His dance that put everyone in good
humor became known as Fox’s trot or The Foxtrot.
The Development of Foxtrot
Foxtrot soon developed into a very popular social dance. It was
performed by dancers down the years since Harry Fox first
originated the dance. The Vernon Castles were exhibition dancers
of outstanding talent. There is no doubt that the Foxtrot had a
major part to play in their rise to fame.
While the dancing world’s elite were still trying to capture the
unusual style and movement of the Foxtrot, G.K. Anderson, a very
talented American came over to London and won many dance
competitions with Josephine Bradley. He sealed the style of the
Foxtrot with his signature dance.
Ballroom dancing, of which the Foxtrot is one type, was enjoying
great popularity. It was needed to develop a dance form that
could express the slow syncopated 4/4 rhythm and still remain
on-the-spot. The on-the-spot dancing became known as crush, then
rhythm dancing. It is today known as social dancing
The Foxtrot evolved from the two-step. Unlike the two-step, it
is done with a broken rather than an even beat (slow-slow,
quick-quick). By September 3rd 1914 “The American Society of
Professors of Dancing” had set into motion the process of
standardizing the steps of the Foxtrot.
An established dancer called Oscar Duryea was hired to promote
this dance to the American public. Since the trotting could not
be done for a long period of time without tiring the dancers,
Duryea modified the dance. According to Duryea, the trotting
steps were too much for the ladies. The trot was replaced by a
glide or a “saunter”. This new style of foxtrot was an instant
hit. It has since remained an important part of the study
curriculum of dancing.
The Most Popular Social Dance: Foxtrot
Foxtrot quickly developed into the most popular social dance. It
is the easiest to pick up and the hardest to master. Today, the
Foxtrot is danced to popular musical standards such as Tony
Bennett and Frank Sinatra. It is an extremely versatile dance
and can be performed to such music as fast country-western as
well as slow tangos. The foxtrot is a must have in a social
dancers quiver and it can be relied upon when all else fails.
In the American style, the Foxtrot is classified as a “Smooth”
dance. In the international style, it is called a “Modern” or
“Standard” dance. It progresses along the line of dance or
otherwise counter-clockwise around the dance floor. It is
characterized by its continuity, a rhythmic rise and fall as
well as rotation.
The bronze level of Foxtrot in the American style requires a
closing of the feet after side steps. The silver and higher
levels involve more movement and fluidity. There are two
Foxtrots in the international style – slow and fast. Today, the
fast style is known as Quickstep and regarded as a separate
The Foxtrots regular steps are done in square steps in a
circular motion. The music for the Foxtrot is perky, flowing and
in 4/4 time. This is why the steps are regular. It is easy to
keep the steps in a contained area, though the Foxtrot can
easily cover the dance floor. There are a large number of
variations possible in Foxtrot and often dance companies make
just this one dance their specialty.
The Legacy of Foxtrot
From its beginnings with a man named Harry Fox, the Foxtrot has
grown in popularity into the most popular social dance. It has
been the subject of a number of film and television shows. Some
films are Foxtrot Finesse, 1915 and The Fox Trot Craze, 1915.
The Foxtrot changed the dancing world and without it, many dance
performances would not be the same.
The Foxtrot has evolved into several versions. Two Foxtrots are
the Swing and the Jitterbug. One fast Foxtrot that was earlier
called the One-step is now known as the Quickstep. A faster
version of the original is set to Waltz music. The Peabody and
the Roseland Foxtrot are different names for the Foxtrot.
Because of the variations in the Foxtrot and their popularity,
the Foxtrot is known as an incredibly social dance.
The Foxtrot started a wave of dance energy among the American
public. This energy was what teenagers were looking for. Due to
this, the Foxtrot, which is the only truly American ballroom
dance, spread rapidly across the states. Today, the Foxtrot has
evolved into a dance that represents social elegance. The
Foxtrot is now known for its characteristic smooth, elegant,
graceful and gliding movements. The Foxtrot is a favorite among
people of all ages. It remains the most popular dance in the
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