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History of the Foxtrot

An Evolution of the Foxtrot Dance

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 Foxtrot”

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 dance.

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 social scene.

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