The Foxtrot was originated in the summer of 1914 by Vaudeville actor Harry Fox. Born Arthur Carrinford in Pomona, California, in 1882, he adopted the stage name of “Fox” after his grandfather.
In early 1914, Fox was appearing in various vaudeville shows in the New York area. One such show was the Ziegfeld Follies of 1914, in which Fox danced some trotting steps to ragtime music as part of his act. It delighted audiences and quickly caught on, and people referred to his dance as Fox’s Trot. Though the original version exhibited by Mr. Fox was very jerky and athletic, dance teachers tamed it and proved it to be a perfect dance for ragtime music.
Vernon and Irene Castle, a British and American husband and wife dance team, were exhibition dancers of outstanding talent and charm. Their rendition of the Foxtrot was the most original and exciting of their various dances.
In England, the “hops, kicks, and capers” of the American Foxtrot were removed; and figures such as “butterfly, twinkle, and chasse” laid the foundation of the smoother English version. Today, this smoother version remains and bears little resemblance to the original.
Up to that time, the Foxtrot was the most significant development in all of ballroom dancing. The combination of quick and slow steps permitted more flexibility and greater dancing pleasure than its forbearers, the one-step and two-step. There is more variety in the Foxtrot than in any other dance.
Variations of the Foxtrot include the Peabody and Quickstep. Even dances such as the Lindy and the Hustle are derived to some extent from the Foxtrot.
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.
Foxtrot has smooth gliding steps with a heel lead, controlled movement and an easy going look. It has less rise and fall than the Waltz as the emphasis is on progression. Even though there is a progression from a Social Foxtrot that is commonly danced at a faster pace, to a more continuous Foxtrot danced at a slower pace, there should always be a sense of smooth continuous movement around the floor. 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