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Jenny and Toby

Foxtrot

American Style Smooth

The story of the Foxtrot begins with the explosion of ragtime. Around the turn of the century, black musicians like Scott Joplin "The Entertainer," "Maple Leaf Rag" began composing music with a syncopated rhythm. There was just no sitting still to this fervent new music, and a smooth dance like the Waltz wouldn't do. A new breed of dances quickly evolved in response to ragtime. One of the first was called the Turkey Trot, a one-step that included flapping the arms like a turkey. Then came a flood of others, like the Monkey Dance, the Horse Trot, the Grizzly Bear, the Bunny Hug and the Kangaroo Dip. Ragtime, with it's "ragged" rhythms, seemed to demand dances with jerky steps, possibly emulating the walk and the wild abandon of animals.

In 1914, a young dancer named Harry Fox did his version of trotting on the stage of the Ziegfield Follies. Fox's trot became the hot new thing in New York, but it doesn't bear much resemblance to the dance we know today. It was fast and jerky just like the other trots.

When the Foxtrot traveled to England, the jumps and high jinks of the original were ironed out. What remains is a smooth, elegant dance more reminiscent of the Waltz than of the Trot's hyperactive past. In fact, many of Foxtrot's patterns have been adapted straight from the Waltz.

Key characteristics of the dance are smooth, gliding steps with a heel lead, controlled movement and an easygoing look. The Foxtrot is an all-purpose dance that can be performed to many different styles of music. The music is in 4/4 time, and about 32 bars per minute.

Dance histories supplied by Diane Jarmolow of the Ballroom Dance Teachers College and reprinted with permission.