The History, Fun, Movement, and Formula for Success, of Foxtrot Dancing


By Rich Iberle


The establishment of the Foxtrot came on a whim, as vaudeville actor, Harry Fox needed a substitute for his female dancers that would replace the more difficult two-step. The ballroom dance craze was created when Fox added staggered steps (two trots), which gave way to the slow-slow-quick-quick rhythm that the Foxtrot is now based on. The exact location where the birth of Foxtrot took place was on the roof of the New York Theatre, where Fox tweaked the trotting steps he would incorporate into his new act.

The first time the public ever laid eyes on the upbeat dance was in 1914, which gained extraordinary reviews as one of the most original and fascinating dances of the time. Soon, the gifted dance duo of Vernon and Irene Castle incorporated their grace and style with the new steps. Word of the Foxtrot spread like wildfire and the cream of the crop in the dancing world began seeking the excitement associated with this latest trend in movement.

In later years, the Foxtrot would receive the attention of some of the greatest names in dance. The talented G.K. Anderson traveled to London, and along with Josephine Bradley, won numerous Foxtrot competitions. A style of Foxtrot dancing developed from their efforts. Arthur Murray, who would revamp the steps to mimic some of the positions associated with the American Tango, also took interest in the dance. Over the years, the dance would continue to undergo a variety of transformations, including the split into two versions of speed: slow (Foxtrot) and quick (Quickstep).

When the Foxtrot initially captured an audience, the steps were danced to ragtime, but today, usually big band music (the same type of music swing is executed to), accompanies the steps.

The Influence of Foxtrot on Ballroom Dancing

When Foxtrot was first introduced, this style of movement was hailed as one of the most prominent developments to take hold of the ballroom dancing scene. Dancers now enjoyed a certain level of flexibility that came with the combination of slow and quick steps of the Foxtrot. When compared to the one-step or the two-step, it also brought about a larger sense of pleasure. Quickly, these dances were replaced by the Foxtrot, as the challenge of mastering the Foxtrot became one of the greatest journeys to partake in. Since a wealth of variation is connected to the Foxtrot, some feel it is one of the hardest dances to get the hang of.

As time passed, dancers saw the emergence of the Peabody, and the Roseland Foxtrot. To some extent, the Foxtrot also opened doors for the Lindy and the Hustle to surface.

Understanding the Steps

As you allow the Foxtrot music to sweeten your ears, you will notice it is often the same type of tunes that swing dancers enjoy. The Foxtrot displays the combination of slow steps, which utilizes two beats of music, and quick steps that use only one. To better understand the footwork timing, it is often called out as: slow-quick-quick or slow-slow-quick-quick.

When comparing the Foxtrot to other dances, it is the Waltz that shares many similarities. Both are considered “smooth” dances that allow participants to follow a line of dance in a counterclockwise manner about the space of a ballroom floor. The Foxtrot also showcases long walking movements that create the delicate presentation of rising and falling.

The progressive movement of the Foxtrot is known to cover quite a bit of ground. All you really need to possess to enter this intriguing style of dance is the ability to walk. A certain level of smoothness will also help you go a long way with the Foxtrot.

To begin, you should know that your posture is expected to stay in the upright position. The hold is much similar to that of the Waltz. When dancing, your focus should involve taking long steps during the slow counts, and short, full-of-life steps when the long counts roll around. It is important to remember that when the tempo of the music increases, your steps will need to become shorter in order to give the appearance of an energetic trot. This will also help you to maintain the necessary balance associated with the dance.

If you are considering lessons or wish to impress your loved ones with a couple of new moves, you may practice by completing a few exercises in the comfort of your own home. For starters, you can stand upright and place your feet together. Walking forward, you should count aloud and step to the rhythm that accompanies the following: slow-slow-slow-slow or step-pause-step-pause-step-pause-step-pause.

To get an idea of dancing in pairs, on slow counts 1 and 2, the man’s left foot will be forward while the woman’s right foot is set back. On slow counts 3 and 4, the man’s right foot is forward while the woman’s left foot remains back. The 5th quick count has the man’s left foot to the side while the woman’s right foot is placed to the side. The man will bring his right foot close on the 6th quick count while the woman brings her left foot close.

Foxtrot Dancing of Today

With its elegant social nature, the clubs of New York City saw spectacular showings of the foxtrot during the 1920s. Since the steps followed a 4/4 pattern, it complemented most kinds of music, regardless if it is slow or fast-paced. Today, when you want to witness a few foxtrot moves, an array of jazz clubs throughout major cities may show glimpses of the dance. It also appears in the majority of ballroom dance competitions, including televised endeavors, such as "Dancing with Stars," and "So You Think You Can Dance."

Dancing Tips for Foxtrot Enthusiasts

When learning a new dance, every bit of help can make the process much easier. When it comes to the foxtrot, you may focus on the following tips, which make dancing with a partner less difficult.

1) The first thing to do is get a few CDs that allow you to familiarize yourself with the type of music that accommodates the foxtrot. Whenever you are out, play the music in your car, and during moments of free time, let the rhythm take over when you're relaxing at home. After awhile, you will be able to call out the step timing for both slow and quick movements without any trouble.

2) Constantly practice the basic steps, especially your step timing so that over time, the movements will become second nature.

3) Focus on a style of foxtrot that interests you and practice the movements. For instance, East Coast swing involves the triple step and the rock step. You should also know that practice doesn’t always have to include a partner to get acquainted with the basic steps.

4) Gather helpful instructional videos, like the ones offered at to help you learn and perfect your foxtrot skills.


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