DANCE THE FOX-TROT LIKE YOU MEAN IT

What exactly is the ‘Foxtrot’? It’s the dance you see couples doing in movies of the 30s/40s/50s when they’re on the dance floor of a nightclub or restaurant and talking to each other and not really dancing. In other words, its the faceless and pointless ‘wallpaper’ of dancing, the blandly unassuming movements-set-to-music that pretty much anyone can do. It’s background dancing. It’s the parsley on the plate.

Or is it? Actually the Foxtrot has a rather interesting history and in fact was more complex and carefully thought out than one might think upon first sight. It was developed around 1914 as a kind of ‘relax’ moment in between numbers that involved more gymnastic movements like the ‘Two-Step’ and the ‘Turkey-Trot’. It apparently was named after a vaudevillian named Harry Fox and was popularized by the world famous ballroom dancing team Vernon and Irene Castle (largely remembered–if at all–as the subjects of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers least interesting film). In the twenties and thirties the dance became the standard issue smooth-as-silk all-purpose dance to most band music. The Lindy and the Jitterbug were a lot more exciting but the Foxtrot outlasted them all. Weirdly, recordings used to label the style of dance to be deployed while listening to their music and the Foxtrot was so ubiquitous that, when stuck for a description, the record companies simply called the record in question a Foxtrot. As a result, when rock and roll was new to the major record companies they labeled Bill Haley’s recording of ‘Rock Around The Clock’ as a Foxtrot simply because they couldn’t figure out how anyone was going to dance to that particular record. In the mid 1930s, a most accomplished ballroom dancer named Alex Moore took it upon himself to make a short film demonstrating various Fox-Trot techniques, thus proving that there was more to the dance than met the eye. And that’s what you’ll be seeing if you click the little play button on the above YouTube video…

 

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