The story of the Foxtrot begins around the turn of the 20th century when influential African American musicians, such as Scott Joplin, began composing syncopated ragtime music. There was no sitting still to this fervent new music, and a smooth dance like the Waltz just would not 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 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 fast and jerky trot became the hot new thing in New York. 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 Foxtrot 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.