Turkey trot (dance)

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For the Thanksgiving footrace, see Turkey Trot.
"Even the Place Where the Turkey Trot Originated was Trotless and Quiet."—1914 cartoon by John T. McCutcheon showing no dancing even at the Barbary Coast, San Francisco, a demonstration of the dance's dramatic decline in popularity.[1]

The turkey trot was a dance made popular in the early 1900s. The Turkey Trot was done to fast ragtime music popular in the decade from 1900 to 1910 such as Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. It lost favor to the Foxtrot in 1914

The basic step consisted of four hopping steps sideways with the feet well apart, first on one leg, then the other with a characteristic rise on the ball of the foot, followed by a drop upon the heel. The dance was embellished with scissor-like flicks of the feet and fast trotting actions with abrupt stops.

It has been said that dancers John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning introduced this dance as well as the Grizzly Bear at Ray Jones Café in Chicago, IL. around 1909. Another theory states that it originated on the Barbary Coast, San Francisco, California. Joseph M. Daly wrote music for the dance in 1912. Irene and Vernon Castle raised its popularity by dancing the Turkey Trot in the Broadway show The Sunshine Girl.

It achieved popularity chiefly as a result of its being denounced by the Vatican. It was thought that the positions assumed by the dancers was offensively suggestive. Conservative members of society felt the dance promoted immorality and tried to get it banned at public functions, which only served to increase its popularity.

There were news reports of dancers being fined because "their Turkey Trots were interpreted by the courts as disorderly conduct." In another instance, fifteen working girls were fired from their jobs with the Philadelphia song publisher Curtis Publishing when they were caught doing the turkey trot, although it was during their lunch break.

One of the means to combat "offensive" dances was the 1913 song, Anti-Ragtime Girl: …She don’t do the Bunny Hug, nor dance the Grizzly Bear / She hasn't learned the Turkey Trot / …She can't tell a Tango from a Can Can or a Jig / …She's my little Anti-Ragtime Girl….

In Popular Culture[edit]

The Turkey Trot was featured on the 8th season episode of NCIS False Witness. Show character Abby Sciuto dances the trot as she examines a turkey as evidence.

In Season 5, Episode 14 of Mad About You guest star Mel Brooks, playing "Uncle Phil", leads a group of hospital attendants in a singing version of The Turkey Trot.

In Season 2, Episode 5 of the period drama The Duchess of Duke Street, Gemma Jones and Christopher Cazenove perform a version of the Turkey Trot.


  1. ^ Cobb, Roughing It De Luxe, p. 143.