The foxtrot is a smooth, progressive dance characterized by long, continuous flowing movements across the dance floor. It is danced to big band (usually vocal) music. The dance is similar in its look to waltz, although the rhythm is in a 4
4 time signature instead of 3
4. Developed in the 1910s, the foxtrot reached its height of popularity in the 1930s, and remains practiced today.
The dance was premiered in 1914, quickly catching the eye of the husband and wife duo Vernon and Irene Castle, who lent the dance its signature grace and style. The exact origin of the name of the dance is unclear, although one theory is that it took its name from its popularizer, the vaudeville actor Harry Fox. Two sources credit African American dancers as the source of the Foxtrot: Vernon Castle himself, and dance teacher Betty Lee. Castle saw the dance, which "had been danced by negroes, to his personal knowledge, for fifteen years, [at] a certain exclusive colored club".
W. C. Handy ("Father of the Blues") notes in his autobiography that his "The Memphis Blues" was the inspiration for the Foxtrot. During breaks from the fast paced Castle Walk and One-step, Vernon and Irene Castle's music director, James Reese Europe, would slowly play the Memphis Blues. The Castles were intrigued by the rhythm and Jim asked why they didn't create a slow dance to go with it. The Castles introduced what they then called the "Bunny Hug" in a magazine article. Shortly after, they went abroad and, in mid-ocean, sent a wireless to the magazine to change the name of the dance from "Bunny Hug" to the "Foxtrot." It was subsequently standardized by Arthur Murray, in whose version it began to imitate the positions of Tango.
At its inception, the foxtrot was originally danced to ragtime. From the late teens through the 1940s, the foxtrot was certainly the most popular fast dance and the vast majority of records issued during these years were foxtrots. The waltz and tango, while popular, never overtook the foxtrot. Even the popularity of the lindy hop in the 1940s did not affect the foxtrot's popularity, since it could be danced to the same records used to accompany the lindy hop.
When rock and roll first emerged in the early 1950s, record companies were uncertain as to what style of dance would be most applicable to the music. Notably, Decca Records initially labeled its rock and roll releases as "foxtrots", most notably "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets. Since that recording, by some estimates, went on to sell more than 25 million copies, "Rock Around the Clock" could be considered the biggest-selling "foxtrot" of all time. Today, the dance is customarily accompanied by the same big band music to which swing is also danced.
Over time, the foxtrot split into slow and quick versions, referred to as "foxtrot" and "quickstep" respectively. In the slow category, further distinctions exist between the International or English style of the foxtrot and the continuity American style, both built around a slow-quick-quick rhythm at the slowest tempo, and the social American style using a slow-slow-quick-quick rhythm at a somewhat faster pace. In the context of International Standard category of ballroom dances, for some time the foxtrot was called "Slow Foxtrot", or "Slowfox". These names are still in use, to distinguish from other types of foxtrots.
- International or English style foxtrot This is by no means an exhaustive list.
- "Streetswing's Dance History Archives". Retrieved 2009-02-04.
- Hawkins, Christina M. (2002). A Compilation and Analysis of the Origins of the Foxtrot in White Mainstream America (Master of Arts thesis). Brigham Young University Department of Dance. p. 18. Retrieved Feb 14, 2012.
- Father of the Blues by William Christopher Handy. 1941 MacMillan page 226 no ISBN in this edition
- "For many years, the Guinness Book of World Records listed Haley's version as the top-selling pop record of all time with 25 million copies sold -- a record that stood until 1997 and which technically remains intact as Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" tribute to Princess Diana was issued a CD-single, not a vinyl 45." 'Rock Around the Clock' Tribute". Retrieved July 11, 2012.
- "The Ballroom Technique", 10th Ed., Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, London