What is the Foxtrot?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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The foxtrot is a ballroom dance named after its originator, Harry Fox, who developed the dance in 1914 for his vaudeville act. The original version is quite fast, and is actually more similar to the Quickstep as it is now judged in International ballroom competitions. In fact, the dance is now often called the slow foxtrot as it tends to be danced to relatively slow music, such as blues, emphasizing the closed and perfect upper body form of the dancers, with relatively slow foot movement.

When the foxtrot first gained popularity, it was often tied to performance of the Charleston, and many publications and family organizations denounced the dance as impure. Catholics discouraged people from performing the dance, certain it would lead to bad morals, and it was referred to as “syncopated embrace.”

Since anything originating from vaudeville was suspect, the fact that the partners danced closely together in the foxtrot was enough to at once morally denounce those performing the dance. This disapproval had the tendency to incite young people to learn the foxtrot as quickly as they could. Thus moral authorities inadvertently encouraged dancers by their disapprobation.


The very basic version of the foxtrot is slow, slow, quick, and quick. Usually the slow, slow would be danced on the 1st and 3rd beats of a 4/4 measure. The quick, quick closes the dance on the second measure of 4/4 time. Beats 5 and 6 are usually devoted to a slow turn, and quick, quick occurs on beats 7 and 8.

The foxtrot is thought of as a very “classy” dance, with a somewhat prancing, showcasing quality to the moves that resembles the steps of a fox. The partners are close together, and the dance has a slight sensuality to it. It is considered by most to be relatively tame compared to some of the overtly sensual Latin Ballroom dances. There is, however, a deliberate quality to the movements that make it similar to the tango.

Emphasis in the foxtrot is on creating beautiful lines, holds, and turns that showcase the synchronicity of the partners dancing together. The slow steps are ideal for creating beautiful lines of the partners. Turns and dips are held, and really must be technically perfect to awe an audience.

Despite the technical expertise required at the competitive level, the foxtrot is considered one of the easier dances to learn, at least in the basic steps and counts. The foxtrot is adaptable to a number of different musical styles, though it is perhaps loveliest when performed to 1940s smooth jazz. It can be adapted, however, to blues, and to slow rock and roll hits for ballroom enthusiasts.


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