Thursday, July 24, 2008

What is a "foxtrot"?


The foxtrot is a ballroom dance named after Harry Fox, the vaudeville actor who invented it in the early 1900s. It's an altered version of the popular two-step but with two quicker steps (otherwise known as trots) figured in, making the dance pattern slow-slow-quick-quick. The wildly popular foxtrot eventually branched into two separate evolutions: the quickstep, which is a combination of the foxtrot and the charleston danced to much faster music, and the slowfox, the slower version of the foxtrot that retains most of its original qualities. Both are still danced today, though the quickstep seems to be the most common.

Though all music used to dance the foxtrot became known as foxtrot music, it was initially danced exclusively to ragtime. Foxtrot ragtime is a syncopated style of music characterized by a bass note on the first and third beats and short chords on the second and fourth; foxtrot ragtime (or ragtime in general) is also known for its use of the walking bass. It's a fairly upbeat, energetic style of music that fit surprisingly well with the happy foxtrot.

Ragtime music, in all of its many forms, eventually became so entwined with the foxtrot that all ragtime was considered by some to be merely foxtrot music. But it's important to note here that foxtrot ragtime, in all its popular glory, was a late, late version of the influential style of music. Prior to the foxtrot craze, ragtime was slightly less syncopated and of a slightly different dynamic. It was certainly a danceable style of music, but it didn't become exclusively associated with any one dance until the foxtrot was popularized in the early 1900s. Foxtrot ragtime, the late version that accompanied the dance, added a syncopated dotted-note beat to accommodate the foxtrot steps. The foxtrot, even as it lost some of its steam, eventually moved on to be danced to a variety of musical styles, but its earliest heyday will always be associated with the late era of foxtrot ragtime.

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