The story of the Foxtrot begins at the turn of the 20th century when African American musicians such as Scott Joplin began composing syncopated ragtime music. A smooth dance like the Waltz would not do for this fervent new music. One of the first dances to evolve for ragtime music was the Turkey Trot, a one-step that included flapping the arms like a turkey. Then came the Monkey Dance, Horse Trot, Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hop and Kangaroo Dip. Ragtime demanded dances with jerky steps, 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 the Foxtrot’s patterns have been adapted straight from the Waltz.
Key characteristics of the Foxtrot are smooth, gliding steps with controlled movement and an easygoing look. The Foxtrot can be danced to many styles of music. There are two styles of Foxtrot: social style may be danced with a mild bounce action, while competitive style has a smoother, more Waltz-like feeling.