The Foxtrot originated in the summer of 1914 by Vaudeville actor Harry Fox. Born Arthur Carringford in Pomona, California, in 1882, he adopted the stage name of “Fox” after his grandfather.
In early 1914, Fox was appearing in various vaudeville shows in the New York area. One such show was the Ziegfeld Follies of 1914, in which Fox danced some trotting steps to ragtime music as part of his act. It delighted audiences and quickly caught on, and people referred to his dance as Fox’s Trot. Though the original version exhibited by Mr. Fox was very jerky and athletic, dance teachers tamed it and proved it to be a perfect dance for ragtime music.
Vernon and Irene Castle, a British and American husband and wife dance team, were exhibition dancers of outstanding talent and charm. Their rendition of the Foxtrot was the most original and exciting of their various dances.
As a result of the rising popularity of ballroom dance, evolving a form of dance that could express the music of the time and still be contained in a small area became necessary. This did not mean that the “traveling” Foxtrot was dropped, but the “on the spot” dance did provide a means where large numbers of people could dance and enjoy the new sounds and beats of America.
In England, the “hops, kicks, and capers” of the American Foxtrot were removed; and figures such as “butterfly, twinkle, and chasse” laid the foundation of the smoother English version. Today, this smoother version remains and bears little resemblance to the original.
Up to that time, the Foxtrot was the most significant development in all of ballroom dancing. The combination of quick and slow steps permitted more flexibility and greater dancing pleasure than its forbearers, the one-step and two-step. There is more variety in the Foxtrot than in any other dance.
Variations of the Foxtrot include the Peabody and Quickstep. Even dances such as the Lindy and the Hustle are derived to some extent from the Foxtrot.