- Claude Conyers
An American social dance of the 20th century. It was originated in the summer of 1914 by vaudeville dancer and comedian Harry Fox (1882–1959), who was then appearing in a dancing act with his company of six “American Beauties” at the New York Theater. As part of the act, he did a dance of trotting steps to ragtime music. The dance caught the fancy of spectators, who were soon imitating it on the dance floor of the Jardin de Danse, the rooftop nightclub at the theater. The steps were recorded by dance instructor F. Leslie Clendenen in his 1914 book Dance Mad as “The Fox Trot, as danced by Mr. Fox.” The name caught on, and the dance caught the attention of exhibition dancers Vernon and Irene Castle, who altered some of Fox’s trotting steps to a smooth glide and, with the help of their musical director James Reese Europe, created an exhibition dance to W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues.” Their dance was soon being done by couples dancing to various ragtime tunes and who were happy to call it the “foxtrot” and think of it as one of the “animal dances” so popular during the ragtime era. However, unlike the aquiline eagle rock, the ursine grizzly bear, and the meleagrine turkey trot, there is nothing vulpine about the foxtrot....