In our ever, continuing effort to understand the finer points of dancing and dancesport, we look at one of the dances often seen in competition.  The Foxtrot, previously known as the Fox Trot, sometimes known as the Slow Fox, or even Slow Dancing is one of those standards everybody expects to see at a competition.  No, it is not because everybody needs time to take a nap and doze between the exciting rounds at competitions, it is because this “all American dance” demonstrates skills necessary to being an all around good dancer.  We may get to those attributes later, but answer this first…  The most popular music performed by the trios in clubs is the song where everybody in the house is willing to get up, and get on the floor, and cuddle.  Dancesport enthusiasts call this “Why Dance” music.  This is normally a very slow Foxtrot.  If the goal is to show a variety of skills, it seems to me the ability to stand and show proper balance after so many drinks might be considered a legitimate sport in its own right.


Before I digress too far, let us go back to the dance and name.  Folk history states the dance originated as a dance for a Broadway show or some such revue by a man named Harry Fox.  It was his trot across the floor that was the rage that propelled this dance to international competitions in future years.  I wonder how his family must feel when we are in such a hurry to call out the dance’s name that we can’t even leave his name alone without marrying it to the trot.  I wonder if Astaire or Murray would have consented to their names being combined to other terms.  I wonder if there was a Johann Waltz, or Juan Bolero.  Maybe, Harry should be happy we left any part of his name in there.  I have heard the Cha-Cha used to be called the Cha-Cha-Cha, now it’s the Cha-Cha, and if you look at many competition entry forms it is the Cha.  If it gets any shorter, it will be, “Honey do you want to dance a ‘C’?”  While this may work for some dances, too many start with ‘S’ so maybe we can stop being in such a hurry.


This brings me to the next point, if speed is so important why is the Foxtrot music being played at competitions so slow, that it won’t even qualify for the beginning of a New Orleans’s funeral march.  Somewhere, sometime, America the leader of the free world, gave up its right to control its own, and you know how much we like control.  Some might say that some of our friends across the pond control all dance related rules, regulations, traditions, etc. since they first came up with the idea that a man & woman couple could compete together against another couple dancing.  Whoever came up with this idea should have been up for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Imagine you could fight with another couple and not with each other.  Promote peace and harmony in the Smith household.  Normally this alone would be sufficient to endow eternal rights, but the plan backfired.  Now the competition has grown so fierce that couples practice and the fights that arise during practice are far worse than previous household disagreements.  Thus any eternal rights should be forfeit.


Technical experts will tell you the slow music is necessary to properly contrast the Quickstep and to allow for a proper demonstration of smooth continuous movement where the movement through the steps is more important than the steps themselves.  They might even tell you the continuity, follow through, and footwork can only be properly displayed at such a snail like pace.  They might even be right, but that is not the point.  We, as Americans, like action.  Are we going to be satisfied, to allow a bunch of funny talking people tell us how we should dance good old American music?  Do you like American football or that sissy football where they don’t even need pads and helmets?  Fields so large, grass actually grows.  People spread out all over the place, they don’t even have a huddle.  Maybe that is why competition couples never talk to each other anymore and look way over there and not at each other.

There is another carry over from the bigger field.  Now there is a proposed, or by date of publication a passed, new rule that all floors in competitions will have to be even larger.  I am sure this must be due to the fact that collisions are not considered desirable.  Do you think if the music is that slow, maybe at least they should have to maneuver some to make it interesting?  If the floors gets any bigger, everyone will have to have binoculars, then you won’t be able to see the big picture, and you will be at the mercy of the judges who will know better, and will have the superior eyesight.  Better yet, what if the music tempo changed during the dance.  Viennese Waltzes, like Polkas used to get faster, and faster until the last couple standing won.  Imagine a Foxtrot that speeds up and slows down intermittently.  That could really show who listens and who just goes through their steps no matter what.

At any rate it is the American Fox Trot, and even with all the hoopla from overseas, we should let today’s music dictate the dancers’ interpretations, and not make everybody lockstep to somebody else’s drummer.  Change is never easy, and great strides have been made by some of our competitors to keep America’s dance different.  They should be congratulated and applauded, and even rewarded.  It might be high time we export more than we import.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 06

February 7, 2003

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