• 03/22/2018
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Dances of the Roarin’ Twenties

The 1920s were an era known for its dramatic attitude — wild, carefree, extravagant, and a party all night long. Prohibition couldn’t stop the speakeasies or debauchery, dance halls featured dance marathons lasting days (or weeks!), and the public didn’t want the party to stop. And what’s a party without dancing?

Many dances were popular in the 1920s. Some are still known and beloved today, whereas others have faded into history books. Dancing was the social activity, among all ages and all walks of life. Pre-war dances such as the Waltz and the Tango remained popular, and new dances came into the spotlight, boosted in popularity by Broadway shows and movies (and yes, even a man by the name of Arthur Murray).

The Foxtrot first became popular in the 1920s. Since it had gotten introduced barely prior the war, it wasn’t seen as old-fashioned. But there was a lot of confusion over what exactly the Foxtrot was — many types of music and dancing were marketed as Foxtrot, hoping to ride on its coattails, including a style called the One-Step that remained popular throughout the decade.

Out of this strange Foxtrot divide came a bouncier version, initially called the Toddle. The Toddle in turn became what is known now as the Peabody: even bouncier, and even more popular at dance halls and parties.

The Charleston was another dance craze of the 20s, popularized by the song “The Charleston” by James P. Johnson. It was first used in the Broadway musical Runnin’ Wild, and spread like wildfire to the dance halls across the country.

Dances come and go no matter the era. Some dance fads have real staying power, like Foxtrot and Peabody. Others, like the Turkey Trot, fade out after their time in the spotlight. Some dances evolve into other types, or perhaps some steps live on in other styles. Next time you’re watching Quickstep, look out for some Charleston flavor.

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