Foxtrot – Beginners Tutorial

Grab your fishnets, cane, and hat (pinstripe suit for the gents 😉), and let’s hit the dancefloor! Foxtrot is so much fun – it’s smooth, jazzy, playful, and cool all at the same time. Of course, it will take some practice to get to the point where you can really get into the character and play, but for now, let’s learn more about this fun dance and how to get started on your trotting journey! Below is a look into what I will be covering in this post.

Topics Covered Today:

· History and Characteristics
· Foxtrot Music and Counting
· Dancing the Basic
· Dancing with a Partner

History and Characteristics

Before Foxtrot started to become what it is today people danced many other “trot” dances that were named after different animals such as the Turkey Trot, Monkey Dance, Horsetrot, and others. These were all very fast and jerky dances done to ragtime music. In 1914 Harry Fox started dancing his version of the “trot” at the Jardin De Danse on the rooftop of the New York Theatre and this became known as “Fox’s Trot”. Like the other trots, this was danced to ragtime music and was fast and jerky. However, when the Foxtrot traveled to Europe a lot of the jerkiness was removed and became a smoother version that is more “waltz-like”. This is the Foxtrot we know and dance today. It’s characterized by is smooth, gliding look with an easy-going look and in the American style, is also characterized by its brushing and lilting actions.

Foxtrot Music and Counting

Foxtrot music varies but now has many modern options due to the classics being remade. Before we go into the type of music, let’s cover some of the musical information. Foxtrot is danced in 4/4 time and is between 128-136 beats per minute (32-34 bars per minute). Also, Foxtrot is typically danced to Big Band Swing music.

Below are a few songs you can dance Foxtrot to:

Fly Me to the Moon: https://youtu.be/ZEcqHA7dbwM
Big Spender: https://youtu.be/jM9nZKfcQf8
Just One Dance: https://youtu.be/6QUmPZmkr4I

American Foxtrot has two main rhythms, and we call them Basic Rhythm and Box Rhythm. In Foxtrot, we primarily count with slows (S) and Quicks (Q), where a slow is worth two beats and a quick is worth one beat. The basic rhythm is a 6-count rhythm counted SSQQ and is primarily used only in American Style. The box rhythm is a 4-count rhythm that is counted SQQ, which is more Waltz like.

Scott and Trish dancing foxtrot at Lone Start Ball Competition
Scott and Trish dancing foxtrot at Lone Start Ball Competition

Dancing the Basic

American Foxtrot is one of the first dances I teach students who are looking to learn Ballroom dancing. The reason I like to introduce students to Foxtrot in the early stages of their dancing is due to it’s similarities to walking. As you progress in your dancing, you will see that Foxtrot requires lots of technical skills to make it look and feel as effortless and beautiful as the professionals! However, my initial goal is to get you up and dancing around the floor and we can sprinkle in some technique as we go. In-time, you’ll start to really feel like your dancing. So, let’s get to it!

As in most dances, the leaders will begin with their left foot and the followers will begin with their right. Below is a breakdown of the basic step for both the leader and follower.

Leaders steps: Begin by taking two forward walks (left, right) followed by two steps to the left (side, close.)
Followers steps: Begin by taking two backward walks (right, left) followed by two steps to the right (side, close.)
Check out this video of me demonstrating the Leader’s Basic Step along with a couple of technical tips: https://www.facebook.com/665881863801998/videos/2653952484928626

When dancing the Foxtrot, you will keep your feet in contact with the floor as you transition from foot to foot. This is what gives Foxtrot its gliding look. When stepping forward, you will roll from the back of your foot (the heel) to the front of your foot (the toe), just like you do when you walk, without picking your foot up from the floor. This is a called a heel lead. On backward walks, you will roll from the toe to the heel, just as you would when walking back normally. On the side steps, you will push from the ball of one foot and land on the toe of the other foot, just like you saw in the video above.

The timing for the Basic is SSQQ, as mentioned in the previous section. On the walking steps, each step will take two beats of music (SS) and on the side step, each step will take one beat of the music (QQ). From there repeat this pattern while counting SSQQ until you get to the other end of the floor. I recommend throwing on one of the songs listed above and try this to music a few times to get a feel for the movement with the music. Below is a video on Foxtrot Musicality. This video will help you understand the beats and when to start dancing to music.

Foxtrot Musicality Video – https://youtu.be/ozIu3Ods7Wg

Dancing with a Partner

Congrats! We have made it to the final piece – dancing with a partner! This is what many enjoy most about ballroom dancing. When dancing with a partner, it’s important to maintain good posture and a solid frame. First, let’s talk about what it means to have good posture and why it’s important. To have good posture, you need to keep your blocks of weight properly aligned and maintain it as you go from step to step. There are four areas that make up the blocks of weight: head, shoulders, ribs, and hips. Your head should be back with the chin level with the ground, shoulders down and out, rib cage should be flat, and hips neutral. When one of these blocks is out of place it will throw off your balance causing you to depend on your partner to hold you up. One way to feel this posture is to stand with your heels up against a wall, lean your head onto the wall, and try to minimize the space between your back and the wall (your back won’t be completely flesh to the wall because there is a natural curve to the spine.)

Now that you have amazing posture, you are ready to take frame and dance with someone else! The frame is how you hold your arms in relation to your torso to connect with your partner. Arms should be lifted and toned, and followers’ arms should also be light and responsive. Below is a video on how to get into a closed position (dance frame) for Foxtrot.

Closed position in Foxtrot – https://youtu.be/6zYF71wWfys

Next, take your closed position and dance the basic step together while counting SSQQ. When you feel ready, dance the Basic to music and practice, practice, practice!

To get you even more inspired, check out the link below to watch students competing with their instructors (Pro/Am) dancing the Foxtrot.

Pro/AM Competition Video – https://youtu.be/RRthvZn7Fq4

I hope you enjoyed today’s post! Happy learning and dancing 😊


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