The art of dance has long been one of creativity and invention. Through the decades, it’s changed in so many ways. As a result, today’s world of “modern” dance is almost unrecognizable in comparison to dance just one century ago.
One of the most formidable decades of dance is that of the 1920s — an era of drinking, parties, color and flare. Women were feeling more empowered than ever, the economy was booming and the Harlem Renaissance took over the music scene. With that came a mirage of dance types.
Keep reading to find out more about some of the most popular dances of the 1920s.
According to Jennifer Rosenberg of ThoughtCo.com, the Charleston likely originated in Trinidad, Nigeria and Ghana. It was later used in Harlem productions until 1913, reaching peak popularity thanks to the musical “Runnin’ Wild” in 1923.
The Charleston is typically danced alongside ragtime jazz music. It can be danced with or without a partner.
“To begin the dance, one first steps back with the right foot and then kicks backward with the left foot while the right arm moves forward, says Rosenburg. “Then the left foot steps forward, followed by the right foot, which kicks forward while the right arm moves backward. This is done with a little hop in-between steps and the foot swiveling.”
The Fox Trot
The Turkey Trot was quickly becoming old fashioned in the 1920s. In response, the Fox Trot, a type of ballroom romp took its place. Young people were desperate for a new and exciting dance they could call their own, with a little touch of the past as well.
According to Richard Powers of VintageDancer.com, the Fox Trot is a fancy name for the “One Step”, an already popular dance of the early 1900s. This dance is simple and clean, a style popular among young people at the time, but the name was considered outdated. Hence, the name Fox Trot took over.
The Fox Trot encompasses a series of moves involving “walking steps, chassés (step side, close step), and quarter turns,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The Texas Tommy is considered the original swing dance, a style that become particularly popular in the 1930s and 1940s. It involves many simple moves such as the two-step, gallop and pivot, combined to create a dance that is equal parts clean and crazy.
In 1928, the Texas Tommy was renamed the “Lindy Hop” according to Powers. It “was soon captured on film when Snowden, his fellow Savoy Ballroom dancers and Chick Webb’s band performed it for the 1929 sound film After Seben.”
The name “Lindy Hop” didn’t totally catch on until the 1930s. However, the basics of the Texas Tommy that were built upon in the 1920s remain a staple indicator of the dance.
The 1920s were defined by nuance, change and creativity. This is a reality that is surely reflected in the popular dance styles of the times. These dances continue to influence the world of ballroom dance today and beyond.