Friday, 7 December 2012

Fox Trot anyone?

I was curious, having heard recordings of Canaro playing foxtrot. & of course we know from the old-timers that it used to be a popular dance in Buenos Aires alongside tango. YouTube found me this:

Fascinating! First off, I checked the British Pathe site, and the film is early 1920s, so it is silent. The soundtrack has been added, but it seems to fit the dance well enough to give an idea of the musicality.

So it's an upright and close-embrace dance! Quite unlike the ballroom version. & doesn't it look as if it could be an improvised dance? It's a walking dance with a traspie to the front and side, the sort of thing you could improvise as the music played, especially since the embrace is close: as in tango, the leader's torso would signal movements. Of course, the partner would be listening to the music too, and would know what to expect. It doesn't look like it needs to be a choreographed dance.

Wikipedia is the next port of call. Why is it called Fox Trot? Because the basic walk is danced with the feet along a straight line: the prints of a fox's paws in the snow are in a straight line. (The prints of a dog show two lines.) Fascinating! Especially since that's the effect of 'collecting'. I find 'collecting' hard to remember and practice, but think of it as stepping in exactly the place your partner's foot has just left and it makes sense, to me anyway. It's a very neat, tidy walk, stepping right under your partner. Watch any video of Osvaldo and Coca...

The Foxtrot was picked up around 1912 by Vernon Castle, from an 'exclusive coloured club' where it had been danced for some years. Vernon and his wife Irene were prominent US dance teachers and enthusiasts for Afro-American music. It was to become the most popular of social dances; most dance records up until the 1950s were foxtrot.

Two curious facts: when the Castles first introduced it they called it the 'Bunny hug' -- and then decided better. & when Decca released Rock around the Clock they didn't know what to call this kind of music, so they called it a Foxtrot. Rock around the Clock was the best-selling foxtrot of all time.

Couldn't the foxtrot make a come-back? Not the (rather absurd) choreographed ballroom version, but the neat, elegant version of this film, which I'd assume is much closer to the original? Alongside tango, vals, milonga? It seems to belong to that family of dances, even if the music is different.


Janis said...

you forgot Harry --

Rock around the Clock - a foxtrot? that is news to me!

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Jantango.

But wikipedia doesn't say that Rock around was a foxtrot, just that that's what Decca called it. Check out the record label: you can find it here if you scroll down: The label clearly says 'FOX TROT Vocal Chorus by BILL HAYLEY'

As to Harry Fox -- who knows? I'm inclined to believe the story that the dance came from coloured clubs around 1910. Several (white) people could have discovered it and popularised it at the same time.

What matters to me is that video. I love that quick, lively dance, and I think it's close to tango and milonga.

Tangocommuter said...

PS: Check out that quick, neat giro between 00:42 and 00:48. Familiar?

Random Tango Bloke said...

When I was in BA earier in the year there was a bit of foxtrot played (along with paso doble). I was interested to see how the leaders would dance it - but wasn't really convinced by what I saw. It seemed to be a bit of mishmash between milonga and tango - with no clear style.

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks for the comment, RTB, and glad you had a chance to visit earlier in the year. Hope you had plenty of good dances there.

I've not noticed Foxtrot there: where did you watch it? Paso Doble I've seen, especially in the Latin tandas at Lo de Celia. Of course the popular non-tango tandas are usually rock. I guess that Foxtrot has been taken over by ballroom teachers for so long that it would be hard to uncover the original, although I think this video may show something of the pre-ballroom dance, which could be resurrected from it. I don't know if anyone teaches anything like this now.

Random Tango Bloke said...


Yes I had some great dances there - thank you. It makes dancing in London all the harder when I come back to be honest.

Tended to be the Rodriguez foxtrots - locations wise I can not remember exactly. But I danced in all the usual suspects : Lo de Celias / Los consegrados / Sueno Porteno / La Nacional / El Beso etc it would have been at these types of venues.