The Quickstep electrifies, enchants and swings, but it never loses its countenance. It relaxes you, and frees you, but it always keeps its flow. It electrifies you and keeps you under its spell, but it will not let you loose. It is open and modern, but it never forgets its origin. It is cheerful and funny, but it never appears vulgar. The Quickstep is a cheerful dance. It is exuberant life and is therefore, no doubt, one of the most popular dances among the audience.
A Detailed History of the Quickstep
The Quickstep is a continuation of the Foxtrot and thus also a representative of the English style. Its roots lie, like Foxtrot, in Ragtime, so in North America. These two dances do not have the charisma of, for example, the passionate Tango or the aristocratic Viennese Waltz. This is due to their origin; the dances of the Foxtrot family are not deeply rooted, but constructed dances – and to take that literally would mean they are nothing more than natural movement brought into an artificial form.
Nevertheless, both dances have their popular and desirable characteristics with special aesthetic expressions – although they are quite different. The Foxtrot is English conservative, the Quickstep, on the other hand, loves the fashionable look that sometimes brings the audience to ecstasy. This even went so far that conservative circles until recently claimed that the Quickstep was irreconcilable with the English style. So the Quickstep is a dance that may well create controversy. This makes it likable; nevertheless it has always been “very British.”
Beginning in 1924 the Foxtrot was already danced with 50 beats per minute. This fast speed, however, prevented big, open steps like in the Slow Foxtrot. So a certain J. Bradley recommended a simple walking step instead of a triple step. This was so to say the beginning of the Quickstep. This name was suggested by the two dance instructors Pierre and Prucell. The new dance, however, was forced to remain in its “hatching stage” for a while because another dance hit like a bolt from the blue; the Charleston, a direct competitor to the quick ballroom dances. In 1925 a Charleston frenzy broke out. This dance, with its quick kicks to the outside and its inward-pointing feet, was however a spot dance, rather contrary to the English sense of movement. So the English gave their Charleston a quicker variant and banned for example the typical kicks. In this form the Charleston replaced the One Step, predecessor of the Foxtrot, almost completely.
The One Step was still danced at the world championships in 1925, but already at the next championships in 1927 it was ousted. The Foxtrot took its place, however set with flat Charleston steps. In the beginning the name of this new variant was “Quickstep Foxtrot and Charleston.” The name Quickstep appeared in this form for the first time on the international dance stage in 1927. This was the true birth of the Quickstep. Gradually this dance lost the knee movements still characteristic for the Charleston. From 1928 on, one spoke either only of Quickstep or only of Foxtrot. Quickstep and Foxtrot were from now on two separate dances. Finally, the great conference in 1929 made a clear separation between the two. The Quickstep kept the Chassé and the Foxtrot was given its characteristic open steps.
The Charleston, however, left another small trace in the Quickstep; though the typical throwing of the legs disappeared completely and the knees were not bent anymore, they were still relaxed like in Charleston. After 1930 this last trace also disappeared and a lot of other figures were included until 1935: the right axe turn, the left axe turn, the Chassé left turn, the pulling step, the zigzag running and many more. These figures are part of the standard steps. The typical Charleston step from 1932 was lost forever. The complete right turn had never been really popular anyway and was completely replaced by the axe turn. In addition, there was the influence of the new swing music from the USA, which gave the Quickstep a more relaxed rhythm and therefore made it more danceable.
The Quickstep is a popular dance among the audience. It might not have the dignity of the other English style dances, but it seems light, weightless, playful, and always creates a good mood, especially among the audience. Compared to the Foxtrot it is more willing to adopt new influences from the outside into its style. The Foxtrot is modest and doesn’t want to disturb, it also has no fancy tricks; it would rather like to be seen as elegant and remind one of an English gentleman. This understatement belongs to its most glittering characteristics. The difference between its Slows and Quicks should never be emphasized, so that the solemn, even stepping forward will be in the foreground.
The Quickstep, on the other hand, is rather fashionable. It is spontaneous, open, cheerful, without ever losing its character. Its basic theme is the closed feet in the movement, while the Chassé has always been its only basic step. It lacks the even steps full of dignity, but surprises its audience with pronounced, merry hopping steps. This does not mean that the Quickstep shouldn’t be danced in a floating and flowing manner. This is the special challenge for the couple. It has no breaks – and for this reason, it doesn’t have any jolting or staggering movements.
The Quickstep is probably the most lively of all the Standard Dances; it is quick and dynamic in its progressive movements, agile also in its characteristic hopping steps. Today it belongs no doubt to the most popular of the modern ballroom dances. The Quickstep has been a competition dance since 1928 and in the World Dance Program since 1963.