Slow Foxtrot

The Slow Foxtrot: English Elegance Conquers the World

The Slow Foxtrot is the ultimate representative for the “English dance culture”. Furthermore, when the Slow Foxtrot was created from Foxtrot in the first part of the 20th century, England rose to be the dominating nation in competition dance. Here the first world championships took place and English dancers became the first champions.  If you know how Slow Foxtrot developed, you know the history of the competition dances.

A Detailed History of the Slow Foxtrot

The Foxtrot, from which the Slow Foxtrot was later developed, evolved from the Ragtime in North America between 1910 and 1915. It also implemented elements from the One-step, Two-step and the Castle Walk. With its fast and slow steps, based on natural walking, it became a pioneer for the “English style.”

The origin of its name cannot be definitely placed anymore today, as the sources are too ambiguous.  Probably the name Foxtrot can be traced back to the actor Harry Fox, who connected the Ragtime with many steps form the One-step and Castle Walk in his dance show “Harry Fox & the Zigfeld Follies”. In this way the Foxtrot appeared for the first time in the USA in the summer of 1914 and with his popular show, Fox quickly spread this dance to the public. The most popular derivation of the name, the one referring to the fox, is probably wrong.

The ragtime as the forefather of Foxtrot was the first music trend from the USA to be transmitted on sound carriers. In this way it represents a significant era in American entertainment music. Between 1897 and 1917 it dominated the American music stage and developed, like almost all American music and dance trends, from the suffering of the African slaves, who in this manner came to terms with their destiny in the New World. Blues and jazz, the music of Blacks, also have their roots in ragtime.

Shortly before the First World War, the ballroom dance Foxtrot, with its origin in the Ragtime, came to England. There, the first Foxtrot ball took place in 1915. The Foxtrot soon established itself as the most important representative for the many walking – and step dances. Through this it adapted more components from other modern dances, leaving traces still visible today.

It was first and foremost English dance teachers who defined ballroom dances anew and who developed new techniques in the 1920s. At the biggest conference for English dance teachers in 1920, the basics for many new dances were developed. Complicated dance figures were simplified for the main public.  This is how the already mentioned “English style” evolved in 1921, which is characterized most of all by its “normal” walking movements.

This relatively simple character has established itself as basis for the standard dance. Shortly after, in 1922, Victor Silvester became the first man to win a world championship in dance, naturally taking place in London. London quickly established itself as the world capital for all standard dances. English dancers have dominated the world’s dancing stages ever since.

From 1923 on fluent movements more and more replaced the previous marching-like steps. The dance tempo steadily increased. In 1923, in the Queen’s Hall in London, there was another world championship where Foxtrot was also danced.  In 1924 the slow and the quick Foxtrot were  finally separated and called “Slow Foxtrot” and “Quick-time”. The slow foxtrot had been born into the dancing world.

Both new forms were included in the newly developed competition dance program. The way the slow foxtrot has been danced since then is characterized by wide curves with progressive turns and long waves, which are not allowed to come to a stop. The couple should possibly uniformly and without any stops slide over the dance floor. The slow foxtrot therefore needs a lot of space and can hardly be danced in public without sufficient room.

Another reason why it is difficult to dance is because it demands a high degree of body control from the dancers and at the same time shouldn’t look boring. This is the reason why slow foxtrot  is taught only at advanced level. In the following years, many new combinations evolved through the commercialization of the Foxtrot.   The Marching-, Blue-, Western-, Tango-, Samba-, Hawaiian-, Country-, Polka-, Beat-, Oriental- and many other Fox variations were developed.

In 1929 another meting of all British dance teachers took place, the so-called  “Great Conference”. For the One-step, Slow Foxtrot, Tango, Blues and Waltz a uniform “standard” was established. This is how the German name for today’s standard dances developed. At this groundbreaking conference the figures as well as the pace of the different dances were determined.  The development of our modern European standard dances is in other words closely related to the development of the Slow Foxtrot.

The Foxtrot was included in the World Dance Program in 1963, which established binding rules for dance schools all over the world.  The Slow Foxtrot, on the other hand, is unfortunately not included even today. While the standard dances Tango and the Wiener Waltz rather belong to the folk dances, the Foxtrot, and therefore also the Slow Foxtrot belong to the “constructed” dances.  Many artificial turns, the body-close dancing pose and the lifting and lowering in these dances require great skill. Therefore more complex step combinations are not included in the training of beginners.


4/4 beat


28 – 34 beats/minute, competition pace: 30 beats/minute


Slow step: 2 measures, faster step: 1 measure.

Walking step:

slow fast fast slow fast fast

Dancing  posture and foot technique:

Standard dancing posture The footwork represents the natural walking movement. The forward steps are set down with the heel. Some given dance figures for dance performance:

Slow Foxtrot:

No dance figures are prescribed for the basic level of the general dance, as the Slow Foxtrot doesn’t belong to the World Dance Program