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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Introduction to Foxtrot


In the summer of 1914, ragtime music was all the rage in America. A vaudeville star named Harry Fox included dancing in his act which featured fast moving, hoppy, “trotting” steps to the ragtime music. The dancing became very popular and became known as the “Fox Trot”. Very soon afterwards, professional ballroom teachers such as Vernon & Irene Castle and G.K. Anderson & Josephine Bradley adopted the new “Fox Trot” although they made it more graceful, slower, and smoother. It was this ballroom version that we now generally call “Foxtrot”. Some aspects of the original, fast, “trotting” style of dancing has still survived in what we now dance and call “Quickstep”. As a side note, Arthur Murray got his start in the dance business by printing the basic steps of Foxtrot and selling them for 10 cents each through the mail.
General Characteristics:
The Foxtrot is a smooth, progressive (i.e., traveling) dance. There is rise and fall but not as much as in Waltz – the emphasis is on moving, not on going up and down. As you become more familiar with Foxtrot, the figures you use have more passing steps in them rather than ending a figure with feet together (which is done often in waltz and other rhythms). The timing of many Foxtrot figures is generally SQQ, although SSQQ, SQ&Q, and even SQQ-QQQQ are also common. The rich variety of Foxtrot figures helps make it one of the most versatile of all the rhythms – although this also makes it a little more difficult to master. In any case, remember that the originator, Harry Fox, danced with a care-free, entertaining, and joyous spirit --- and you can too.


Begin most Foxtrot figures by relaxing the knee of the leg you have your weight on (thus lowering) as you take the first step. Note how the heel of the foot taking that first step contacts the floor first. Such “heel leads” are common in Foxtrot. As you finish the first step you roll onto the ball of the foot and begin rising – but not as much as in waltz. You instead glide forward into the second and third steps of the figure thus progressing and moving smoothly across the dance floor.


  • Close: Bring free foot together to weighted foot and change weight.
  • Touch: Bring free foot together to weighted foot but keep free foot free (don’t change weight.)
  • Lead (hand, foot): Man’s left and Lady’s right.
  • Trail (hand, foot): Man’s right and Lady’s left.
  • Closed Position (CP): Stand close, facing partner, slightly offset so that right toes are pointed ahead between partner’s feet. Join man’s left hand and lady’s right hand and hold “eye-high” extended to the side but with arms still curved. Man’s right hand rests on lady’s left shoulder blade with right elbow the same height and distance from body as his left elbow. Lady’s left hand rests on man’s upper right arm. Lady turns her head to look to her left and man holds head erect looking over lady’s right shoulder.
  • Semi-Closed Position (SCP): Similar to CP but lady turns to her right (head, hips, knees, and toes) while maintaining the same CP hand holds and upper body frame. The man turns toes and head slightly to his left but leads the lady by turning his hips and upper body slightly to his right.
  • Banjo Position (BJO): Similar to CP but man turns hips and knees slightly to his left while the lady turns her hips and knees slightly to her left. The lady is still in front of the man’s right hip (not side by side), and toes of both man and lady are pointed outside of partner. Keep upper body frame the same (hands, arms, head) as CP.
  • Sidecar Position (SCAR): Similar to CP but man turns head and knees slightly to his right while the lady turns her head and knees slightly to her right. The lady is still in front of the man’s left hip (not side by side), and toes of both man and lady are pointed outside of partner. Keep upper body frame the same (hands, arms, and especially the head) as CP.


On all figures below, the foot placement given is for the man. The lady’s footwork is opposite unless otherwise stated (given within parentheses).
  • Box: Forward, - , Side, Close ; Back, - , Side, Close ;
  • Left Turning Box: Forward turning ¼ Left Face (LF), - , Side, Close; Back turning ¼ LF, - , Side, Close ; Forward turning ¼ LF, - , Side, Close ; Back turning ¼ LF, - , Side, Close ;
  • Box Finish: Back with trail foot turning up to ¼ LF, - , Side with lead foot, Close;
  • Feather Finish: Back with trail foot turning LF, - , Side with lead foot turning LF to BJO, Forward crossing in front (Lady cross in back) ending in BJO ; turns up to 1/2
  • Forward & Run Two: Forward, - , Forward, Forward ;
  • Three Step: Forward, - , Forward to CP, Forward ;
  • Feather: Forward, - , Forward, Forward to BJO ;
  • Hover: Forward L, - , Side R (rising), Side L to SCP ;
  • Pickup: Cross trail foot thru, - , Side turning LF ¼, Close; (Lady cross trail foot thru turning LF to Closed Position, Side, Close ; )
  • Manuever: Cross trail foot thru turning RF to Closed Position, - , Side, Close ; (Lady cross trail foot thru, Side turning RF ¼ , Close ; )
  • Left Turns: Forward turning 3/8 LF, - , Side, Close; Back turning 3/8 LF, - , Side, Close ;
  • Right Turns: Back turning 3/8 RF, - , Side, Close; Forward turning 3/8 LF, - , Side, Close ;
  • Thru Chasse to SCP (or BJO) : Thru with trail foot to face partner, then “syncopated” side/close, side ending in either SCP or BJO ;
  • Forward Forward/Lock Forward: Forward, - , Forward/Lock, Forward ; (If beginning in BJO, then Lady will be going Back, - , Back/Lock in front, Back ; )
  • Turn Left & Chasse Right to BJO : Forward with lead foot turning LF, - , Side/Close, Side turning LF to BJO ;
  • Spin Turn: Back with lead foot pivoting RF in closed position, - , Forward trail foot rising and continuing RF turn (total turn about 5/8 RF from beginning alignment), Back with lead foot still in closed position;
  • Closed Impetus: Just like a Spin Turn except the Man closes on his second step pivoting on his left heel but transferring weight to his right toe and rising to finish the pivot (a Heel Turn) before stepping back in CP to finish the figure.
  • Open Impetus: Start like a Closed Impetus, but open up into SCP at the end of the second step and then step forward in SCP to finish the figure.
  • Wing: From SCP both step Thru with trail foot, - , man holds but turns upper body left face to lead (lady to go forward, forward to SCAR position);

Two Foxtrots

There seems to be two different styles of Foxtrot within Round Dancing which roughly seems to be Phase 3/4 Foxtrot versus Phase 4/5/6 Foxtrot. The primary differences seem to be how much you use figures that have "Side, Close" in them --- such as Box, Left Turning Box, Box Finish, Thru & Face Close, 2 Left Turns, etc. and figures with "toe turns" instead of "heel turns".

There are those who believe such figures, especially when done by low level dancers "sloppily" lead to bad habits that are hard to break when they move up to the "upper phase" Foxtrot which replaces Left Turning Box with Diamond Turn, replaces Box Finish with Feather Finish, which replaces 2 Left Turns with full Reverse Turn ---and which uses "heel turns" in Telemarks, Impetus Turns, Reverse Turns, Natural Turns, and Zig-Zag instead of toe turns in such things as Spin Turn, Twisty Vine 3, and Pivot 3.

I have seen comments from some teachers that wish they could skip lower level Foxtrot and start teaching dancers Foxtrot from phase 4 and up. I am not so pedantic. I think there is a place for lower level Foxtrot -- it is a valid "fun" level and a good bridge from Waltz to Foxtrot.

Note that upper level Foxtrot has "flight", where the dancers move flowingly across the floor and that there is a little rise and fall (though not as much as in waltz). That is why there are more "passing steps" instead of "Side Closes" in upper level Foxtrot. Dancing a "Side Close" tends to stop a couples momentum which is not "Foxtrot-like".

Be careful in regarding Foxtrot to be simply phase 3 Waltz figures done with Slow Quick Quick timing It is okay to do this, but remember that Foxtrot is different from Waltz -- the rise and fall is different, the flight and travel is different -- all this changes how the figures look and feel.

Tim Eum has prepared many Round Dance Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, WASCA, for his weekly Rocket Rounds email reports, and for other publications. DRDC is grateful for permission to collect and reprint. A Tim Eum archive.



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