A vaudeville dancer and comedian named Henry Fox lent his name to the Foxtrot dance step. Fox was believed to be the first to use the “slow step.” This first freestyle use of the “slow step” became popular around 1912, during the period of ragtime music. This marked a completely new phase of ballroom dancing where partners danced closer together and ad-libbed to the new and exhilarating music. Prior to this period, the One-Step, the Polka, and the Waltz were popular. In these dances partners were held at arm’s length. A set pattern was also characteristic of these dances.
By 1915, another change took place. Melodic “pop” songs were being written. Popular tunes like, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” and “Ida” were the smash hits of that time. The public was quick to appreciate the change to a smoother, more rhythmic style of music. Dancing began to absorb the better attributes of the older dances. From 1917 up to the present time, the accent has been placed on smoother dancing and individualized expression. By 1960, there was an international style of dancing that was making its way into the U.S. ballrooms. Many of those techniques were implemented into the American style Foxtrot. Currently, the main difference between the two styles is that the international style Foxtrot is danced entirely in contact maintaining the normal dance hold, while the American style allows for complete freedom of expression utilizing various dance holds and positions.
With its sophisticated feeling, most figures of the dance are designed for the larger ballroom floor. These same figures are also suited to the average dance floor when danced more compactly.