Quickstep is the European version of the fast Fox Trot and was originating in the UK and called the “QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston”. Today it is a dynamic fast International Ballroom dance with quick hopping steps set in with the smoother gliding figures. It is more well-known in Europe than North America, especially in England.
The Quickstep is a fast and dynamic dance with light quick steps and buoyant personality.
- Dance Position–A very upright and formal dance posture
- Footwork–Lots of ankle strength and use of ankles for a buoyant look and feel
- Follow Through–Develop control, lowering on end of each movement to keep control of the travelling energy
- Maneuverability–Patterns for corners and slowing down
- Amalgamations–Material that utilizes other timings and rotation
- Compare/Contrast–Fox Trot, Waltz and Swing (also Charleston and Peabody)
The Quickstep, although a thoroughly British dance, has its roots in the Foxtrot which began in the United States. Fox Trot was originally a very fast ragtime era dance, one among many “animal dances” popular before world war one. The fast Fox Trot inspired a Quickstep-like dance known as the Peabody in North America (today a rather obscure dance). The fast Fox Trot was danced also in the UK when ragtime music was all the rage in the 1910’s.
The all consuming first world war largely stopped the development of the social dances in the western world but by the early 1920’s socializing and revelry became popular once again. The ragtime music gave way to the music of the Charleston era, a huge phenomenon, and again very fast paced music. In North America the new music inspired the Charleston as a dance craze after being danced on Broadway in 1922 along with other dances such as the Shimmy and the Blackbottom.
The most conservative ballrooms banned this new style, Charleston, and its variants altogether, some even placed notices saying ‘PCQ’ (“Please Charleston Quietly”). The British establishment’s response to this was to develop a dance, based on the fast Fox Trot, as an attempt to keep social dancing more refined and thus avoid much of the wild, less dignified dances sweeping North America. This was the beginning of what we know today as Quickstep and it was originally known as the “Fast Foxtrot, Quickstep and Charleston”.
As early as the mid 1920’s there were competitions featuring the Fast Foxtrot, Quickstep and Charleston in the UK. In the 1927 competition a couple, Frank Ford and Molly Spain, won the competition travelling around the room while largely staying together as a connected partnership. This technique came to be favoured and by end of the 1920’s this started to be standardized including the “chasse” movement that is still in use today.
Popular music continued to change, with the 1930’s, as the Swing phenomenon gained momentum. The Fast Foxtrot, Quickstep and Charleston continued to be popular in Britain and adapted well to this new music. It served a similar purpose here, as before, in keeping some decorum on the dance floor instead of the wild abandon of the Lindy Hop and other Swing era dances sweeping North America, particularly in the United States.
As the European dance competitions continued to be standardized they began to include more than one dance, eventually expanding to the “big 5” of the International Style Ballroom. This included the Quickstep, as it came to be known by the 1940’s, having dropped the rest of its long name.
Quickstep music is written in 2/4 or 4/4 time. The music tends to be traditional sounding music from the era of Charleston or fast Swing music. Quickstep is danced to very light sounding happy music; there is no such thing as a sad or brooding Quickstep.
The official tempo for Quickstep for the purpose of competition is 52 bpm (bars per minute) but it could be danced slower or slightly faster on a social dance floor.
The basic components of the Quickstep are side-together steps or “chasses” interspersed with one walking step, alternating forward and back based on a natural rolling action of the feet. The ‘basic step’ taught for the Quickstep is officially known as the “Quarter turn” and “Progressive Chasse”. It is a “forward, side, close, side” (commenced by the man on his right foot) followed by a “back, side, close, side” (again starting with the man’s right foot). The basic rhythm is: slow, quick, quick, slow repeated.
As the dancer advances there are other rhythms that are added as well. It is important to the character of Quickstep, however, to develop the very smooth gliding and downwardly grounded activity in the legs to gain control of the momentum particularly before introducing the hopping actions of the higher level material. This takes some time to develop but remains as the true character of the dance and should definitely be allowed to develop.
Quickstep is a true dance of the formal ballroom, well suited to the man in a tail suit and his partner in an elegant gown. At its highest level the Quickstep is a truly exciting dance with the smooth, effortless looking control as it glides very quickly but smoothly, interspersed with great bouncing energy, hops skips and runs across the floor.
Quickstep songs and artists include:
- That Man – Caro Emerald
- Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman
- Bei Mir Bist Du Schon – Andrews Sisters
- It Don’t Mean a Thing – Geoff Love Orchestra
- From This Moment On – Ella Fitzgerald
- At the Jazz Band Ball – Victor Sylvester Orchestra
- Shout and Feel It – Count Bassie Orchestra