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Quickstep



As Ragtime music evolved into Swing through the 1920's, new dances such as the Charleston, the Shimmy, and the Black Bottom became popular.

The Charleston was said to have originated in the Cape Verde Islands (Raffe, 1964, 60). It evolved into a vigourous round dance done by African dock workers in the Port of Charleston. It was first performed on stage in New York in 1922 in a black revue by George White. It became popular in white society after inclusion in the stage show "Running Wild" in 1923 by the Ziegfeld Follies, which toured U.S.A. It was popularised in Europe by Josephine Baker in Paris in the 1920's. It was danced with wild swinging arms and side kicks to music at 200 to 240 beats per minute. It subsequently became very popular worldwide, but the wild character of the dance induced many sedate ballrooms either to ban it altogether, or to put up notices saying simply "PCQ", standing for "Please Charleston Quietly".


Life Magazine Cover, Feb. 18 1926, by John Held Jr.

The Black Bottom presumably originated in the suburb of Detroit of that name, although it has also been said to have come from New York or New Orleans. The dance became popular after its inclusion in the stage show: George White's "Scandals of 1926". It was done to music at 140 to 160 beats per minute, and involved swaying the torso, bending the knees and short kicks.

The Shimmy was probably derived from a Nigerian dance, the "Shika", taken to America by the black slaves. It was mentioned in the song "The Bullfrog Hop" in 1909 by Perry Bradford. It became very popular in the USA 1910 to 1920, and became a national craze after Gilda Gray introduced it in the Zeigfeld Follies in 1922. She claimed the name comes from "chemise", having been asked by a reporter what she shook when dancing it. However, Mae West claims to have done it earlier in the show "Sometime" in 1919, although she was arrested for it only in 1926 in her stage show "Sex". Mae West's Shimmy was described by the singer Ethel Waters saying "she put her hands on her hips and worked her body fast without moving the feet". Nowadays, the word means to shake the shoulders or hips rapidly, rotating them alternately left and right forward and back about a vertical axis.

These dances became absorbed into a faster version of Foxtrot after a visit by Paul Whiteman's band to the UK in 1923, becoming known as the Quickstep.

Currently it is danced at a tempo of approximately 200 beats per minute. It retains the walks, runs, chasses and turns, of the original Foxtrot, with some other fast figures such as locks, hops, and skips added.


Extract from: HISTORY OF MODERN BALLROOM DANCING
By Don Herbison-Evans
Departmental Report TRS-96-008
Department of Mathematics and Computing,
Central Queensland University,
Bundaberg, Australia
(revised 21 January 2001)
References have been removed for easier reading.