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1930s Foxtrot - A Public Dance at a Resort

This video is from a collection of raw footage and out takes from Fox Movietone News. I cut it down to the dance related bits from the footage I found on the University of South Carolina website.

From 1930, at the Poinciana Breakers Casino in Palm Beach Florida, ordinary folks dancing the Fox Trot in the sort of general public dancing that used to be found everywhere.Image

It is particularly interesting since it is not from a Hollywood movie - it's just ordinary (though fairly well-to-do) folks just dancing for their own enjoyment. They are not professional dancers or extras, so it seems like a more reliable slice of life than one generally gets from a theatrical movie.

Here are some of my "take-aways" from this film.

  • In 1930, everyone danced - even if they were barefooted and wearing a swim suit. The music plays, and you dance. They are a mix of ages from young adults (and one girl dancing with her mom) to middle aged/older folks.
  • Even though it's sunny, and they are outdoors, the men are not wearing hats on the dance floor. This is not just the guys in the swim suits but the ones in suits as well.
  • Dancing is simple and unadorned. I don't really see people "busting a move". No throw outs, underarm turns, grapevines etc. They just hold on to their partner and travel around the floor, more or less in line-of-direction (counterclockwise). The only real variations are occasional spins. I am not even seeing basic variations, of the sort I have seen elsewhere, like the promenade and drag.
  • There are a variety of hand holds and positions, but everyone is in a close, relaxed, body-to-body hold which is very different from the "Frame" of today but absolutely typical of what I have seen of the period.
  • There are a wide variety of step patterns visible on the floor, each according to the individual dancers' preferences. Here are the ones I see:
    1. The most common is a simple "One-Step": walking to the beat without a pattern. The step is generally on the balls of the feet and a bit light and springy, to give it a sense of dancing, but it is still just walking. They seem to prefer "slow time", which is a step on every other beat.
    2. The second most popular seems to be the "Two-Step" (Left-together-Left-And-Right-together-Right) also done in slow time.
    3. I also see a (for the men) left-right-left-together pattern and even a step-together, step-together pattern - in one case being done with a decided bounce by an old dude who doesn't let age slow him down (I guess he got his groove in the age of Ragtime).