The history of social dancing in the United States is very rich. Most of us heard of Lindy Hop or swing dancing. Though there were many amazing dance forms in combination with Jazz music, that dominated the cultural landscape in America in the first half of the 20th century.

In this blog I will make a quick overview of the popular social partner dances during the first half of the 20th century such as Cakewalk, Two Step, One Step, Fox Trot, Charleston, Shag, St. Louis Shag, Balboa and Lindy hop (Jitterbug).

Ragtime dances

Ragtime was a highly rhythmic dance music that became an international phenomenon in late 19th century.  This music was always associated with dancing. As the music moved to ballrooms, the ragtime sheet music always had a. mark of an "appropriate" dance. The dances named on the earliest ragtime sheet music are the cakewalk, march, and two-step. Interestingly, at time all of those dances or a combination was written on a sheet. It tells us that there was lack of musical distinction between the dances.

Cakewalk

The Cakewalk, also known as the “Chalk line walk” or “walk around” was  a pre-Civil war dance developed from the original “prize walks”. Prize walks were held in the plantations of the Southern United States in the mid 19th century.

Prize walks were sort of carnival events. The slaves of southern plantations used to gather at their master’s house to enter a contest and perform a dance. In fact the dance’s name comes from the decorated cake that would be awarded to the winning couple.

Us slaves watched white folks' parties where the guests danced a minuet and then paraded in a grand march, with the ladies and gentlemen going different ways and then meeting again, arm in arm, and marching down the center together. Then we'd do it too, but we used to mock 'em every step. Sometimes the white folks noticed it, but they seemed to like it; I guess they thought we couldn't dance any better.
- Baldwin 1981

Basically the dance was about mocking the aristocratic mannerism of white people. Initially it was performed by men and Black dancers only.  Later the shows saw the introduction of both women and Whites, usually performing in Black face.

Cake walk dance, ragtime, black male dancers
Doing the Cake Walk. Antique French Postcard c.1911

By the mid 19 century, cakewalk began to enter the minstrel show acts. Slowly it became a part of American culture and entertainment. Though the dance was the first one to dissapear from the ragtime sheet music in around 1904.

 

The Two- Step

American Two-Step craze began around 1890. Before that it was the European dances that dominated American ballrooms. The Two-Step was a simple dance in 2/4 or 4/4 time that brought on  marching chassés steps.

The Two Step flourished because it was perfectly suitable for dancing to marching tunes of John Philip Sousa. “The Washington Post” tune by Sousa fit the Two Step so much that the dance was at times called The Washington Post.

One of the most popular Two Step dances was The Circle Two Step (also called “The Paul Jones”), a mixer where the dancers began in a large circle, broke away with a partner for The Two - Step, reformed the circle and found a new partner, broke away for The Two - Step, and so on.
- Erica Nielsen, p. 38

Few decades later the new style The One - Step (and the Foxtrot) replaced The Two - Step dance.

The One-Step

The One - Step (a.k.a: the Turkey Trot, Bunny Hug, Grizzly Bear) came from England in 1911. At that time it consisted of a mere march forward, backward and a right turn, danced with military precision. When it was brought to America, it was adapted to the syncopated rhythms of Ragtime music by adding a run or “trot” (like a little galop, in a horse riding style).

The One Step, that became popular after the animal dances, however, eliminated all hoppings, all contortions of the body, all flouncing of the elbows, all twisting of the arms, and above all else, all fantastic dips
- Erica Nielsen, p. 17

It was like this until the ballroom couple Irene and Vernon Castle developed what was seen by the white community as a more dignified version of it. It took the name of the Castle walk.

However around 1917  One Step gradually fell out of fashion and disappeared from the ragtime music sheets.

 

Foxtrot

 

The Foxtrot (also Fox Trot, The Fox-trot, Fishwalk or Horse Trot), is an animal dance, that later became a ballroom dance craze. As Nielsen and Kassing state, foxtrot might have originated from the 1913 (1914) vaudeville act by Arthur Carringford, whose stage name was Henry Fox. His two slow walks followed by 4 quick steps became known as “Fox’s Trot”.

However some attribute the invention of the Foxtrot to the Castles. Two professional ballroom dancers, who through their frequent performing foxtrot inspired many people to come to dance studios for instructions. You can watch The Castles dancing fox trot in public here.

irene and vernon castle demonstrate fox trot ragtime dance
The Castles Demonstrate the Fox Trot for the Washington Times January 25, 1915 "Trotting to the steps of the Castle Fox"

In the 20s, English professional dancers and dance teachers found a new standardised way to adapt this dance to slower tempos. So the dance split into two ones : the “slow” foxtrot (also called English foxtrot) and the “Quickstep”. The quickstep being influenced by Charleston. The slow foxtrot by the Valse Boston.

The foxtrot today remains mainly a competitive American dance, thought in academies and dance studios. Equally one can also dance foxtrot in ballrooms at social events. During its development another spin off style came to be: the Pea body.

The Peabody

The Peabody is an American ballroom dance which evolved around 1914 from a faster version of the Foxtrot. What was called the “Quickstep” in England, was the Peabody in America, named after the New York policeman William Frank Peabody.
The Peabody was basically a unique, jaunty type fast fox-trot, done to ragtime music. Danced in an unusual couple position, called the “English”. Mr Peabody, was a big man. He simply could not hold the partner directly in the front. As a result the position is shifted.

The dance covers a lot of space on the floor. Peabody is essentially a fast one-step, with long, gliding strides and a few syncopations. The leader changes sides as he travels around the floor and adds promenades and simple turns as the dance progresses.

Here you can watch Ralph Kramden dancing his version of The Peabody to hot jazz music at a costume ball.

The One Step and Peabody went on to become the (modern) Quick-step in American style ballroom.

Charleston

Charleston dance is a solo and a partner dance. Named after a Charleston city, its invention attributed to Jenkins orphan boys and has roots in geechie / gullah culture. In 1920's it became a national craze and reached international popularity. For more information on history of the dance you can read my blog, the History of Charleston dance. 

Charleston dance as solo and partnered style saw stylistic changes between the 20s and the 40s. In the 20s it was danced to ragtime and early jazz music (New Orleans jazz). And in the 30s to swing music. Hence, we can say Charleston is a ragtime dance and a swing dance.

20s style

Closed face to face position was typical for the 20s style. The footwork mainly consisted of Charleston 20s twists.

30s style

The dance got a new life in 1930s in the Savoy Ballroom when it was merged with Lindy Hop. In the 30s and 40s the close embrace position opened out. Now you had "hand to hand", "side by side", "tandem" (when the follower stands in front of the leader) and break away positions.

Watch Al Minns and Leon James doing the Lindy Charleston in couple. You can see the style, footwork and couple position has changed. More importantly, the feel changed. It is swinging, has a 4/4 feel and looks more horizontal.

Swing dances

Swing dance is a group of dances that developed with the swing style of jazz music from the 1920's to the 40s. During the swing era, there were many styles of swing dancing. Some that survived beyond the era include: Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, and Charleston. Swing is a broad term. It's the name of the era, name of the rhythm, and a tern to describe group of dance styles.

Collegiate Shag or Shag

The Collegiate Shag (or "Shag") is a partner dance done primarily to uptempo swing and pre-swing jazz music.

It is believed that the origins of the dance are within the African American community of the Carolinas in the 1920s. Shag became a craze in the 30s and even the New York Times described it as a “fundamental dance step for swing”

The Collegiate Shag was extremely popular with younger dancers. Especially popular with those who prefer lots of action rather than the slow mellow style of Fox - Trot.  Interestingly, since the 1930s the word “Shag” has been used to refer to a family of Jitterbug dances.

Shag dance does not strive for elegance. It is about energy and explosion. Its bouncy hops, kicks, exaggerated hand hold and gawky style give it a fun flair.

"Flea hop"

Prior to the 30s shag was probably known under other names like “flea hop”. It is as well suggested that the dance evolved from a partnered version of the solo Vaudeville/tap step called "flea hop". It featured a movement pattern that's very similar to shag.

One curious fact, in the late 19th century, "shagger" was a nickname for 'Vaudeville performer'. Perhaps, this Vaudeville slang was what inspired Lewis Hall (who claimed to have invented the Shag step in 1938) to give his dance the name "shag".

Alber Murray Shag

One more interesting video about shag dance is where Albert Murray teaches a shag class. Actually, his style of dancing shag got it's name as Albert Murray Shag.

Today Shag is an internationally popular swing dance style. Take a look at the contemporary shag dancers at one of the biggest events in the Europe dedicated to this dance -  Barcelona Shag Festival 

St. Louis Shag

St. Louis shag is a swing dance that evolved from Collegiate Shag, Charleston and Lindy Hop, which originated in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1930s.

The dance has an 8-count basic that is commonly composed of triple-step, kick, triple-step, kick. The St. Louis Shag is an extremely fast, closed position dance. The general speed for it is around 220-300 bpm.

In this video you can see Christian Frommelt and Jenny Shirar performing St. Louis Shag at Rock That Swing festival in Munich.

Balboa

Balboa swing dance style created in balboa town Newport Beach, California.Balboa is a town in Newport Beach, California. In the 1930s, dancers at the Balboa Pavilion in Newport Beach, California, created their own swing dance style. The club was a small building. It was simply impossible to throw wild acrobatics of the Jitterbug there. So dancers created the Balboa - a perfectly adapted dance to fast music and crowded ballrooms.

Balboa is usually separated in two forms. Pure-bal, that is danced in closed position. Bal-swing, where the dancers are separated and lot of turns are performed

It was a simple style of dance based on a close position, strong partner connection and easy footwork  based on shuffling along the floor, although covering the least space possible.

When Swing dancers added a few Balboa steps in their dance style, a combo of the two was born: the “Bal swing”. This one allows the partners to  break the close position, introducing more freedom into using  turns, spins, even aerials, while keeping  the original Balboa tradition and philosophy.

The Lindy (The Lindy Hop)

The Lindy Hop was born in the African-American communities in Harlem, New York. It was born to a sound of a new style of music being played in Harlem - swing. The musicians called this new rhythm “swinging the beat”.

Leon James & Willa Mae Ricker lindy hop social swing dance
Leon James & Willa Mae Ricker demonstrating steps of The Lindy Hop. (Photo by Gjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

The name Lindy Hop came from a dancer Shorty "George" Snowden. During a dance marathon the reporter asked Snowden what he was dancing. Just at that time in 1927 Charles Lindberg made a transatlantic flight and all the newspapers were screaming "Lindberg "hopped" the Atlantic". And so Snowden said: "Lindy Hop".

Snowden danced at the marathon with his partner Mattie Purnell. You can see them in this video.  Shorty was doing the break away and the send outs, those were the predecessors of the swing out move.  Swing out is the defining move of Lindy Hop.

According to Frankie Manning, the Lindy developed out of Charleston, the Collegiate and the break away.

Hellzapoppin'

The most famous Lindy Hop video is from "Hellzapoppin'" film, 1941

  1. The film features The Harlem Congaroo Dancers (so called "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers"):
  2. William Downes/Overalls & Frances "Mickey" Jones (0:39)
  3. Billy Ricker/Chef's Hat & Norma Miller (1:09)
  4. Al Minns/White Coat-Black Pants & Willa Mae Ricker (1:29)
  5. Frankie Manning/Overalls & Ann Johnson (1:55)

The history of the originators of the Lindy Hop at the Savoy Ballroom. In this video you can see the Ambassador of Lindy Hop Frankie Manning social dancing.

So what is Jitterbug?

Somehow there is a confusion between the names Jitterbug and the Lindy. In fact, jitterbug is just a nickname for Lindy Hop. Some would say, it was a white name for the Lindy. the term jitterbug was in use after the 1940's.

Negative meaning

The term actually had a bad connotation. It was used to describe a drunk person shaking from "jitters", or tremors. A person who had too much “jitter sauce” (illegal moonshine). As Al Minns describes, jitterbug was a name for people who were bad dancers.

The word “jitterbug” as well appeared in Cab Calloway's popular swing number "Call of the Jitterbug" in 1935. In this song we can hear that jitterbugging is connected with its drinking aspect.

Wizard of Oz and Lindy Hop

The film Wizard of Oz played a big part in settling the names. The producers wanted a swing dance scene and preferred the name jitterbug. “Lindy Hop” seemed like a very unfamiliar word with no direct association that would not get popular appeal. Jitterbug in the movie was actually a scary insect sent to Dorothy by the Witch. Once bitten the victims shall dance till they fall in exhaustion. Here you can watch the scene from the movie.

It’s very interesting and sad how this situation played on reputation of the dance. Lindy hop was just becoming popular and known to white audiences at the time when Wizard of Oz came out. The fact jitterbug, the name of the dance, and it's association with the witch created for some social groups an association with illegal, primitive and threatening dance.

P.S.

Here is a fantastic video of Al Minns and Leon James performing jazz dances at the talk show "Playboy's Penthouse", hosted by Marshall Stearns. You can see them dancing Cakewalk, Charleston, Two Step, Collegiate, Break Away, The Lindy and The Big Apple.

 

References and bibliography

 

The Charleston dance was "The King of dances" in 20th century and had a huge influence on American culture.  In this blog you can find out different ways of how to do the dance, its technique and footwork.

Charleston dance history

Charleston is a name of the city, dance style, step and song. Scholars attribute the spread and invention of the geechee inspired Charleston dance to the Jenkins Orphanage Band boys from Charleston city, South Carolina. The Charleston song written by John P. Johnson, inspired by Gullah rhythms, became the signature tune for the dance.

This dance has African roots and was created by African - American people. It was first sighted in the streets of Harlem in 1903. Though it was popularised by young flappers during 1920's. It became internationally known thanks to Josephine Baker Parisian "Le revue negre".

If you'd like to learn about the origins of the dance there is a full blog on The History of The Charleston dance. 

6 version of how to do the Charleston step

In order to know how to do the Charleston “basic” step we should know that it has changed with time and place. It started as a step with twists, then transformed into a crazy wild kicking move with the swing era.
There are at least 6 versions of the “basic” step: groove walk, kicks, swinging kicks, 20’s twist, 20’s glide, and afro version “reverse twist” Charleston. Each version has its specifics.

  1. When doing groove walk, we should remember to keep a steady and strong bounce (pulse).
  2. For kicks the most important thing is to keep the right timing of the kick step and kick from the knees.  All while keeping the body inclined forward and only forward and making sure to move with the kicks and not to stay on one spot.
  3. 20’s Charleston style with twists has its thing in a constant (every single beat) energetic though light twisting of the feet with the weight on the balls of the feet. All while making the kick up in the air and accentuating the weak (off) beat.
  4. 20’s glide is similar to 20s Charleston twist but is done without lifting the feet off the floor this way creating continuous gliding on the floor.
  5. Finally, to do the reverse Charleston twist we shall keep the legs bent low and keep the whole foot on the ground with the weight mainly of the heels.

In this video you can learn 6 basic versions of how to do the Charleston “basic” step: groove walk, kicks, swinging kicks, 20’s twist, 20’s glide, and afro version “reverse twist”.

35 Charleston variations

Here is a video of two legendary dancers Al Minns and Leon James perform jazz dances talk show "Playboy's Penthouse". You can hear Marshall Stearns discusses the dance history with Hugh Hefner. This was probably filmed around 1960. Stears explains that there were 35 variations of the Charleston step. Minns and James show a few: original 20's charleston, scare crow, squat, around the world, high kick and hand to hand variations.

How to do the 20s Charleston dance style?

20s Charleston is not only a step, it’s a style. A style that is defined by music, clothing style, manner and expression. 20s Charleston was a craze during the Jazz Age. It is danced to ragtime, hot jazz and charleston.In order to look authentic we should remember a few important technical elements on how to do the 20s Charleston:

  1. As it is danced to ragtime and hot jazz (early jazz, Dixieland, New Orleans jazz). The music is syncopated and has a “rag” rhythm though it is still quite even. The accentuation is on 2 and 4 and so will be the bounce, as the bounce always reflects the music rhythm.
  2. As the music is ragged and the body can embody this quality the best when being more “puppet” like. It is better if we use more joints rather than muscles for the light, ragged, fast movements of 20s Charleston
  3. The accentuation is on 2 and 4 and so should be the accent when doing the 20s kicks. The accent is in the air and not on the floor.

Aesthetics of the 20s

There is a lot to learn from seeing the connection of the Charleston dance aesthetics with cultural elements of 20th century America.

You will look super authentic if you will include those qualities, impressions in your dance.

Its important to mention that this dance was immensely popular during the period of 1920's Prohibition as well as 1930's Great Depression. When US stock market crashed and part of the society was left in complete poverty, dancing for many was an anti - depression pill. It swept the worries away.

Look at the fantastic Bee Jackson, the “Queen of Charleston” and get ideas on how to do the Charleston! Miss Bee Jackson of the Piccadilly Cabaret and Kit Kat Club demonstrates her gimmick - dancing on a very small floor space.

 

In this demo video you see me demonstrating the concept of a “Silent Movie”. I am slowing down and speeding up in the real time (without FX), while searching for exaggerated overly dramatic face expressions. The idea comes from the fact that the music was layered on silent movies after the film was done. Oftentimes the music played an atmospheric role. Therefore the dance and movements looked out of time with the actual beat of the song.

Animalism and African roots

I'd like to accentuate the connection with animalism in dance movements as the Charleston dance belongs to the family of African-American vernacular dances. To know more on what are the characteristics of African-American dances that as well reflect in the this dance, read the blog on “ A brief cultural history of black dance” 

In this video class from the course Secrets of Charleston 20s, where you can learn how to do the step called the “Cow Tail”. Animalistic move, in a way it was inspired by the cows waving their tail to get rid of the flies.

 

All of this and more you can learn by taking a course Secrets of Charleston 20s, course with over 40 video.

Iconic Charleston dancers

Some of the iconic dancers to watch, learn and get inspired:

Josephine Baker
Ann Pennington
Bee Jackson
Al Minns
Leon James
Mildred Melrose
Joan Crawford
Jenkins Orphanage Band boys

In this video playlist on Secrets of Solo channel I collected videos of the most famous dancers, historical figures. Watch to get inspired.

 

The difference between 20s & 30s style Charleston

As we mentioned before the Charleston dance style has changed with time and music. I use this categories to spotlight the difference that was strongly affected by the music, more specifically rhythm section.

20s

In 20s Charleston with hot twists and eccentric moves was danced to ragtime, hot jazz music. It has half time pulse and accentuated the 2 and 4 beat. It replicates the bass tuba or the double bass. Bass tuba line for early jazz was either 1 and 3 or 2 and 4. When double bass came to stage, the players wither played half time notes or doubled up on the same note twice. 1/2 feel reflects in half time pulse in the dancers body. The movement is more even, more vertical and ragged.

The 20s style is based on the twists and twisted kick. The most important image is the "crossed" twisted leg. The legend says, some dancers got "Charleston twist" of the knee, when they twisted too hard.

In this video you can hear a very rag song. Notice that the dancers are holding their bodies more upright. Their pulse is ragged (even jumpy at times).

30s

In 1930's the dance changed with swing music to so called lindy kicks. You could see now dancers doing big wide kicks and travelling across the floor. The feel of the Charleston is 4/4 (4 on the floor). It reflects the double bass in swing tunes, that has a walking line. So called "walking bass".  Musicians say "the bass walks", when the player hits every single note. 4/4 feel reflects in constant pulse in the dancers body. The movement is "spreading", it is more horizontal. It looks softer and smoother.

In this video you can hear the 4/4 feel on the bass and clearly see how dancers reflect it in their smooth pulse. Note, when dancers go to lindy Charleston kicks, how much they lower their upper body and start to hover over the ground.

 

 

 

Music to dance Charleston

Ragtime

The first tune you would think to dance Charleston to is, of course, famous ragtime tune "The Charleston", written by James P. Johnson. The Charleston beat is considered a clave rhythm.

As a musical entity ragtime was, and is, an instrumental work in 2/4 time composed for the piano. The style surfaced in the early 1900's and was developed by composer Scot Joplin. It was the forerunner to jazz. It combines a syncopated series of melodies accompanied by a steady, even rhythm. The left hand plays a steady, almost march-like succession of bass notes and chords while the right hand plays syncopated melodies in a "ragged" manner. Hence, the name of the style.

Here is a Spotify playlist of ragtime tunes. You will hear the music of Eubie Blake, Scot Joplin, James P. Johnson.

Dixieland

Other music style that one can dance 20s Charleston is early jazz.  Early jazz, that is as well called “New Orleans jazz”, Dixieland jazz, hot jazz are the terms referring to the same style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century. Its 4 main influences were ragtime, military brass bands, the blues, and gospel music.

New Orleans jazz or Dixieland Jazz was incredibly popular through the 1920s, Jazz Age. One of the first uses of the term "Dixieland" with reference to music was in the name of the Original Dixieland Jass Band (later changed to "Jazz"). They recorded their first vinyl in 1917. What defines the sound of Dixieland music is that one instrument plays the melody (often trumpet) and all the other musicians improvise around it.

Here is a Spotify playlist with a very popular songs for 20s Charleston. You will hear music of such artists as Original Dixieland Band, Fats Waller, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Goodman and other. Or else you can listen to my  YouTube Charleston compilation.

 

Written by Ksenia Parkhatskaya

World renowned 20s Charleston and solo jazz dancer Ksenia Parkhatskaya presents her special online dance course "Secrets of Charleston 20s". With over 40 lessons and 2 hours of content you will discover how to do the 20s Charleston in the convenience of your home.

What is 20's Charleston?

Read the full article on History of the Charleston dance. 

The Charleston dance had possibly the greatest influence on the American culture. Enslaved Africans brought it from Kongo to Charleston, South Carolina, as the Juba dance, which then slowly evolved into what is now known as Charleston. / ../ In African, however, the dance is called Juba or the Djouba. The name Charleston was given to the Juba dance by European Americans

- (Africanisms in American Culture, p.52)

Many scholars attribute the creation and the spread of the Charleston dance to Gullah / Geechee culture and the boys from the Jenkins Orphanage Band.

It is considered that The Charleston dance was "officially" shown in public in the all Black Africa - American Broadway musical "Runnin' Wild". Elida Webb Dawson, African- American dancer, was the choreographer for the show. Her set of movements was accompanied by “The Charleston” tune by James P. Johnson and Cecil Mack. The tune had a very characteristic Charleston beat, which James P. Johnson said he first caught from southern musicians and dancers from Charleston city.

The Charleston became the international craze, when African American performer Josephine Baker introduced the Charleston dance in Europe during her Parisian tour “Le revue negre”.

Where to learn how to dance 20's Charleston?

You can find a local swing dance or solo jazz dance school where you can ask for 20s Charleston solo classes. Another way, which can be more convenient in some ways is to learn how to dance with online classes. Ksenia's Secrets of the Charleston 20’s is an online course on how to learn the famous 20s Charleston in 8 chapters, 40 videos and almost 2 hours of high quality online content.

The course is taught by a sensational dancer, who made her name in dance though her Charleston performances, Ksenia Parkhatskaya. Dancing since 6 years of age, Ksenia came to fame through her signature Charleston choreography on “So You Think You Can Dance” in Ukraine (invited to the show as a participant from Russia). She  soon rose to be one of the most viewed dancers on the internet with over 200 million views.

A dance artist, choreographer and performer Ksenia has created many short dance films and clips inspired by flapper character and 20s Charleston dance style.

Trained in competitive ballroom dance in Russia and competing on a regular basis for 9 years, Ksenia is more interested in performance and creation. Though in a spirit of solo jazz and Charleston battles and races, she occasionaly participated in swing dance international competitions, placing first.

Secrets of Charleston 20s online dance classes are a chocolate box of dance steps, movement tricks and technique tips. You will for sure enrich your pockets with good basic vocabulary as well as dizzy flash steps that will insure your greatness on the dance floor. You will discover some of my step variations and get inspired by the immense world of creativity that jazz in general  brings. And all of it will settle the best way in your body with a seasoning of some useful technique secrets.
- Ksenia

The Secrets of 20s Charleston series cover a wide range of levels: from beginners to advanced dancers. Beginners can learn basic steps and techniques, improvers can enrich their vocabulary and learn some flash steps and advanced dancers can get new ideas, steps variations and refine their style.

I picked the best of what I know and love about 20's Charleston and combined it with my dance experience and general dance approach. Above all I value the individual voice in any art form. That is why I am sharing my way: my personal twist on original steps plus steps I created myself as well as ideas I have developed over the years
- Ksenia

What is inside Secrets of Charleston 20s online dance course?

Secrets of Charleston 20’s online dance course is build around moves and famous footwork. There are 7 chapters, inside which you will have several dance classes with progressive variations of this specific step.

For example let’s take a look at Chapter V: Basic Step Variations. In the first video I will break down the absolute basics of the charleston step and start with the variation #1. Then you will have 3 more videos with 3 different variations. And then the last video of the chapter will be a demo - me demonstrating how to dance those steps to the music and mixing them.

How to use Secrets of Charleston 20s?

Once you have picked the chapter, please go chronologically - the way I placed the videos for you. I thought it through. I have built my explanations and the material within a chapter in a progressive way. "Chapter VIII: Dizzy Moves" is an exception. There you get a collection of independent videos, where I teach you flash moves, flaps, slaps and so on.

Where to start in Secrets of Charleston 20s online dance course?

I recommend to start with Chapter I: Twist Recipe for everyone to get your 20's Charleston technique in place, understand how the body works. 20's Charleston is all about twists. Once you get it in your body, success will be guaranteed.
After you practiced Twist Recipe you can go ahead and jump to any of the chapters between Chapter II & V or just follow the order I prepared for you. This will enrich your vocabulary of 20s Charleston moves. Always go back to review Twist Recipe chapter because it is the fundamental building block of the dance and style. Remember, once in the chapter, follow chronology of the videos.

The last 3 chapters are about so called flash steps. For instance, the "Chapter VI: Black Bottom Cow Tail & Chapter VII: Slides Filling" are technically quite challenging. Make sure to first establish your basics before going into technically challenging movements.

"Chapter VIII: Dizzy Moves" is a candy box of spicy, eccentric dance moves. You can randomly pick a move from the collection for your practice and include in your dance as a flash step. The dance cannot consist of just flash moves glued together, so make sure to have your ways around first (check Chapters I to V).

Secrets of Charleston 20's Table of Content

 

20s charleston secrets of solo online dance classes
Inside Secrets of Solo online dance school members area. Learning 20s Charleston.

Chapter I: Twist Recipe

In this chapter you'll get to know and experience the fundamental building block of 20s Charleston  - twists and the Charleston body. You will discover what is a body state, feel, style and posture in when dancing the 20s specifically. And discover the technique and different patterns of the main component of the style, which is twist. Forget that you were ever walking parallel, every step is a twist in 20s Charleston. In a step-by-step manner we will ensure that your twists are fluid and fast.

For me, 20’s Charleston is about sparkling sharpness in the middle of mindless chaos of dance madness. Twist is the way to walk, live and think in 20s Charleston

Ksenia

  1. Twists & Charleston Body + demo
  2. Moving around with Twist + demo
  3. Butterfly Twist + demo
  4. Side Skippin’ + demo
  5. Twists & tips
  6. Twists on Fire

Chapter II: Fall off the log Tricks

In this chapter you will uncover on one of the great 20s Charleston and solo jazz steps – Fall(ing) off The Log. Falling-off-a-log is as well described as a step similar to Buffalo tap dance step but with a leaning pause added). It is a so- called travel step. The main rhythmic idea of the step is accentuating the backbeat on the kick. In that moment the whole body gravitates to the ground. The art of mimicry and imitation is strongly developed in black dances.
What is it and how to bring it to life? Add simple changes like: twisting the step and playing with the type of kick so that the step can travel through era’s – from ragtime to swing.

  1. Black Bottom Twist
  2. Double Kick
  3. Kick Ball Change
  4. Buffalo
  5. Shuffle’n’Swing
  6. Tips
  7. Demo

Chapter III: Suzy Q

In this chapter you will be introduced to Susie Q, Suzie Q or Suzy-Q and it's variations. It is a vernacular dance step, with a shuffling and sliding step (as well performed in tap) that was introduced at the Cotton Club in 1936. The origin of the name “Suzie Q” is uncertain. There is a the reference to the name in the 1936 song Doin’ the Suzie-Q by Lil Hardin Armstrong.

  1. How to?
  2. Swing the 8th
  3. Break with Shuffle
  4. Demo
  5. Chapter IV: Cross Behind & Triple
  6. Crabbin’ & Triple Step
  7. Swing the Triple
  8. Demo

Chapter V: Basic Charleston Step Variations

In this chapter you will learn the fabulous 20s Charleston basic step and eccentric variations created by Ksenia Parkhatskaya. Charleston name refers to a few elements: a song, a city, a style of the dance, a dance itself and a step. Nowadays, when we say Charleston basic or basic step when dancing solo in swing dance community, we refer to Charleston step. Charleston step has it’s eras and it changed with time and place. It started as a step with twists in jazz age, then transformed into a crazy wild kicking move in swing era.

Take the Charleston step, for example. We think it came up from South Carolina with its name intact and was introduced in a Broadway show, Running’ Wild.
Cholly Atkins from “Class Act: The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins”

  1. Brushes
  2. Zig Zag Kick
  3. Shuffle
  4. Rond
  5. Demo

Chapter VI: Black Bottom Cow Tail

The black bottom was a dance that hit America after The Charleston became famous in 1920's. It's a very feminine style with loads of animalistic movements. Cow tail is an animal inspired move, when the cows were stuck in the mud and had to wave their tail to get rid of flies around.

  1. Cow Tail
  2. Walking with Cow Tail
  3. Demo

You probably have seen one of crazy Charleston video of Ksenia Parkhatskaya where she twirls her leg as a fan in her famous smoking flapper character. That move is a charmer! You can learn it now here with a step by step instructions from Ksenia herself.

Chapter VII: Slides Filling

Arguably, the most technically challenging chapter of the course, where you will unlock the beauty and potential of slides and 20s Charleston moves. Make sure to always warm up before and do the slide movement step by step, not rushing into it in order to be safe.  Wear shoes that are not too sticky in order not to damage your knees by having too much friction with the floor. Equally, shoes that are too slippery might make it hard to coordinate. Remember, keep you knee in your vision space and you will be fine!

  1. Twist’n’ Slide
  2. High Kick Slide
  3. Back Slide
  4. Demo

Chapter VIII: Dizzy Moves

This chapter is a collection of individual flapper inspired, fluid and fast flash step as well as concepts of 20s Charleston style such a Silent Movie and exaggerated movement.

  1. Raindrops + demo
  2. Black Bottom slap + demo
  3. Happy Feet + demo
  4. J.Baker flavour + demo
  5. Silent Movie concept + demo
  6. Tips

Are you ready to push your 20s Charleston dance to the next level?

In this extensive videos series I will be breaking down techniques and steps from the legendary 20s Charleston dance. Each chapter tackles one 20s Charleston topic, and will be showing different patterns, variations and styling within that topic.
Here's an example from one of the Secrets of Charleston 20s chapter "Cow Tail"

Are you interested? Become a member of Ksenia's Secrets of Solo Online Dance Classes!

You can check out all our account pricing options on this page. You can choose one of the three membership options. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us here.

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