At the beginning of the 20th century, industrialization brought employment to the cities, so all classes of people were drawn to urban areas in order to participate in the new urban capitalism. As the society moved from aristocracy to democracy, so did the dances. There were popular assembly rooms, dancing in restaurants, increased prosperity, and a growing sense of individualism. Dances that were once the prerogative of the elite, were now enjoyed by all the classes. Dancing, in fact, represented a new freedom. People turned to the inspiration of animal behavior for their “Declaration of Independence.”
The animal dances were a reaction against inhibited and restricted movements (as well as against an antiquated lifestyle). New inventions happened faster than dance teachers could solidify and teach. These dances were adopted by all sorts of people without the training or experience to dance in “proper” positions with “correct” steps. Dance followed the new ragtime beat which was built on syncopation. Fast and slow beats alternated through improvisation. The uneven rhythms naturally brought wild steps, thus, the ballrooms became “playgrounds” for “grown ups”.
The new dance revolution developed a few new rules:
* Parallel feet replace turned out feet. (due to dance steps moving in lines and squares, rather than circles. These angular step patterns reflected the new ‘mechanical’ era).
* The man dances forward and the woman dances backward. (due to shorter skirts and the need for the man to steer the lady through an infinity of improvised movements. The turning positions of the previous century were mostly abandoned).
Amidst the craze of new dances were:
Fox trot, horse trot, kangaroo hop, duck waddle, the squirrel, the chicken scratch, the turkey trot, and the grizzly bear. The Fox Trot is the only animal dance whose legacy has lasted until today. It was attributed to Harry Fox who created a trotting dance to ragtime music in a 1913 Ziegfeld Follies. The ragtime movement of music and dance began in America, and has influenced our lives until today.