Principal of The Physical Training College, South Kensington

The Origin of the Two-step - Some Characteristics - The Correct Step - A Few Variations

"The Two-step is a typical American dance. It is a clever mixture of cool assurance and audacity, truly American. John Bull does not shine at inventing ballroom dances. Just as we borrowed the waltz from France and Germany, so we owe the two-step to America.

Several other dances from the States were adopted here before the two-step became a craze. The Washington Post was introduced some ten or twelve years ago, and became very popular, especially as a children's dance. To Sousa's inspiriting music we performed the Washington Post for several seasons, and it proved the direct forerunner of the two-step, in that

Children Dancing The American Two step 300148

Fig. I.


Step I. The pupil slides her right foot straight back and the teacher her left foot straight forward [M. Jacolelle it admitted no actual hops. At least, that was how it should have been danced; but we have a marked partiality for "hopping" whenever possible. By hopping in any American dance the chief characteristic is lost.

Following the Washington Post came the cake walk. We tried to introduce this negro dance into our ballrooms, with little success. It is by no means a typical American dance, being merely a pale copy of the antics of " coloured folk," and popular because of its novelty.

Then the two-step arrived. This genuine American dance reached England about 1903-1904, having been popular in the States for some time previously. Its actual origin is obscure. It apparently grew from several other American dances, deriving its name from the fact that the accent came on the second beat of the music, and the dance comprised two steps repeated ad lib. teacher her right foot forward, to meet the opposite feet in the

Fig. 2. Step la. The pupil draws her left foot back, and the first position

Fig. 2. Step la. The pupil draws her left foot back, and the first position

The two-step was the first ballroom dance in which we deliberately put the accent against the rhythm of the music, on the "off" beat. It proved an intense novelty to us, and quickly became popular. At the time this is written (1911) two American dances, the Boston and the two-step, monopolise the majority of our ball programmes.

The two-step possesses two marked characteristics which distinguish American dances from all others:

1. The Method of Holding. The dancers stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, never face to face. Seen sideways, the two figures appear as one, being in the same line. That is the only correct way to stand for the two-step. The reason is that the feet of the dancers never intermingle in this dance. Both the lady's feet remain outside the gentleman's, and vice versa. If the dancers stand face to face this is very difficult, and ends in the feet sliding between,- as in, any ordinary dance. And so half the character is gone. It is quite possible to dance the two-step with the lady standing in front of the gentleman, but it is incorrect. .

2. The Method of Dancing. In the two-step the feet must never leave the floor. The whole foot should rest on the floor at an even pressure, and slide along thus, the heel never being raised. This does away with the possibility of "hopping," which is the most fatal of all mistakes in the two-step. It also means that a slight glide and "dip" is obtained by bending the knees.

If learners will remember these rules they will not find the two-step very hard to learn.

The step itself is very simple, and much easier than the waltz or Boston. But the steering is more complicated, because no rules are attached to the two-step. It is left to the discretion of the dancers to back, turn, or reverse at their pleasure. And this often leads beginners into difficulties, as other couples do the most unexpected things. So, besides steering, the gentleman has to decide on his own method of progression.

But when it is realised that the step never varies, in whichever direction the couple moves, it will be readily understood that, once the step is thoroughly known, steering becomes simply a matter of practice and care.

Learning the two-step is merely a case of teaching the actual, invariable step and telling the pupil that it may be danced exactly as he or she pleases. Some people stick to the original method of a straight progression down the room, the lady and gentleman going backwards alternately. That is how a two-step was originally danced; but circles, or " turns," gradually crept in, presumably to vary the monotony. These circles do not imply any variation of the step or change in the position. Still

Fig. 3. Step 2. The pupil slides her right foot back and the teacher her left foot forward

Fig. 3. Step 2. The pupil slides her right foot back and the teacher her left foot forward. This completes half the step holding his partner right at one side, the gentleman turns her gradually round. The two-step step, performed once with each foot, carries them round in a complete circle. In turning, as in going straight, the lady's feet must remain outside her partner's. If this is not done, the step looks like an ordinary polka minus the hop.

Fig. 4. Step 3. The pupil slides her left foot back and the teacher her right foot forward, each taking a small step

Fig. 4. Step 3. The pupil slides her left foot back and the teacher her right foot forward, each taking a small step