Two Step

Dennis Smith
ORDTA Chairman

What do you know about the Round Dance rhythm that we call Two Step? Round Dancing is one of the very few places where one encounters this rhythm. Ballroom studios don't teach it. The general public appears to have no knowledge of it. So, where did our Two Step come from? An Internet search revealed the following information.

First, Round Dance Two Step is not the same as the Texas Two Step, Country Western Two Step, Slow Two Step, California Two Step, Night Club Two Step, Ballroom Two Step, and others even though some of these have the same roots.

According to the Dance History Archives, the Two Step "was a simple dance that caught on with the public which came to us via the Galop when John Phillip Sousa came out with the Washington Post March in 1891. The old quadrilles, glides and reels were cast aside in favor of dances such as the Two Step." This page goes on to say that the "dance was originally done side by side (hip to hip) rather than face to face with the man's arm around his partners waist. This was the first dance to start to do away with the older ballet type steps done in other dances. This Side by side dance position has been reported to have sprang from inept dancers stepping on their partners feet, with this position fixing the problem. Many dance instructors complained about this new dance in fear of losing revenue, however the fad eventually gave way to face to face dance position. There was a mass amount of music written as a Two-step and/or March. When ragtime suddenly appeared, the Sousa marches started to wain, however some patterns of the two-step still remain in the Fox-Trot of today."

Another web page has more tidbits. "The late-19th/early 20th-century two-step is directly derived from the polka." "The two-step merely omits the hop." "The galop (which became fashionable in the mid 19th century) is also related to the polka." "The two-step was danced to both 'rags,' such as Scott Joplin's, and marches such as Sousa's. The one-step (a march walk) was done to the same tunes. There is a lot of turn-of-the-century sheet music labeled 'one step or two-step.' If it's played fast it's a one-step. If it's played slower it's a two-step."

The fishtail figure came from a ragtime animal dance popular in the early 20th century and involved an erotic grinding of the hips, according to an article written by Chris and Terri Cantrell in the Fall issue of the ROUNDALAB Journal. The Colorado Round Dance Association reports the same information, which is not surprising since Chris and Terri are members.