Foxtrot Styles Explained…American vs. International

Foxtrot is known as the “Dancer’s Dance” because it requires great skill to make it look easy.  A common question is, “What is the difference between American and International Foxtrot styles?” 

Before we get to that, let’s first take a look at the similarities between these two styles.


foxtrot styles
Good connection and strong frame in this International style Foxtrot picture line.

A supportive and solid frame is how the leader shows his intent and how the follower responds. This is the basis of all partner dancing regardless of style.


How you use your feet to achieve a specific result is called footwork. As Foxtrot is a traveling dance, in both of the Foxtrot styles the feet are used to rhythmically get around the floor.


Foxtrot uses slows and quicks, with the slow taking 2 beats of music and the quick taking 1.  Furthermore, both styles freely use syncopated or split beats to express the music.


A figure is a step or pattern.  Interestingly, the International and American Foxtrot styles share some figures. Sometimes the name is the same, such as the Weave.  Other times the action is the same, but the name is different.   For instance, the Open Left Turn in American and the leader’s part of a Reverse Turn with a Feather Finish in International are the same.

Here are the 3 main differences between American and International Foxtrot styles.

Dance position

Foxtrot styles - American
Fred & Ginger typify the American style Foxtrot.

American style allows open work where partners separate from each other, while in International Foxtrot, and the other Ballroom dances, the couple remains in contact at all times.


For American Foxtrot, the recommended tempo is 120-136 BPM (beats per minute). On the other hand, the recommended tempo for International Foxtrot is 112-120 BPM.


Sassy and sexy would describe American style, while smooth and sleek is more the International style.  Take a look at this lovely International Foxtrot performance.

Ask your instructor about the Foxtrot styles.  Whether you dance the high technique of International or the jazzy good times of American, you’re gonna be glad you did.  Please check out Dance Safari’s post, “Learn How to Dance…Yea or Nay?”.

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  1. That was so beautiful, Barbara, I was totally enthralled watching the International Slowfox video; what an amazing couple.
    Here in Australia there are a number of teachers giving lessons where ‘separation’ during the dance is performed (as in the cute Fred and Ginger take). I doubt this will become the norm in ‘comp’ dancing (at least not in the short term) though, I do see it more and more at socials.
    I have always adored Fred and Ginger. I’m sure I’ve seen all their movies, and loved them to bits.. 🙂

    • About that Slowfox, did you see how beautifully she used her topline? That’s very American style, but she performed it the best I’ve ever seen! I just watched with my mouth open the whole time.

      Many times there will be a bit of separating during demonstrations. It’s fun to have another way to express.

      As far as Fred and Ginger go, I’m also a big fan. Got my start at the original Fred Astaire studio in NYC that he was involved in opening. Guess we’ll both be faithful fans!

      • Her topline was quite incredible, I agree; I really was mesmerized. As you’ve said, this movement is not generally the case with the International styling, but, perhaps there is ‘change’ in the air.
        A rather well known and respected teacher here in Sydney has just returned from Europe where she went to obtain the highest degree for judging/teaching, which she passed. She mentioned a change occurring regarding lead and follow. It seems there is a transformation toward both individuals being responsible for ‘their’ part; as opposed to lead and follow. This she said, brought an equality to their partnership and, as she expressed; a greater connection of form.
        Who knows; perhaps change is in the wind for dance, worldwide!

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