Learning Quickstep? 5 Dances You Need to Know First

While the Quickstep has been around for a century, it’s recent popularity is a result of shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Anyone who’s interested in learning the Quickstep would do well to know a bit about a few other dances first.

The 5 Dances that will help when you’re learning the Quickstep are:


At a considerably slower tempo, learning the International style Slow Waltz first will make it much easier for you to dance the Quickstep. The reason for this is that they have a number of basic steps in common. Both Slow Waltz and Quickstep use Natural Turns, Natural Spin Turns, and Closed Impetuses in their basics.


One of the most popular social dances of the early 1900s was the Foxtrot. The dance that eventually became known as Quickstep developed when musicians started playing the Foxtrot at a faster tempo.

Foxtrot is another dance that shares a basic step with Quickstep. In American style Foxtrot, that step is called 1/4 Turns while in International Quickstep it’s known as 1/4 Turn to the Right and 1/4 Turn to the Left.


Once bands and orchestras started playing the uptempo Ragtime music, people dancing the Quickstep began putting Charleston moves into their routines. This involved blending the solo moves into a partner dance.

One-Step is made for Ragtime dancing.

Some dancers, looking for a simpler way to express the fun music of the era, took to doing a walking dance that came to be called the One-Step. The variations were endless, whether traveling around the floor or resting in place. It’s interesting to note during this period the Animal Dances became popular. That’s right, the One-Step took on some characteristics of animals, with names like:

  • Chicken Scratch
  • Monkey Glide
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Bunny Hug
Vernon and Irene Castle dancing the Castle Walk.

Dancing Peabody makes learning Quickstep easier.

Both Peabody and Quickstep are fast, feel-good dances, but here’s a surprising fact, Peabody is the faster of the two. Quickstep is danced at a tempo of 192-208 bpm (beats per minute) or 48-52 mpm (measures per minute). The American Smooth dance, Peabody, is danced at a peppier 240-248 bpm or 60-62 mpm. Dancing at that speed makes it pretty difficult to bring the feet together so Peabody dancers pass the feet as they do in the One-Step.

Read about the Peabody in this Dance Safari post, “Peabody:  A Simple Introduction to a Jazzy Dance”.

A bit of history.

The Quickstep started in New York in the early 20th century. At one point it was called Quick Time Fox Trot and Charleston. As that was a mouthful, it eventually became known as the Quickstep. And, a fitting description it is.

The Quickstep became one of the International style Ballroom dances and was first used in competition in England. According to a post by Bella Ballroom, “In 1927, the English couple Frank Ford and Molly Spain danced a version of the Quick Time Foxtrot and Charleston at the Star Championships without the characteristic Charleston knee actions and made the dance for two instead of a solo.

What are Quickstep’s main characteristics?

Ragtime dancing was smooth and elegant, while couples cheerfully traveled around the room. Since the Quickstep is based on a wide variety of dances, you’ll find things like hops, runs, skips, and kicks in it. You can’t help but smile when you’re doing a dance with those childlike attributes.

Add a few Quickstep combinations to your social dance repertoire and you can skip your nightly run. Powerful stuff!

To get back to the point, being exposed to dances like Waltz, Foxtrot, and Charleston will be a great help to you when you’re learning the Quickstep. Why not learn the basics in these dances before you try to dance them at a much quicker pace? And, speaking of pace, when you’re comfortable with the One-Step and the Peabody, it’ll be a piece of cake to dance at the more leisurely speed of Quickstep.

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