Foxtrot Styles Explained…American vs. International

Foxtrot is known as the “Dancer’s Dance” because it requires great skill to make it look so easy.  Not only is it a challenge for some dancers, but the music is loved by many worldwide. For that reason, a common question is, “What is the difference between American and International Foxtrot styles?

Let’s take a look at the elements of each Foxtrot style. 

Frame

Frame refers to how partners hold each other. That is, a supportive and solid frame is the way a leader shows direction and a follower responds. This is true for all partner dancing.

Foxtrot styles are international or american
We see a good connection and strong frame in this International Foxtrot picture line.

Footwork

Footwork is how you use your feet to show the characteristic style of the dance. For example, because Foxtrot is a traveling dance, the feet are used to rhythmically travel across the floor.

Timing

As far as the timing goes, 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.

Figures

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 moves are 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 style - American
Fred & Ginger typify the American style Foxtrot.

American style allows open work where partners separate from each other. On the other hand, in International Foxtrot the couple keeps contact with each other throughout the dance.

Tempo

The recommended tempo for American Foxtrot is 120-136 Beats Per Minute. This is slightly faster than International Foxtrot’s 112-120 BPM.

Expression or Feeling of Each Foxtrot Style

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.

Here’s a thought, why don’t you ask your instructor about the Foxtrot. Whether you dance the highly technical International or the jazzy, good-time American, you’re gonna be glad you did.

If you need help deciding to learn ballroom dancing, check out this Dance Safari post, “Learn How to Dance…Yea or Nay?

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4 comments

  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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