ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Popular 1920s Dances

Updated on April 14, 2013

The Roaring Twenties were the start of the modern age. Dance was exuberant and energetic. 1920s style. freed women from tight corsets and the new fashions of short hair and short skirts. In the decade between Great War and the Great Depression, the world was alive and vibrant.

1920s dances: the Baltimore Buzz

The "Buzz" was really part of 1920s dancing rather than a dance itself, but there was also a song by called the Baltimore Buzz by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake:

There have been a thousand raggy-draggy dances

That are danced in every hall

And there have been a thousand raggy-draggy prances

That are pranced at every ball

But the bestest one that was

Is called the Baltimore Buzz


First you take your babe and gently hold her

Then you lay her head upon her shoulder

Next you walk just like your legs are breaking

Do a fango like a tango

Then you star the shimmie to shaking

Then you do a raggy, draggo motion

Just like any ship up on the ocean

Slide, and then you hesitate

Glide, oh honey ain't it great!

You just go simply in a trance

With that Baltimore buzzing dance

Baltimore Buzz Music

Baltimore Buzz Music
Baltimore Buzz Music

The Baltimore Buzz was popularised in 1921 by Florence Mills who danced and sang in a popular Revue. It is a ragtime dance, danced on one foot, sliding the other foot up to it, then swapping feet to repeat.

(There is a different line-dance known as the Baltimore Strut (or New Jersey Strut) which starts with two steps to the right, two to the left; one forwards with the right foot, then one with the left. The forward steps are then repeated with knees raised.)

1920s dances: the Black Bottom

The Black Bottom is a close relative of the better known 1920s Charleston. It was born in the New Orleans jazz tradition at the start of the 20th Century, but is much older in basic form as a folk dance. The Black Bottom was brought to New York in the middle of the 1920s and over the course of a couple of years became immensely popular.

This video shows how the 1920s Black Bottom dance developed during the decade.

America in the 1920s (Decades of American History)
America in the 1920s (Decades of American History)

The 1920s are a classic American decade with speakeasys and Prohibition, flappers and gansters. Learn more about this unique decade of contradictions in this book.


1920s dances: the Cake Walk

The Cake Walk was a well established dance by the 1920s with it's roots in the Black music of the Deep South. It's set in ragtime and even well kown composers like Debussey wrote cake walks. Franky though, in my personal opinion, the dance itself looks pretty ridiculous! Scott Joplin, the undisputed king of ragtime music, mentionted it in lyrics:-

"Let me see you do the rag-time dance,Turn left and do the cakewalk prance,Turn the other way and do the slow drag -Now take you lady to the World's FairAnd do the rag-time dance."

1920s dances: the Charleston

Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston (1926)

Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston (1926)
Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston (1926)

The Charleston is the sound of the Roaring Twenties with a driving jazz beat based on a 3-2 clave:-

In Cuban popular music a chord progression can begin on either side of clave. When the progression begins on the three-side, the song or song section is said to be in 3-2 clave. When the chord progression begins on the two-side, it is in 2-3 clave. In North America, salsa and Latin jazz charts commonly represent clave in two measures of cut-time (2/2), this most likely being the influence of jazz conventions[18]. When clave is written in two measures changing from one clave sequence to the other is a matter of reversing the order of the measures. - Source: Wikipedia (Creative Commons)

Although the basic steps are simple, it's usual to add flourishes and embellishments. One of the most common involves hands on knees as shown in the photograph of Josephine Baker above. In fact the term "Flapper", so strongly associated with 1920s women, is a reference to the Charlestone and the way that women would "flap" their arms and legs like a bird. It helped both Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers to rise to fame as renowned and popular dancers. The Charleston can be danced solo or with a partner.

The modern Charleston has developed from it's 1920s dance roots and is an established part of Lindy Hop dancing. The modern version often incorporates steps and moves from other 1920s dances such as the Black Bottom or the Cake Walk. The original 1920s Charleston was also a frenetically fast dance with up to 350 beats per minute. Modern dancing tends to have a somewhat slower pace.


1920s dances: the Foxtrot

The Foxtrot can be traced back to 1914 and was a popular fast jazz dance (slow, slow, quick, quick) and is a derivation of the older Two-step. The 1920s version is closer to the modern Quickstep than to the modern Foxtro - the dance style has split with the Foxtrot becoming slower while the Quickstep retains the original pace.

1920s Style

1920s dances: the Tango

The Tango Canyengue, the great dance of Latin America flourished until the Great Crash of 1929 and has the measure that everybody remembers: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Jalousie of 1925, was one of the most popular Tangos of the 1920s. The postcard above from 1919 carries a reference to the popular Hesitation Tango:

Come let's make a dateTo Tango quite late,And when we get tiredWe'll just Hesitate.

Sounds of the Roaring Twenties

1920s dances: the Waltz

There are more than two dozen sounds of the Twenties on this MP3 album. I have featured some individual MP3s in the iTunes section but this is the full collection. You can also buy any of the individual tracks as separate MP3s. Many can be previewed for free. It even includes music for 1920s dances like the Camel Walk which I didn't have space to cover here.

The waltz significantly pre-dates the 1920s and to modern eyes seems an especially gentile dance; however in the late 19th century the waltz was somewhat risqué because the partners held each other. Not surprisingly dances like the Charleston were seen by some as dangerously corrupt.

About Kate Phizackerley - (Introducing your lensmistress)

If you have any extra information or questions about this lens you can contact Kate Phizackerley, the lensmistress, using the contact form I have provided.

Subscribe to RSS

You can also follow Kate's business blog Kate Phizackerley on Business on Twitter or subscribe to an RSS newsfeed of her recent Squidoo updates.

Subscribe to RSS

Kate has written many Squidoo lenses. Please visit her full lensography, sample Kate's top lenses, or read her Squidoo Diary to keep up to date with her recent publications.

And if you would like to know more about Kate then please visit her personal lens on Squidoo or Kate's main personal hub and web site. You may also enjoy her personal blogs News From the Valley of the Kings or PT Phiz; or perhaps visit her Flickr photostream.

Version 2.1

I hope you like my lens but, whatever your opinions, I would like to hear your thoughts so please leave a message below. There's no need to be a member of Squidoo but no HTML is allowed.

I'd also really appreciate it if you would please go back to the top of my page and rate this lens. Just click home on the right. Thank you,


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      6 years ago

      These dances are so elegant. Makes me want to take ballroom dance lessons. : )

    • worldflashpacker profile image


      6 years ago

      What a great lens, fab ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great site-- thanks so much! Loved watching the old dances, hearing the old music and looking at the old fashions.

    • ShariBerry profile image

      Sharon Berry 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      What a wonderful era. I could dance to that music all night long!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Kate - I've really enjoyed this lens! I always say the best lenses are the ones you stay on the longest, and I've spent about a half an hour here! I sure couldn't say that about too many lenses! I love how you explained each dance and had videos to go along with each one. Very cool - very well done!

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 

      7 years ago

      I would love to see the return of a dance era like this one:) cool lens!

    • Saralyn LM profile image

      Saralyn LM 

      7 years ago

      Lots of fun dances back then!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      somehow these dances seem like they were so much more fun that the stuff the kids do today :) Great lens!

    • vkumar05 profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful dances... Like them so much thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      what a fun and interesting lens, thanks for sharing! I love to dance so this was extra fun to read.

    • Blonde Blythe profile image

      Blonde Blythe 

      8 years ago from U.S.A.

      Fun lens! I really enjoyed it! :)

    • profile image

      Rachel J Singer 

      8 years ago

      This was very informative--I never knew anything about 20's music

    • Recession Proof2 profile image

      Recession Proof2 

      8 years ago

      Good job, I'm enjoying your theme.

    • sushilkin lm profile image

      sushilkin lm 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. Nice Lens.. | Contribute your like to Pray for JAPAN

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a super lens! In Favorites so I can come back again. I love the exuberance of 1920s and 1930s music and in fact have a vintage music collection! Blessed today :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Have medals in Ballroom Dancing and can Charleston a little but would love to learn the Black Bottom! Thanks for the memories!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Cheers, that lense was pure awesome.

    • GonnaFly profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      What a great lens. I learned the waltz and foxtrot while I was at school. But I'm not really familiar with some of those other ones. Thanks for the education.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love this lens! Thank you for sharing all those wonderful old videos. I love all kinds of things about the 1920s! Featured on my blog, Foovay's Floozies.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      9 years ago from Central Florida

      I love seeing the old-fashioned dances in movies. This is a great collection that you've made here. I'll lensroll it to my What Is a Cakewalk lens.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)