The music performed in Storyville was almost uniformly designed to get people moving on the dance floor. The more traditional steps of the quadrille, waltz, and polka dominated the early years and high-end establishments, though many of the most successful bands and musicians also played newer styles to suit the desires of their audiences. Bolden’s band, for example, was known to start the evening playing polkas only and to end the night performing the more salacious and intimate slow drag, as the more liberally minded arrived. By the 1910s, new, easy-to-learn dance steps like the one-step and foxtrot took over, as a younger generation of dancers wanted easier steps that allowed for more personal variation. 

Advertisement for Victrola dance records at Werlein’s 
from Werlein’s scrapbook
November 27, 1913
The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Philip Werlein, Ltd., 2005.0154.2

Advertisement for Victrolas at Werlein’s
from Werlein’s scrapbook
May 26, 1914
The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Philip Werlein, Ltd., 2005.0154.2

Advertisement for Victrolas at Werlein’s
from Werlein’s scrapbook
July 28, 1914
The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Philip Werlein, Ltd., 2005.0154.2

Modern Dancing
by Vernon Castle and Irene Castle
New York: World Syndicate, 1914
The Historic New Orleans Collection, The William Russell Jazz Collection, acquisition made possible by the Clarisse Claiborne Grima Fund, MSS 525, 92-48-L.62.268

Modern Dancing, the dance manual released in 1914 by the dancing duo Vernon and Irene Castle, gained national popularity as a source for learning the newest steps and styles. 

Modern Dancing
by Vernon Castle and Irene Castle
New York: World Syndicate, 1914
The Historic New Orleans Collection, The William Russell Jazz Collection, acquisition made possible by the Clarisse Claiborne Grima Fund, MSS 525, 92-48-L.62.268

 

Modern Dancing
by Vernon Castle and Irene Castle
New York: World Syndicate, 1914
The Historic New Orleans Collection, The William Russell Jazz Collection, acquisition made possible by the Clarisse Claiborne Grima Fund, MSS 525, 92-48-L.62.268

Dance Videos



 
Two-step
Music: Kid Ory. "Maple Leaf Rag," by Scott Joplin.
Recorded January 24, 1946.
Kid Ory, 1944–1946. American Music, 1994.

 

Evolving from the valse à deux temps, the two-step, danced in 2/4 or 4/4 time, became popular during the 1890s. The versatile step could be danced to many styles of music and was characterized by a unique quick-quick-slow pattern.




 
One-step
Music: Kid Ory. "High Society," by Armand Piron and Clarence Williams.
Recorded 1946.
Kid Ory, 1944–1946. American Music, 1994. Originally released by Folklyric in 1975.

 

A simplified two-step, the one-step, composed of a basic walking pattern, became popular in the late 1890s. The simplicity of the step made the dance accessible to a wider audience and provided dancers with room to experiment with personal touches and flourishes that were often considered risqué.




 
Tango
Music: Fess Manetta. "Anita," author unknown.
Recorded 1957.
Fess Manetta: Whorehouse Piano. American Music, 2011. Originally released by Jazzology in 1985.

 

Born in nineteenth-century Buenos Aires, the tango reached New Orleans after the turn of the century and by 1910 was one of the most popular dances in the city. The steps are built around the habanera rhythm, an element of the Spanish tinge which was appearing in contemporary New Orleans music.




 
Ballin' the Jack
Music: Bunk Johnson. “Ballin’ the Jack,” by Jim Burris and Chris Smith.
Recorded 1944.
Bunk Johnson, 1944. American Music, 1991.

 

One of many novelty dances of the period, Ballin’ the Jack accompanied the popular song of the same name, which was published in 1913.




 
Foxtrot
Music: Original Dixieland Jazz Band. "Livery Stable Blues."
Recorded 1917.
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band: The First Recordings, 1917–1921. Timeless, 1998. Originally released by Victor in 1917.

 

Perhaps the best remembered of the many animal dances (such as the turkey trot and grizzly bear), the foxtrot rose to popularity around 1915. The dance was a composite of the one- and two-steps and was characterized by its variable nature, which encouraged improvisation and interaction among dance partners.


Credits: Special thanks to Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré and to dancers Nina Bozak and Ralph McDonald. Video by Craig Kraemer. Music courtesy of Jazzology Records and Sony Music Entertainment.


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