Introducing the Charleston: The Scandal of the 1920s

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When it comes to wild, fun and crazy moves, this was one of the dances that were considered to combine them all. Not only that but it was once considered so wild and crazy that it actually managed to be banned! That’s something that not a lot of dances can say, but it’s definitely not a reason that you should forget about this dance. It’s something that’s come back into style and you’ve probably heard about it even if you’ve never actually seen it done. After all, it’s been used in a number of different iterations over time.

Where it Started

If you’re talking about the Charleston itself, the way that it was originally created when you’re talking about a dance that came about way back in the early 1900s. it was a type of folk dance that African people’s used throughout the southern regions of America. Of course, there were some variations of it that were also present in Trinidad, Ghana, and even Nigeria. Even still, the dance didn’t continue on for that long and quickly seemed to fall out of common use. It was unique, however, when it was performed, and the music was generally foot stomping and hand clapping in complicated rhythms.

The Charleston Swing was actually originated back in the 1920s and it was founded, you guessed it, in Charleston. It’s a rhythm dance that started to get a whole lot more popular in the year 1923, when a song known as ‘The Charleston’ was introduced from the Broadway show, Runnin Wild. It quickly rocketed to the top of everyone’s mind and became one of the most popular songs of the decade. That meant, for a while at least, everyone was doing the Charleston and it only continued to grow in popularity as the Broadway show continued to showcase throughout the next year.

What It’s Like

Overall, this dance is one that’s going to keep you moving. It’s going to keep your feet moving, your arms moving and your whole body moving. It’s going to really get your heart rate up too and that’s definitely going to make it a lot of fun for just about anyone. If you’re looking for a dance that’s not so prim and proper but does have older origins you’re definitely going to want this one. It’s going to give you a little bit of a taste of what you might have missed out on being born a little while too late.

How to Charleston

If you’re interested in trying out this dance for yourself you should really enjoy it. It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s not going to be too difficult for you to master. That’s definitely important when you’re just starting out, because no one wants to be struggling for a long time. You want to be able to have some fun, right?

  1. Bring your right foot forward and touch your left toe forward.
  2. Bring the left foot backward and touch your right toe backward.
  3. That’s it. There are actually only 2 steps involved in being able to dance the Charleston!

If you’re looking for a dance that’s going to be super simple to get the basics down then you’re definitely in the right place. The Charleston literally involves only 2 steps and you can just keep repeating them throughout the entire song if you want to. Of course, you’re probably going to get a little bored with that, which is why there are so many different variations and other steps that people really enjoy. Also, those extra steps are the reason the dance was so scandalous in its time period. But let’s move up a little on the difficulty scale.

  1. Move your right leg back.
  2. Kick your left leg back.
  3. Bring your left foot forward and down.
  4. Kick the right foot forward.
  5. That’s it! Even the more difficult version of the Charleston still only has 4 steps involved in it.

Okay, if you really want to add another step to this then you’re definitely going to want to add your arms in, that’s where the name of the ‘flappers’ comes in, after all. Adding your arms is actually super easy because all you do is move the opposite arm in the opposite direction of your moving leg. That might sound a little complicated but it actually goes like this: if your right leg is moving back your left arm should be going forward. If your left leg is moving forward, your right arm should be going back. And make sure you’re keeping those arms crooked to 90 degrees as well as swinging them in an over-exaggerated fashion.

Swinging Charleston

When it comes to the Swinging Charleston the process is only slightly more complicated but it’s going to be a lot of fun. So what are you going to do in order to do the Swinging Charleston?

  1. Move your right foot back and put your weight on it, bringing your left arm forward.
  2. Move your weight to the left foot and kick forward with the right, bringing the right arm back and the left forward.
  3. Bring the right foot to the left foot.
  4. Move your weight to the right foot and kick forward with the left, bringing the left arm back and the right forward.
  5. Move your weight to the right foot and kick the left foot back while you bring the left arm forward and the right arm back.
  6. Move your left foot back behind the right foot.
  7. Keep it going. You’re doing it! You’re absolutely doing the Swinging Charleston and people are going to want to know all about how you do it.

What to Keep in Mind

If you’re thinking about dancing the Charleston Swing you want to know about some of the important features and facts about this dance, right? Well, you should start by keeping in mind that this dance is quite simple and you can most definitely start to pick it up quickly. If you really want to amp things up with some of the fancier steps though, it might take you a little bit longer to pick up some of those moves.

You Can Dance Alone

You actually don’t need to worry about dancing this particular dance with anyone. If you want to, you can go it entirely alone. It has a couple different versions where you can dance on your own actually. That makes it great for those who don’t have a set partner or for those who want to practice it at home. You can start learning some of the moves entirely on your own and then show them off when you get out there on the dance floor. If you want to partner up sometimes you can do that too.

You Can Freestyle

This is the type of dance where you’re really going to have some freedom and get the opportunity to make it your own. The basic steps are all you really need to know and then, whether you decide to dance with a partner or not, you’re going to pretty much be off and running on your own. Move your arms, move your legs and just keep kicking and moving back and forth. That’s pretty much all it takes.

Flappers Have More Fun

If you’re really getting into it you’re definitely going to have more fun than if you get too uptight about it. So swing your arms and make your motions as wide and wild as possible. That’s what the name was really all about. If you really want to have some fun you can even pick up one of the stylish dresses that they used to wear. That was probably part of the reason that this dance was considered so taboo in the more formal and proper portions of the country.

Some Interesting Facts

When it comes to just about any style of dance you’re going to find some interesting aspects. You’re definitely going to like hearing about what it was about the Charleston that was so fascinating, because it’s actually been banned! It’s also a unique dance that started out long before swing music and it’s been adapted, which means a whole lot of things have been going on about this one over time. So we’ll take a look at some of the other interesting facts.

The Dance Was Banned from Dance Halls

Back in the 1920s when this dance was really hitting it off it was actually banned from being danced in a large number of different dance halls. The idea was that it was indecent and it was way to wild and crazy to be danced out in any proper public place. Of course, it did get reintroduced and was gradually allowed back in, but the idea that this was the style of dance once considered to be indecent … well, that’s saying something about dancing.

It Started Longer Ago Than People Realized

Because it was primarily a type of folk dance not many people actually knew about this dance at all until at least 1913. That was more than 10 years after it had originally started being used. At that point, it actually became part of a stage production, but it took another 10 years before people really started paying attention and it became far more popular throughout the country. There’s no telling what might have happened if it wasn’t brought to the New Amsterdam Theater in 1922 and of course to Runnin Wild shortly thereafter.

Flappers Were the Girls Who Danced the Charleston

You’ve probably heard about the ‘flappers’ of the 1920s and this is where the came from. These were girls that started to shun some of the more common societal norms, like corsets and longer hair. Rather, they decided to chop their hair into a bob and wear the short skirts and loose styles of the dresses you’ve probably seen in books and magazines from the era. They would wave and flap their arms around in time to the dance (which is part of the dance now) and that was where the name actually came from.

The girls were actually considered great by some and immoral by others. Because of the way the dance was viewed it definitely affected the girls who were dancing. Not only that but people began to talk about them and this dance is a downfall to all of humanity. We can tell that definitely didn’t happen but for people in that era, there was always something wrong about being different. When the dance was banned it continued to grow in speakeasies alongside prohibition and several other clandestine practices of the time.

It Was Most Popular in 1926

If you were thinking about the most popular time for this dance it was actually several years after it first started taking the country by storm. Around 1926 and 1927 this dance started to really take off and more and more people were doing it. After that … well, there were always newer dances that people could get involved in and that meant the Charleston started to fall by the wayside. It seems to have picked up again in more recent times however and has even been on some dancing competition shows and in movies. That’s definitely going to get more people back into it.


Anyone who’s looking to really get out there and have some fun, burn some calories or maybe get a little bit of old-fashioned fun is going to love this dance. You can work up a real sweat if you’re doing it right and that might be another reason those flappers were wearing shorter skirts. You get more movement and you definitely get a little bit more air while you’re moving, flailing, kicking and swinging. But even if you’re not interested in going quite all out, you’re definitely going to have some fun learning this dance, on your own or with others.

By | 2019-05-07T04:35:08+00:00 May 11th, 2019|Categories: Charleston, Swing Dance|Tags: |0 Comments

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