Arthur Murray describes “How to Dance the Toddle” to The South-Bend News-Times

The South-Bend News-Times ran an article on July 31, 1921, entitled “How to Dance the Toddle,” by Arthur Murray.  Mr. Murray is pictured with his partner demonstrating several Toddle positions.  The article has been reproduced below:

South Bend news-times., July 31, 1921, SECOND SECTION, Image 19

South Bend news-times., July 31, 1921, SECOND SECTION, Image 19.jpg

According to Mr. Murray, a different dance called the “Toddle” was originated by a teacher in New York in 1917.  Mr. Murray opines that while this version of the dance became quickly obsolete, the name, which many found to be ridiculous, lived on.  The current Toddle (current, at least, in 1921), Mr. Murray states, derives from jazz, and is entirely American in its feel and look.

“What is known as the Toddle today is simply an outgrowth of Jazz. It has a suggestion of the ‘shimmy,’ minus the vicious shaking of the shoulders.

Those who can dance the ‘Toddle’ know that it is lots of fun.  The new dance has the delightful abandon so characteristic of everything American, and that is one of the reasons it is so popular.  It has the swing, or rather the rhythm, of the Jazz, and this adds the zest to what might otherwise be an extremely foolish way of spending the evening.”

Mr. Murray is of the opinion that the Fox Trot and the waltz require considerably more exertion than the Toddle in execution.  He notes that the principle difference between the Fox Trot and Toddle is the characteristic bounce in the Toddle steps.

“The walk is a resilient movement, very much akin to a bouncing step.  In ‘toddling,’ you take the regular Fox Trot step, then rise up and come down at the finish of each step.  The bouncing movement comes after the step is taken.”

The lady is encouraged, in a break from tradition, to lift her feet from the ground:

“The old rule of ‘keep your feet on the floor’ is now passé.  In the Toddle the girl is permitted to raise her foot high off the floor if she can do it gracefully.  This pose shows the position of the feet in the rocking step.”

The article addresses several Toddle variations, such as the Rocking Step, the Backwards Shuffle; and the Toddle Pivot, and includes a breakdown of the basic Toddle movement.

The rocking step is described as 4 forward (for the gentleman) moving steps starting on the left foot (counts 1, 2, 3, 4) , a two-step in a diagonal direction (5 and 6), and completed by a rocking step back right and forward left (7, 8).  The step is then repeated starting on the second foot.

In the backwards shuffle, the gentleman unusually progresses back line of dance, starting on his left foot.  Mr. Murray describes this movement as a walk, presumably with a toddle hop (count 1), followed by 3 long slides backwards (2 and 3 and 4).

The toddle pivot consists of 1 two-step and 1 slow pivot.  The two step starts moving directly to the gentleman’s left in two slides (counts 1 and 2).  On the second left slide, the couple turns a quarter turn to the right. The gentleman then steps right and the couple pivots again.  The rhythm according to Mr. Murray: step-draw-pivot-pivot.

Like many twentieth century dances, the Toddle is a clear relative of walking dances such as the one-step and the fox-trot, distinguished almost exclusively by its characteristic bouncing motion, a relationship that Mr. Murray acknowledges late in the article when he states that the toddle steps can be inserted into any point during a foxtrot.

The article discussed above was provided by Chronicling America.  The cover image, an advertisement from 1922 featuring Arthur Murray and his partner, was provided by Wikipedia and is in the public domain. It is attributed thusly:

“Arthur Murray System 1922” by Truth Publishing Company. – Advertisement scanned from page 857 of the January 1922 Science & Invention magazine by Michael Holley Swtpc6800 in August 2008.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –



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