peabodySoon after the introduction of the foxtrot in 1914, two variations developed: a slow version done at about forty measures per minute and a fast version done at more than fifty measures per minute. In England, the fast foxtrot was called the quickstep; in America it was called the Peabody, named after a New York policeman, Lieutenant William Frank Peabody (1873-1939). He was a large, good-natured bachelor who, despite his considerable weight, was light on his feet and who loved to dance. A popular member of New York ragtime dancing circles, he especially enjoyed dancing the fast foxtrot, which was gaining popularity in 1915. Because of his huge girth, however, Officer Peabody was unable to hold his partner directly in front of him, so he held her on his right side, in a sort of promenade hold known as the English or the right-outside position. The dance that came to be called the Peabody was thus based on an unusual dance position for the partners, which led to some unique steps and floor patterns. Today, the Peabody and the quickstep bear little resemblance to each other, although some of the steps are the same.


The Peabody is a brisk dance that covers a lot of space on the dance floor. Danced to almost any 2/4 or 4/4 ragtime tune of appropriate tempo, it is essentially a fast one-step, with long, gliding strides and a few syncopations. The leader changes sides as he travels around the floor and adds promenades and simple turns as the dance progresses. The partners may also add slight dipping motions with their upper bodies once they master the rhythm and flow of movement. In competitions and exhibitions, Peabody dancers sometimes wear appropriate ragtime dress: suits and straw boaters or bowler hats for the gentlemen and long, full dresses for the ladies. Music suitable for dancing the Peabody includes “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Ain’t She Sweet?,” “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” “Tiger Rag,” “Bourbon Street Parade,” and other ragtime tunes of New Orleans jazz men of the late 1910s and early 1920s.

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