The dance that took flight and made it's homestead during the Roaring 20's has an ambiguous origin. It is believed that the original dance steps came from African Americans residing on a small island off the coast of Charleston, SC as far back as 1903. Which island, no one seems to know.
Without doubt however, The Charleston became popular when it made its debut on the Broadway stage for the musical "Runnin' Wild" in 1923. James P. Johnson composed the song "The Charleston" for this show, in which the dance was performed with great hail.
The Charleston was quickly adopted by Flappers who were known for their short skirts, bobbed hair and party lifestyle. The dance was even banned from some dance halls for being too scandalous, a rebellious outlook the Flappers favored.
Nonetheless, this dance has become the face of the 1920's. The Lindy Hop dance culture uses it even today.
The basic gist of it in 4/4 time, with bent knees:
1 - Step back on your R foot.
2 - Touch back your L foot.
3 - Step forward on your L foot (brings you back to the start).
4 - Touch forward your R foot.
Arms swing in opposition.
Variations to this basic step are abundant, including pigeon toeing, high kicks, leg swings, flexed feet, turns etc. It can also be done solo, with a partner or in a group.
For All Our Visual Learners!
Variations on The Charleston
Schools in Charleston
Want to test your skills on the dance floor?
Here is a list of Dance Schools in Charleston. The best education you'll find for learning the true dance steps of The Charleston will be in the genre of ballroom dance instruction. But you won't find a dance studio in Charleston that doesn't know the basic step!