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The History of Dance : Charleston

BBC Strictly Gemma

Online team

The Charleston in it's modern form, was performed from around 1903, featured in several Harlem stage shows and by the 1920's was a popular dance style in the Ragtime-Jazz era. 

Check out Ian Waite and Karen Hardy in their... own, unique, interpretation of its history:

Although a firm favourite with contemporary audiences this dance style, and in particular the "flapper girls" (the women who danced the Charleston, known for the way they flapped their arms and walked like birds whilst dancing), were blamed for the decline in moral standards. 

Flappers would roll down their stockings, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, wear shorter skirts, have their hair bobbed and engage in heavy petting... ooo-err!

Needless to say at it's height of popularity the Charleston was banned from many dance halls because of it's outrageous behaviour!


Basic Moves

You've heard the background to the dance. Now I know you're keen to hear what the basic steps are! Well here you go...


  • There are four basic steps in the Charleston; take a step back with the right foot; kick back with the left leg; step forward with the left foot (going back to the original position); kick forward with the right leg... aaaaaand repeat
  • Use large, loose motions with the swinging arms and flicking feet
  • Think opposites; if the right leg is kicked forward, the left arm should swing back from the elbow. If the left leg kicks back the right arm should swing forward... simple!
  • Remember twisty feet as the steps are taken backwards or forwards
  • There should be lots of flicks to the front and the side, from the knees and feet
  • Lifts are allowed in the Charleston



The Charleston in Strictly Come Dancing

It wasn't until series 7 that the Charleston made it's debut. Here are the highest and lowest scorers of the routine as of Thursday 29th November 2012:

Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan - Series 8, week 14 - 50/50

Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani - Series 9, week 11 - 39/40

Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan - Series 8, week 9 - 38/40

Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna - Series 7, week 11 - 37/40


Jimi Mistry and Flavia Cacace - Series 8, week 4 - 27/40

Ann Widdecombe and Anton du Beke - Series 8, week 6 - 17/40

Peter Shilton and Erin Boag - Series 8, week 4 - 17/40


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