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Streetswings Dance History Archives: Turkey Trot
Turkey Trot
the Turkey Trot

             Most historians agree that the Turkey Trot was invented in San Francisco around 1909, but some have reported that it came from Central America in the 1860's (unlikely).

   It has been said that dancers John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning introduced this dance as well as the Grizzly Bear at Ray Jones Cafe' in Chicago, IL. around 1909. The name Turkey Trot relating to dancing goes back further to 1895 in the song "Pas Ma La" where the dancer is urged to got to the World's Fair and do the Turkey Trot dance, so its probably a folk dance that became a Ragtime Dance later.

   The Turkey Trot was not a very graceful dance, but is considered one of the first of the so called animal dances to catch on with the

public. The Trot was basically a face to face dance (meaning: not danced off to the side of each other like the Peabody,) taking one step on each beat of music, while holding her tightly around the waist or 'hugging' as it was called back then. While dancing the Turkey Trot, dancers would sway to and fro, going in a straight line around the floor, while occasionally "Pumping or Flapping" of the arms was encouraged, thus giving the name of the Turkey Trot. Occasionally the man would let go of the lady and dance behind her, and on occasion add a little hop or skip in the step.

   Many people as well as whole communities thought of the Turkey Trot as demoralizing and or sexually suggestive and tried "Bans" on the dance but this only added to it's popularity, even the Castles tried to eliminate this dance from society in 1914, even tho it was this very dance that gave the Castle's their first break in the dance business.

   A few examples:
1) on July 22, 1913, written in a dance card from the Exposition Park dancing pavilion in Conneaut Lake, PA. it was written that "the Bear Dance (Grizzly Bear) and Turkey Trot would not be tolerated."
2) A Paterson, New Jersey court imposed a fifty day prison sentence on young women for doing the Turkey Trot.
3) 15 Women were fired from a well known magazine for doing the Turkey-Trot during their lunch break, and there are many more stories like these such as the Vatican's official's issue of disapproval.

    However, the music was fun to listen too and made you move your feet and most of all was a fun shameful dance to do in that day of time. As with most dances, if the average dancer could dance to it, it would become popular with the masses and the musical breaks were easy to master. The Turkey Trot allowed you to dance very close to your partner (hugging), unlike the old Waltz were dancers kept a proper distance and was not hard to do.

In his book "The modern dance" by Ham, he writes:
   "the Houston Chronicle reported: "Turkey Leg" is the newest disease. It gets its name because it comes from "turkey trotting" too much. High society, the kind that dwells in Newport, has it. Houston, if it turkey trots too much, may get it. And Houston mothers as well as Newport mothers have of recent date become worried. Doctors to the turkey trotting rich say that the only cure is to shake your leg or get it pulled several times daily. The cause is that turkey trotters trot mostly on one leg. This shortens and cramps one leg, causing pains and aches. Hence the doctors and the "shakes" and pulls. Another worry is the "split" bathing skirt. They have appeared in force at Newport and a few dared the surf at Galveston. One in brilliant Red, much slashed, was at the Breakers last Sunday. Next Sunday The Chronicle will print a full page story illustrated in colors about the new "Turkey Leg" illness and the split skirt." (note: they were jokingly printing this article.)

    Most couples dances of the time had some kind of animal name attached to it (thought to make it successful) such as the Bunny Hug, Horse Trot, Buzzard Lope and Grizzly Bear to name a few. In Germany they called it (trots) the "Truthahn Tanz," and in France it was the "Pas fiu Dindon". The Turkey Trot was replaced by the Fox Trot in 1914.

During the dance fad craze of the 1960's dances such as the Twist, Swim, Mashed Potato etc. where huge and there was an abundance of dances, some old, some remakes of others. The Turkey Trot was no exception, altho this version was done freestyle as you can see in this little Eva clip "The Turkey Trot". Watch the both sets of dancers in the background. Arms played a big role, positions, as well as the legs.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

San Francisco 1895 ?Song Version = John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning ? Ragtime Dance

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

1913 - Around The Hall - Le Gigot - Le Gigot
      1909 - On The Mississippi 1895 - Pas Ma La
      1912 - Turkey Trot 1909 - On The Mississippi
      1912 - Turkey Trot Glide 1912 - Turkey Trot
      1913 - Around The Hall 1912 - Turkey Trot Glide
      1913 - Lets Dance Rag 1913 - Around The Hall

1913 - Everybody Two Step
      1913 - Lets Dance Rag
      1913 - Some Baby
      1925 - Ragtime College
      1963 - Let's Turkey Trot (Little Eva)
        Everybody's Doin It (popular)
        Ren & Stimpy Production Music - Turkey Trot
        Turkey Trot - Leonard Bernstein
        1920s - Oh Quei Tuoi Capelli - Dajos Bela Orchestra

Ballrooms / Night Clubs



Most Dansants at the time n/a San Francisco
Breaker's (Palm Beach - 1913)       New York, Fifth Ave.
Cafe' Des Beaux       Turkey Trot Parade-Cuervo, TX. (turkey's not dancers) 11/26/1912
Follies Bergere (Paris 1913)      
Palais de Danse (Berlin 1913)       Europe
Ray Jones Cafe' (1909)        


Ballets / Stage

1910 - The Feud and the Turkey (?maybe related)  1912 - Washington D.C. "Casino" (Palmer Hines)
1913 - Dancing Lessons (Kalem) 1913 - The Sunshine Girl (Castles)
1913 - Pathe Weekly (Turkey Trot & Grizzly Bear) 1914 - The Flat Hunters (by Julie McCree)
$ 1947 - The Fabulous Dorsey's  


      1/2/1910 - Oakland Tribune (Club women wage war on Tough Dances)
      12/22/1910 - Oakland Tribune (Pavlova Loves the Turkey Trot)
      11/5/1911 - Washington Post (Originated in San Francisco - Intro at Newport)
      11/21/1911 - Fort Wayne Daily News (Wisconsin Police ban dances)
      1/6/1912 - Washington Post (Modern Dances come to)
      1/26/1912 - Kansas City Star (Ragtime Dances)
      4/25/1912 - Washington Post (page 12)
      1/4/1913 - Denver Republican Newspaper
      2/6/1913 - Washington Post (Helen Keller says she can Turkey Trot)
      3/15/1913 - Fort Wayne Sentinel (Charm Dance Bans Turkey Trot)
      8/25/1913 - Washington Post (Bar Harbor embraces trot where others ban/arrested)
      10/26/1913 - Lima Daily News (Police Woman Taught Bunny Hug / Turkey Trot Properly)

Other Related Dances of the time ... and various Trots

Apache Dance Dallas Dip (1912) Lambeth Walk Suzy-Q
Big Apple Duck Trot Lame Duck Tango
Break Away Fish Walk (1913) Maxixe Texas Tommy
Bunny Hug / Bunny Wiggle Foxtrot One Step Tiger, the (1913)
Buzzard Lope Futuristic Twirl (1916) Peabody Toddle
Cakewalk Gaby Glide Peelin' The Peach Trotto (1500s)
Camel Walk Gilda Glide Quickstep Trottart (1480)
Castle Walk Grapevine (1912) Sea Sick Glide (1913) Truckin'
Charleston Grizzly Bear Shimmy Two Step
Clifford Trot Horse Trot (1912) Shivers, the (1912) Varsity Drag
Collegiate .... Irish Trot Slow Drag Wish Wash Glide (1913)

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


1910 - Anna Pavlova   Alfred Horatmann (German Embassy - 1912)
1912 - Henry Martin (Champion Skater & Clogger)   Mr. Haniel German Embassy (1912)
1912 - Irene Weston - Jack Clifford   Mr Van Brock Russian Embassy (1912)
1912 - Josephine Hartman    
1912 - Palmer Hines and his Six Musical Maids    
1913 - Bankoff and Girlie    
1913 - Evelyn Nesbit & Jack Clifford    
1913 - Maurice Mouvet    
1916 - Donald Brian & Carol McCommas    
U.S. Thompson    
Vernon & Irene Castle    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Publisher
Dancing Till Dawn Malnig, Julie 1992 N.Y. University Press
From Turkey Trot to Big Apple Crowther, Bosley 11/7/1937 N.Y. Times
Harper's Weekly Magazine ?? 1910 ??
$ Jazz Dance Stearns, Marshal 1963 Da Capo Press
Modern Dance, a historical and analytical treatment of the subject Ham, M. F. 1913 n/a
New York Sun Newspaper 1/14/191? n/a



Additional TT Music Titles

Band, Prince's n/a 1907 - I'm Dreaming of the Girl I Love (back Cover)
Band, Turkey Trot     1909?- Too Much Mustard (Columbia #A1307 )
Band, Victor Marching     1909 - On The Mississippi (Columbia #A1307)
Berlin, Irving     1911 - I'm Crazy Bout Me
Dabney, Ford     1913 - Round The Hall (Turkey Trot / Tango)
Dorsey Bros.     1913 - Somebody
Europe, James Reese     1913 - Saturday Evening Post
Eva, Little (c.1963)     1914 - Thanks For The Lobster (Tango/Turkey trot)
Rubenstein, Anton (1829-1894)     Le Gigot
Penn, William H.     Ragtime College
W.C. Handy     Everybody's Doin It
      Bobbin' Up and Down
      International Rag Medley
      Old Folks Rag
      The Turkey Trot
      Tickle Toes (Penn)
      Ticklish Sensation
      1963 - Let's Turkey Trot (by Little Eva)

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Animal Dances Collegiate Dansants Teas
Barbary Coast Dance Bans / Banished / Banned Society dances Wiggle Dances
Cabarets Dance Craze Suggestive Dances WWI
Freak Dances Nickel Dance Halls Tough Dancing Tenderloin Dance Halls
Note: Trot de Cavalerie [Rubenstein] -- (1890's) may be a relation? (see

The Basic Step

Bear Hug Type-Closed Position. Leader Left foot Follower Right foot. Leader starts with continuous walking around the floor with partner forward until a break in the music, Couple hops back, still holding hand and doing the "Heel Touches" below, then resume walking, repeat.

Leaders part, (Follower opposite) On certain parts of the music you would jump away and do the "Heel Parts," then return back to walking. See the video clip at top of page. Face to Face - Ballroom/Ragtime hold. Dance is done with a Rhythmic Bounce or Jaunt.
1 - Walk forwad with Left Foot
2 - Walk Walk Forward with Right Foot
3-4 - Extend Leg and Heel Forward. Touch (Lt) (slow)
5-6 - Extend Leg and Heel Forward. Touch (Rt) (slow)
7 - Extend Leg and Heel Forward. Touch (Lt) (quick)
8 - Extend Leg and Heel Forward. Touch (Rt) (quick)
December 15, 2012