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Streetswings Dance History Archives: The Knickerbocker Dance
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           The KNICKERBOCKER is a Waltz which was said to be the design of Dancing Master Allen Dodsworth in 1888 in New York while observing his advanced students making up new combinations while dancing the waltz. It was also known as the Newport, La Mode, Ripple, the Racquet, and the Wave. However the Knickerbocker Waltz as a music goes back prior to 1843 with 'Lanner's Knickerbocker Waltzes' - Sheet Music. Dodsworth's may have become a sort of official version as he called it the 'New Knickerbocker'. The Knickerbocker as a Quadrille goes back to the 1840s. The dance again found some favor in 1904 and was briefly revived.

Allen Dodsworth writes:
       "Although this dance was introduced and named by me, I cannot say it is of my invention; it is rather a copy from my own pupils. Observing a couple of the best amusing themselves by trying to invent a variety of motions while waltzing, I recognized the beauty of this combination. After giving those motions form and regularity, I induced my pupils to learn the dance. So universal were the expressions of pleasure that I was encouraged to compose music for it with vocal accompaniment; those not dancing joining the

others in the recurring vocal strain. Among children, whose innocent tones of voice are at all times so touching to us older ones, the effect is at once novel and charming.

      To give still more zest to the dance, I also introduced an octave of small bells, which, joined to the voices, produced a pleasing effect. The dance having begun its career among our young New-Yorkers, the name Knickerbocker was deemed appropriate. These motions, when accompanying the delightful rhythm of a suitable waltz, are certainly more in accord with our ideas of poetic motion, and more fascinating to the dancers, than any other combination".

The Sunday Herald writes:
it is a "New Dance for 1904" and best suited for the parlor or Cotillion and they describe the dance as thus:
       Though danced to waltz time the new Knickerbocker is done in very leisurely style, the feet barely walking the steps. Delicately, daintily, each step distinct,
they go through the first three positions of the dance. Then comes the regulation waltz position and through the gentle mazes of the glide, they go. When they have glided several times around, for there is no strict rule for this, they clasp hands high again, face down the room and side by side they slide through the pretty semi-walking steps of the grand promenade. Then come the stops again, till on to the glide, and then the promenade."

1) It begins with the salute. Then comes the grand promenade (pictured above) which may be from three to ten steps down the room. The couple stand side by side with the hands lifted high. That of the lady is supported by the hand of the gentleman.
2) The second figure, of the dance comes the couple face each other in what is called the first position for the waltz step. They waltz half way round the room beginning with the right foot.
3) The third position is when they stop, and waltz half way round beginning with the left foot and making two side steps.
4) The fourth position is in waltz time, and in waltz clasp, with arms outstretched. They float off into a full glide waltz, whirling but not hopping. The old-fashioned glide is here revived in the most popular dance of the year (1904).
5) The figures are now repeated. There is the promenade down the room side by side; the first position waltz step half way round with the right foot. Then half way round with the left foot, making two side steps. Then the glide waltz. Nothing could do easier than this pretty dance and nothing could be more effective as a parlor dance. Its slowness and its delicacy will make it very popular.

The Style of dress is described as such:
       Many ladies are wearing the instep skirt for the evening dance. Others are wearing the skirt that just escapes the ground, two inches longer than the instep skirt. There are those who still clinging to the long sinewy train. But those who wear it for round dancing are advised to hold it up for it is smarter to do so. Indeed, it is expected that it will be lifted, for to drag a train around the ballroom endangers the life of the gown and the comfort of the other dancers.

       The gentlemen are expected to wear gloves, boutonnieres, full dress suit, white vest, glossy shoes, standing collar, white tie and little jewelry. The high band turn-over collar is not advocated for gentlemen's evening wear. If the dance be sufficiently informal for a Tuxedo then a black string tie can be worn. Dancing pumps have somewhat gone out but in this respect a gentleman has great lee way. Linen laundered with a dull finish, shirts that button frankly down the
front, cuffs that are a part of the shirt: and an immaculate tie are among the small touches which the gentleman.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

New York (1888) 1843 Allen Dodsworth Ballroom

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a Knickerbocker Waltzes (1843) n/a
      Knickerbocker Quadrilles (1853)      
      Knickerbocker Dance (1880)      
      Knickerbocker Galop (1880)      
      Knickerbocker March (1880)      
      Knickerbocker Schottisch (1881)      
      Knickerbocker Polka (1885)      

Night Clubs, ETC



Knickerbocker Hotel n/a Newport, R.I.

possible related Films


Ballets / Stage

1919 - Knickerbocker Bucaroo n/a Knickerbocker Holiday
1934 - Knickerbocker Knights            
1944 - Knickerbocker Holiday            


            1/17/1904 - Syracuse Sunday Herald (Article)

Other Related Dances of the time...

Galop , the Knickerbocker Polka Knickerbocker Waltz Ripple, the
Knickerbacker, the Knickerbocker Quadrille La Madrilaine Waltz , the
Knickerbocker dance Knickerbocker Quadrilles La Mode Wave, the
Knickerbocker Galop Knickerbocker Schottisch Newport, the  
Knickerbocker March Knickerbocker, Danse Grotesque Racquet, the  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Allen Dodsworth (1880s) Elisha Dyer (1904) n/a
Prof. Mueller (1880) Miss Alice Rosevelt (1904)  

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


Knickerbocker Quadrilles Esq, Washington Irving 1843 Firth and Hall
Knickerbocker Waltzes Lanner 1843 Firth and Hall
Knickerbocker Quadrilles Dodsworth, Allen 1853 Wm. Hall and Son
Knickerbocker Schottisch Steinruck, Charles 1851 Jaques and Brother
Knickerbocker, The (Quadrille) Dodsworth, Allen 1853 Wm. Hall and Son
Knickerbocker Waltz Price, S. H. 1874 Chandler & Curtiss
Knickerbocker, Danse Grotesque Mayo, Oscar 1879 Brainard's Sons
Knickerbocker, The (Quadrille) Sanderson, Harry 1879 Gordon & Son
Knickerbocker Waltzes Tyndale 1879 New York
Knickerbocker Dance (Sheet Music) Maretzek, Max 1880 Schuberth, Edw.
Knickerbocker March (Sheet Music) Rothschild, Isaac 1880 Saalfield, R. A
The New Knickerbocker Dodsworth, Allen 1880 Blume, Fredk
Quadrille call book and ball room guide ... Prof. M. J. Koncen 1883 S. F. Brearley & co
Knickerbocker Polka Hostage, Arthur 1885 Spear & Dehnhoff
Dancing and its relations to everyday life Dodsworth, Allen 1900 n/a




Poets / Writers

n/a n/a n/a n/a

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

Knickers (Clothing) n/a n/a -


Basic Knickerbocker Step:

Counterpart for Lady.
Commencing with left, Waltz two measures.
Leap backward from the right to the left foot, and almost simultaneously slide to right to side, & 1; pause, 2; draw left to right and slide right to side (chassé), & 3; one measure. Chassé, & 1, pause, 2; draw left to right, placing weight on left, 3; one measure. Repeat, commencing the Waltz with the right foot forward.