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Lame Duck Dance History Origins Page
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Streetswings Dance History Archives: Lame Duck
Castle's Lame Duck Waltz, Valse
Lame Duck dance history Origins page

            One of the dance oddities of the-day. It is, correctly speaking, a syncopated waltz, which in a way resembled the old forward Chassez movement, and to the inexperienced eye a lame man's step (Ballet step), hence the name of 'Lame Duck'. The Castles are credited today as having invented the Lame Duck (however, we know today that they were great stealers rather than originators of dances as well.) The Castles are probably the ones who got the most exposure for it tho. Below are a few stories about the Lame Duck and it's creation.

      1) The Lame Duck was is said to be invented in 1912 by Vernon and Irene Castle (1897-1919) while playing around with variations. The Castle version is basically a transitional way to go from one style of Waltz into others.

     2) This step is supposed to have originated in Newport in the summer of 1913. One of the popular debutantes (see below) had danced herself tired and simply limped through the Waltz. She was of course immediately criticized as being "as graceful as a Lame Duck." The step created considerable amusement and was at once taken up by the majority of dancers present (maybe Castles). It is needless to say that the new dance was much talked of and became quite popular. (similar to the Merengue Story)

      3) Lima Daily News (9/13/1913) reports that:
Miss Margurete Caperton. She is the daughter of Rear Admiral Caperton U.S.N. who has invented the latest dance here in Newport which is being accepted here with much enthusiasm. The "lame duck" has its origination in the one step and is similar in a way, but is danced to Waltz ¾ Time. It has a gliding motion with an occasional low dip with bended knee and is most graceful. Several members of the younger set have been practicing it and have found favor. It's conventional name is Waltz Canter but has been dubbed the Lame Duck and is destined to be called by the later name.

      4) (Albert Newman speaking on the above claims invention)
"When it came to my notice I immediately discovered that we had used the same step in the Ballet in Paris, years ago, and it was known to us as the 'Lame Man's Step'. I saw the possibilities of making a rather pleasing dance of it. The great fault I found with many who were trying to dance the Lame Duck was that it appeared rather too painful to look at, too much of a limp, which I have tried to rectify. The Lame Duck should be danced in a decidedly smooth style. It consists of a forward movement and a right and left turn. The turns are rather difficult if the dancer wishes to progress".

      The Lame-Duck (Valse ) has an ugly name, but was a very graceful dance to watch; it was also a very restful and fascinating dance to dance. It is danced to Valse time, and owes its name to the fact that all the action taking the beat of the music is performed with one foot only, by the man with his left, and by the lady with her right, the other foot being merely a "sleeping partner" that travels along and only takes the weight of the body between the steps of the other foot. The only exception to this rule is when going straight, running forward, when both feet act equally and for the same beat of time.

      Although called the "Lame-Duck" the motion should by no means be lame; it should be absolutely smooth and gliding, rising and falling to the swell of the music just like in a true Valse. In America the "Lame-Duck" is largely danced in preference to the true Valse.

      The "Lame-Duck" was best danced, and most suitable, when the music is over-quick for the true Valse. It was also an admirable substitute at the end of an evening when one was getting tired, as the exertion expended was just about 50% less than the true Valse entailed. The dance must be performed on the balls of the feet all the time, neither foot ever quite leaving the floor, but no weight being placed on either foot whilst it is in motion.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

New York 1912 Miss Margurete Caperton Social | Ballroom

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music preview clip

Music Titles

n/a Castle's Lame Duck Valse
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
Castle Lame Duck Waltz (Europe) 1914
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Congratulations Waltz (1914) Europe
            Video Clip not available at this time Dance of the Lame Duck (Gifford)
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Dance of the Lame Duck (Glen Gray) 1932
            Video Clip not available at this time Duque Walk
            Video Clip not available at this time Lame Duck
            Video Clip not available at this time Lame Duck Blues
            Video Clip not available at this time Lame Duck Jig
            Video Clip not available at this time Lame Duck Rag
            Video Clip not available at this time

Night Clubs



Castles-by-the-Sea n/a n/a
Castle House (Studio)        
Sans Souci            

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

"Dances thru time Video" n/a n/a
Castles' In The Air        


            6/12/1913 - Lima Daily News (Lame Duck Out)
            4/3/1915 - Fort Wayne Sentinel
            9/13/1919 - Lima Daily News (Caperton Invents)

Other Related Dances of the time...

Aeroplane Waltz Crab Step Half and Half Peabody Turkey Trot
Bunny Hug Cubanola Glide Horsetrot Possum Trot, the Two Step
Camel Walk Fox Trot Innovation Slow Drag Varsity Drag
Castle Glide Gaby Glide Kangaroo Hop /Dip Tango Waltz
Castle Walk Gilda Glide Lobster Trot, the Texas Tommy Whirlwind Waltz
Chicken Scratch, the Grizzly Bear Maxixe Three Step  
Collegiate Habanera One Step Toddle  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Albert Newman Marbury n/a

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


Dances of Today Newman, Albert W. 1913 n/a
$ Modern Dancing Castle, Vernon 1914 World Syndicate Co
My Husband Castle, Irene 1918 Scribner & Sons
Handbook of ballroom dancing Cree, Aubrey McMahon 1920 n/a
$ Castles in the Air Castle, Irene 1958 Doubleday & Co




Poets / Writers

Europe, James Reese (1914) n/a n/a n/a
Gifford, Eugene          
Gray, Glenn            

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

Dansant's The Stroll n/a -
Society Dance (rs)        


Art of Dress from 1500-1914
$ Art Of Dress 1500-1914