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The Slow Drag Dance

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slow drag photo
the Slow.... Drag

     The Slow Drag dance is somewhat what its name suggests. Originally very popular only in the Barrel-Houses and Juke Joints of the South. In the early evening the music was up tempo, but later during the night the music changed to slow, low-down blues and this dance was done to very slow, sensual music, so it fit perfectly. The couples would hold each other tight, do a few steps and then grind each other, then a few steps and repeat more grinding all night... sometimes they would just grind and barely move. The Slow Drag was also a featured dance in the traveling Medicine Shows and Gilly's (Gillies) in the early 1900s.

     The Slow Drag was first reported in New Orleans during the 1890's ... and as a social dance later became popular among the college set in the early 1900's and was considered as a variation of the Two-Step. There is some evidence that the pre-tango danza was a strong influence in the original version.

     In 1929 Broadway would be introduced to this social dance in the stage play called "Harlem!" with most critics in exasperation at the undulating and writhing of the bodies and Burns Mantle of the 'News' exclaiming that the police would stop the orgiastic exhibition. The dance was eventually toned down due to many Harlem groups objecting to the dance and at the request of the authorities.

See Basic Steps at bottom of page.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

New Orleans Late 1890s n/a Ragtime

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers


n/a Heliotrope Bouquet  
      Peaceful Henry  
      Sunflower Slow Drag  
      Watermelon Trust  

Music Titles

1899 - Sunflower Slow Drag (Joplin) 1913 - Get This Slow Drag Cake Walk
$ 1899 - Sunflower Slow Drag (1901- Hayden) 1939 - Slow Drag Work Song Slow Drag One More Time
1901 - Peaceful Henry (H. Kelly) $ 1967 - Slow Drag (Byrd) Slow Draggin'
1906 - Watermelon Trust Dirty Dozens (an original Slow drag) Slow Drags Boogie Woogie
1907 - A Down Home Shout Eubie Blake Playing "The Dream" ? Slow Drags Place
$ 1907 - Heliotrope Bouquet (slow drag 2 step) Louisiana Slow-Drag Slow Fast Drag Trot
1910 - Clover Blossom Rag (Heltman) 2/4 $ Prelude and Fugue 13, A Slow Drag Slow Glide
1910 - Come Josephine Slow Drag - Parts 1 and 2 Slooow Drag
$ 1911 - Tremonisha (A Real Slow Drag) Slow Drag at the Joint  
1913 - A Real Slow Drag (Joplin) Slow Drag Blue  
  Click Here for full list of "Drag Song Titles"

Night Clubs



n/a n/a Louisiana
            New York
            The South

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

1929 - St. Louis Blues (Smith and Mordecai) n/a 1929 - Harlem!
            1997 - The Slow Drag: A Jazz Musical $


            1929 - Brooklyn Eagle (Arthur Pollack)
            1929 - News (Byron Mantle)
            1929 - World News (Alison Smith)

Other Related Dances of the time...

Apache Dance Foxtrot Maxixe Texas Tommy
Bunny Hug Funky Butt Mooch, the Turkey Trot
Buzzard Lope Gaby Glide One Step Two Step
Camel Walk Gilda Glide Peabody Varsity Drag
Castle Walk Grind, the Quick Step Waltz
Cubanola Glide Grizzly Bear Shimmy Dude Walk
Eagle Rock Itch, the Squat, the  
Fish Tail Lame Duck Tango  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Alcide Pavageau (b.1888) Bssie Smith and Jimmy Mordecai n/a
Coot Grant    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher



Poets / Writers

Alcide 'Slow Drag' Pavageau (b.1888) n/a n/a
Buster Brown [pt. 1&2]        
Donald Byrd        
Eubie Blake        
Louis Chauvin        
Scott Hayden        
Scott Joplin (c.1867 - 1917)        

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

Ragtime Dance     ??
Basic Steps ... (Scott Joplin version)
1). The Slow Drag must begin on the first beat of each measure.
2). When moving forward, dragging the left foot; when moving backward, dragging the right foot.
3). When moving sideways to the right, drag the left foot; when moving sideways to left, drag the right foot.
4). When 'prancing', your steps must be done on each beat of the measure.
5). When marching and when sliding, your steps must come on the first and the third beat of each measure.
6). Hop and skip on second beat of each measure. Double the Schottische step to fit the slow music.
November 20, 2012