This is my animation of three of Eadweard Muybridge's "Animal Locomotion" studies from 1887. He pioneered a technique of capturing movement using multiple high speed cameras. It was originally developed to settle a bet between millionaires, but he then went on to use it to capture the motion of humans and animals doing any number of things. Given how concealing and constraining Victorian clothing was, he frequently made use of nude models. In the case of the naked dancing couple, a plausible explanation is that Victorian sensibilities would be too shocked by a naked man and woman dancing together, so he opted for two naked women as being less scandalous.
These represent the earliest moving images of social dancing. Films are easy to find for students of 20th Century dance, but for those studying the social dance of the 19th Century, this is really all there is. They were, of course, originally multiple still images, but when you put them together, they become a motion picture.
The original studies consisted of consecutive shots of people dancing a Waltz. In my animation, first I show them frame by frame and then speed it up to get a sense of motion. It includes three studies: a clothed man and woman, two nude women waltzing together and one nude woman waltzing alone.
If we can get past the "Oh, naked ladies" reaction, there's actually much to be learned from these videos.
One of the things that fascinates me about the dances of the Jazz Age is how universal and international the "Modern Dance" sensibility was. Pretty much anywhere you were, from New York to London to Berlin to Buenos Aires the dances were very similar.
Paris and Vienna had some unique takes on the Waltz, but in Argentina, the close-hold, box-step smooth style found in most of the world was also found there, in the home of the Tango. There is today a style of Waltz popular with the Tango crowd that is essentially a Tango in 3/4 time. That doesn't seem to be what's happening here, though to be fair, the Argentine Tango of 1935 was not quite what you generally see danced today either.
Just for contrast, I have also embedded a video of the modern take on the Argentine Waltz.
I happened on this fragment of an obscure British film set in a dance hall that contains a lot of nice detail. I also love it when they put up a sign saying "Fox Trot" or "Waltz" to remove any doubt. I am a bit disappointed they flashed a One Step sign, but didn't show it. I am curious what a British One Step would look like given how One-Steppy their Fox Trots are. You would seldom see a dance called a One Step in the States by this time.
A video pastiche of Waltzing in the 1920s and 30s.
And here are some examples of the Germans performing the "Modern" Waltz in the early 1930s.
A collection of clips from European films of the '20s & '30s showing the French Java (a bouncy waltz variation) being danced. Music is "Ca Gaze" by the Baguette Quartette.
American Waltz in 1929 from the film "Dance Hall". The Foxtrot-like walking step is clearly visible, especially at the beginning where it is clear that he is stepping only on the downbeats.
A Valse Musette from the 1930 French Film Sous les toits de Paris (Under the roofs of Paris).
Waltzing from the 1930 film "Love in the Rough". Dancers: Robert Montgomery and Dorothy Jordan. Vocal by Don Novis