In 1891 John Philip Sousa, the American composer and bandmaster, who felt that the "march should make a man with a wooden leg step out" published the "Washington Post March." It was full of patriotism and military pride, bursting with self-confidence; as such, it caught on in the Old World that was beginning to feel these qualities slip away. The chief reason for its popularity as a dance was, of course, its rhythm but its importance as the spearhead of the American cultural invasion can hardly be exaggerated. The "Washington Post March" gave birth to the two-step in six eight tempo, which could be an extremely lively dance.
However, in the early years of the 20th century the simplicity of the two-step dancing—a quick marching step with skips—led to it being adopted for every type of music and floor pattern. Regional variations were found across the country as people enjoyed the dance socially in dancehalls and honky-tonks, especially in the south and west. The popularity of the dance soared after the release of “Urban Cowboy” in 1980 and dance teachers in Houston, Texas standardized the dance for mass instruction.
Character: Sassy, fun-loving, energetic
Movement: Progressive, smooth dance
Bars/min: 174-194 beats per minute
Accent: Down beat
Competition: Pro-am competitors dance for 90 seconds; couples dance for 2 minutes
Rise and Fall: None
Two-step is a smooth, progressive dance known for its intricate, entwined movements. The basic rhythm is 2 quicks followed by 2 slows over 6 beats of music. It is marked with multiple spins and turns, most frequently by the lady, but often with the man turning in tandem.
Two-Step patterns kick off with an acceleration on the "quick-quick," decelerates through the first slow and finishes with a "stretch" accent that briefly hesitates before the next set of quicks. The rhythm of Two-Step has a driving downbeat that clips along at an up-tempo pace.
Dance positions include: an open position with the lead’s right hand on the follower’s left shoulder, a closed position with no space between the partners, and a closed overhand position in which the lead wraps their left forearm over the follower’s right forearm and clasps their hand with the palm against the back of the follower’s hand.