How to Dance the Charleston

The Charleston is an extremely quirky and energetic dance that is often performed solo. It features frequent weight shifting, twisting, and swinging movements to exhibit a dance like no other. While the Charleston may seem complex, the basic steps are fairly straightforward and can be perfected quickly through practice. Learn how to dance the Charleston with free video lessons from Howcast!

History of the Charleston

The Charleston dance first became popular during the 1920s. It has brief roots stemming back to dockworkers and black communities that enjoyed Juba dancing, which is very similar to the Charleston. It was a response to The Charleston song performed during Runnin’ Wild, a popular show on Broadway.

Soon after its appearance on Runnin’ Wild, the dance became a hit with professional dancers and amateurs alike. The Charleston perfectly symbolized the social appeal of the Roaring 20s, when younger people shirked the highly moral etiquette of their parents in favor of letting loose and having fun. The flapping and kicking of the Charleston gave them a perfect outlet. The dance became a huge trend that is still performed today.

How to do the Charleston

If you’ve ever seen anyone doing the Charleston at full speed, you’ll likely feel intimidated by trying it out yourself. Focus on trying to learn each movement one at a time. Once you understand the twisting motion and proper steps, add everything together so you can fluidly perform the dance.

Arm Swinging

Half of the Charleston involves using your upper body. Enthusiastically swing your arms from side to side or even back and forth with each step. This will feel quite natural as you move your lower body in tandem.

Step Twisting

With each step, you’ll need to twist your legs. To do this, you should always step on the ball of your foot, leaving your heel slightly in the air. When in the middle of your step, twist your feet inward. Upon landing a step, twist your foot outward. This will create an in-and-out movement that is crucial for performing the dance well.

The Basic Steps

Learning how to step twist is undoubtedly the toughest part of the dance. The individual steps themselves are quite easy and quick to learn. Adding in the twist makes the dance more confusing, but gives it the stylistic flair that makes it so much fun!

Here’s how you can perform the Charleston:

  • Step forward with your left foot.
  • Step forward with your right foot and tap it in front of your left foot.
  • Step backward with your right foot. 
  • Step backward with your left foot and tap it behind your right foot. 
  • After these four steps, the dance repeats itself. Remember to twist your feet with each step and swing your arms at the same time!

Start Doing the Charleston!

We hope this guide helps you learn how to dance the Charleston! If you want to learn even more dance styles with our free video lessons, check out our main How to Dance page!