How to dance the charleston solo

How To Do The Charleston? • Learn The 20s Charleston

The Charleston dance was "The King of dances" in 20th century and had a huge influence on American culture.  In this blog you can find out different ways of how to do the dance, its technique and footwork.

Charleston dance history

Charleston is a name of the city, dance style, step and song. Scholars attribute the spread and invention of the geechee inspired Charleston dance to the Jenkins Orphanage Band boys from Charleston city, South Carolina. The Charleston song written by John P. Johnson, inspired by Gullah rhythms, became the signature tune for the dance.

This dance has African roots and was created by African - American people. It was first sighted in the streets of Harlem in 1903. Though it was popularised by young flappers during 1920's. It became internationally known thanks to Josephine Baker Parisian "Le revue negre".

If you'd like to learn about the origins of the dance there is a full blog on The History of The Charleston dance.  

6 version of how to do the Charleston step

In order to know how to do the Charleston “basic” step we should know that it has changed with time and place. It started as a step with twists, then transformed into a crazy wild kicking move with the swing era.
There are at least 6 versions of the “basic” step: groove walk, kicks, swinging kicks, 20’s twist, 20’s glide, and afro version “reverse twist” Charleston. Each version has its specifics.

  1. When doing groove walk, we should remember to keep a steady and strong bounce (pulse).
  2. For kicks the most important thing is to keep the right timing of the kick step and kick from the knees.  All while keeping the body inclined forward and only forward and making sure to move with the kicks and not to stay on one spot.
  3. 20’s Charleston style with twists has its thing in a constant (every single beat) energetic though light twisting of the feet with the weight on the balls of the feet. All while making the kick up in the air and accentuating the weak (off) beat.
  4. 20’s glide is similar to 20s Charleston twist but is done without lifting the feet off the floor this way creating continuous gliding on the floor.
  5. Finally, to do the reverse Charleston twist we shall keep the legs bent low and keep the whole foot on the ground with the weight mainly of the heels.

In this video you can learn 6 basic versions of how to do the Charleston “basic” step: groove walk, kicks, swinging kicks, 20’s twist, 20’s glide, and afro version “reverse twist”.

35 Charleston variations

Here is a video of two legendary dancers Al Minns and Leon James perform jazz dances talk show "Playboy's Penthouse". You can hear Marshall Stearns discusses the dance history with Hugh Hefner. This was probably filmed around 1960. Stears explains that there were 35 variations of the Charleston step. Minns and James show a few: original 20's charleston, scare crow, squat, around the world, high kick and hand to hand variations.

How to do the 20s Charleston dance style?

20s Charleston is not only a step, it’s a style. A style that is defined by music, clothing style, manner and expression. 20s Charleston was a craze during the Jazz Age. It is danced to ragtime, hot jazz and Charleston. In order to look authentic we should remember a few important technical elements on how to do the 20s Charleston:

  1. As it is danced to ragtime and hot jazz (early jazz, Dixieland, New Orleans jazz). The music is syncopated and has a “rag” rhythm though it is still quite even. The accentuation is on 2 and 4 and so will be the bounce, as the bounce always reflects the music rhythm.
  2. As the music is ragged and the body can embody this quality the best when being more “puppet” like. It is better if we use more joints rather than muscles for the light, ragged, fast movements of 20s Charleston
  3. The accentuation is on 2 and 4 and so should be the accent when doing the 20s kicks. The accent is in the air and not on the floor.

How to achieve this light yet energetic and powerful state when dancing Charleston 20s? How to handle this hell of a tempo and curvy, twisty moves? We need to adopt the right body state. The imagery for the Charleston body that I love to use is a puppet or marionette. This loose movement, fully working on release, using movement of the joints, so that every kick and move pops to every beat and syncopation in the music.

The magic of Charleston dance is as well in the feet. Every single step is a twist. They create that recognisable angular and asymmetric signature Charleston look. Imagine, you are dancing on a hot frying pan, how would you move your feet?

In this video below you can learn about the Charleston 20s body and the twists!

To dive deeper in the fury of Charleston footwork, try this class on Happy Feet move, one of the signature steps.

Aesthetics of the 20s

There is a lot to learn from seeing the connection of the Charleston dance aesthetics with cultural elements of 20th century America.

  • Deep connection to African roots reveals elements of improvisation, spontaneity as well as grounded body position.
  • There is connection with flappers and their revolutionary new image of a woman and sexually charged movements.
  • Comedy connects to 20s Charleston with its silly moves and irony.
  • We can see connection with silent movies through the exaggerated overly dramatic expressions.
  • Finally eccentric dance is a part of this dance culture with its legomania and bizarre movements.

You will look super authentic if you will include those qualities, impressions in your dance.

Its important to mention that this dance was immensely popular during the period of 1920's Prohibition as well as 1930's Great Depression. When US stock market crashed and part of the society was left in complete poverty, dancing for many was an anti - depression pill. It swept the worries away.

Look at the fantastic Bee Jackson, the “Queen of Charleston” and get ideas on how to do the Charleston! Miss Bee Jackson of the Piccadilly Cabaret and Kit Kat Club demonstrates her gimmick - dancing on a very small floor space.

In this demo video you see me demonstrating the concept of a “Silent Movie”. I am slowing down and speeding up in the real time (without FX), while searching for exaggerated overly dramatic face expressions. The idea comes from the fact that the music was layered on silent movies after the film was done. Oftentimes the music played an atmospheric role. Therefore the dance and movements looked out of time with the actual beat of the song.

Animalism and African roots

I'd like to accentuate the connection with animalism in dance movements as the Charleston dance belongs to the family of African-American vernacular dances. To know more on what are the characteristics of African-American dances that as well reflect in the this dance, read the blog on “ A brief cultural history of black dance” 

In this video class from the course Secrets of Charleston 20s, where you can learn how to do the step called the “Cow Tail”. Animalistic move, in a way it was inspired by the cows waving their tail to get rid of the flies.

All of this and more you can learn by taking a course Secrets of Charleston 20s, course with over 40 video.

Iconic Charleston dancers

Some of the iconic dancers to watch, learn and get inspired:

Josephine Baker
Ann Pennington
Bee Jackson
Al Minns
Leon James
Mildred Melrose
Joan Crawford
Jenkins Orphanage Band boys

In this video playlist on Secrets of Solo channel I collected videos of the most famous dancers, historical figures. Watch to get inspired.

The difference between 20s & 30s style Charleston

As we mentioned before the Charleston dance style has changed with time and music. I use this categories to spotlight the difference that was strongly affected by the music, more specifically rhythm section.


In 20s Charleston with hot twists and eccentric moves was danced to ragtime, hot jazz music. It has half time pulse and accentuated the 2 and 4 beat. It replicates the bass tuba or the double bass. Bass tuba line for early jazz was either 1 and 3 or 2 and 4. When double bass came to stage, the players wither played half time notes or doubled up on the same note twice. 1/2 feel reflects in half time pulse in the dancers body. The movement is more even, more vertical and ragged.

The 20s style is based on the twists and twisted kick. The most important image is the "crossed" twisted leg. The legend says, some dancers got "Charleston twist" of the knee, when they twisted too hard.

In this video you can hear a very rag song. Notice that the dancers are holding their bodies more upright. Their pulse is ragged (even jumpy at times).


In 1930's the dance changed with swing music to so called lindy kicks. You could see now dancers doing big wide kicks and travelling across the floor. The feel of the Charleston is 4/4 (4 on the floor). It reflects the double bass in swing tunes, that has a walking line. So called "walking bass".  Musicians say "the bass walks", when the player hits every single note. 4/4 feel reflects in constant pulse in the dancers body. The movement is "spreading", it is more horizontal. It looks softer and smoother.

In this video you can hear the 4/4 feel on the bass and clearly see how dancers reflect it in their smooth pulse. Note, when dancers go to lindy Charleston kicks, how much they lower their upper body and start to hover over the ground.

Music to dance Charleston


The first tune you would think to dance Charleston to is, of course, famous ragtime tune "The Charleston", written by James P. Johnson. The Charleston beat is considered a clave rhythm.

As a musical entity ragtime was, and is, an instrumental work in 2/4 time composed for the piano. The style surfaced in the early 1900's and was developed by composer Scot Joplin. It was the forerunner to jazz. It combines a syncopated series of melodies accompanied by a steady, even rhythm. The left hand plays a steady, almost march-like succession of bass notes and chords while the right hand plays syncopated melodies in a "ragged" manner. Hence, the name of the style.

Here is a Spotify playlist of ragtime tunes. You will hear the music of Eubie Blake, Scot Joplin, James P. Johnson.


Other music style that one can dance 20s Charleston is early jazz.  Early jazz, that is as well called “New Orleans jazz”, Dixieland jazz, hot jazz are the terms referring to the same style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century. Its 4 main influences were ragtime, military brass bands, the blues, and gospel music.

New Orleans jazz or Dixieland Jazz was incredibly popular through the 1920s, Jazz Age. One of the first uses of the term "Dixieland" with reference to music was in the name of the Original Dixieland Jass Band (later changed to "Jazz"). They recorded their first vinyl in 1917. What defines the sound of Dixieland music is that one instrument plays the melody (often trumpet) and all the other musicians improvise around it.

Here is a Spotify playlist with a very popular songs for 20s Charleston. You will hear music of such artists as Original Dixieland Band, Fats Waller, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Goodman and other. Or else you can listen to my  YouTube Charleston compilation.

Written by Ksenia Parkhatskaya

5 Fast Feet 20s Charleston Moves From A Viral TikTok Video.

Have you seen that viral video with a crazy girl in a black and white stripy shirt and black skirt, smoking an imaginary cigarette and doing those crazy fast feet moves? Have you wondered what is this dance: jitterbug, shuffle, loose leg, lindy hop?  It's 20s Charleston and Ksenia Parkhatskaya with the undone belt and imaginary cigarette at the front of it.

In this blog you will find out the 5 awesome move Ksenia does in this viral video and learn how to do them yourself. 

TikTok viral fast feed video

When 20s Charleston took over the world in 1930s it was a dance craze. In 2021 Charleston 20s takes over the world again, though this time its through social media and no one knows the name of the dance.

Charleston dance jam at Paris Jazz Roots

Here is a little extract that went viral all over the internet and became popular on Tik Tok and other social media. On the video it's myself, Ksenia Parkhatskaya, and my talented colleagues jamming at the Paris Jazz Roots swing dance event in 2015.

Original full video was filmed and published by Eric Esquivel.

Among others you can as well see these wonderful international dancers and teachers of the swing dance styles:

Evita Arche
Remy Kouakou Kouame
Nathan Bugh
Juan Villafane
Rikard Ekstrand and many others.

You might wonder what this dance is? We are at a swing dance event in Paris and we are doing authentic jazz dance: jazz, Charleston, black bottom, soft shoe, tap and so on.

Fast feet viral moves: 20s Charleston is back in fashion

Many people wondered what are the moves that I am doing. On this video specifically you can see dance steps such as:

Happy Feet
Charleston 20s basic step
Fall Off The Log
Over the Tops
Triple Step 

All that with my signature imaginary smoking!

And now get your socks ready to learn those moves with me. I am going to share some free dance tutorials from my online dance school Secrets of Solo. 

Happy Feet dance move 

You have probably wondered or even tried to imitate that viral fast feet move what I am doing while smoking. Well, I'll tell you the secrets of my solo...the first movement I am doing is the 1920’s Charleston the Happy Feet!

Some people call this move Heel Toe. The original name of this authentic jazz dance move is Happy Feet.

This name can be as well found in reference to the famous Savoy ballroom in New Your. Savoy Ballroom was known as the “Home of Happy Feet” during the Harlem Renaissance. It became known for its interracial dancing and entertainment, “where downtown whites and uptown black people came to “trip the light fantastic,” clap hands to the Charleston..” (from The Harlem Renaissance, p. 57 Stuart A. Kallen · 2009)

Happy Feet is as well a name of a popular jazz tune by Bing Crosby & Gutchrlein Paul Whiteman Orchestra from the 1930’s film “The King Of Jazz”

Charleston Basic Step & Twist

The dance that we associate with The Great Gatsby, gangsters and prohibition era is 20s Charleston. This dance was immensely popular during the period of 1920's Prohibition as well as 1930's Great Depression. When the US stock market crashed and part of the society was left in complete poverty, dancing for many was an anti - depression pill, it swept the worries away.

20s Charleston is a dance step, a dance style and a style of music. A style that is defined by music, clothing style, manner and expression. 20s Charleston was a craze during the Jazz Age. It is danced to ragtime, hot jazz and Charleston.
Charleston has a very interesting story, if you are curious enough to dive into it, I wrote a blog called “The History of Charleston dance”.

As for now I will leave you to wiggle around the room with the instructional videos:
First video is to do with the Charleston 20s Twist & Character that is at the basis of it all.

In this next video you can learn about 5 different ways to do the Charleston. To try my way in the viral video, straight away hop to the 20s style with the twist!

Fall Off the Log dance move

Another irresistible viral fast feet move I am going for in this video is Fall off the log (falling-off-the-log / falling off a log)- twisting movement consisting of shuffles and the alternate crossing and recrossing of one foot over the other, the body leaning sideways - "Brotherhood in Rhythm".

Modern Flapper

“Jazz Age dance maestro”

LA Magazine

For the first 5 years I was completely in love with the 20s style, I dedicated loads of time to investigate the essence of it. At some point I became the most viewed 20s Charleston dancer gathering almost a million views on my dance videos.

Ksenia Parkhatskaya in 20s Charleston style. Photo by Nuria Aguade

If you’d like to know my story of how I lived and breathed as a 21 century flapper, check out my blog 5 best Charleston dance videos by Ksenia Parkhatskaya.

Flapper Girl Ksenia Parkhatskaya. 20s Charleston dance. Photo by Nika Zhuk.

Other Jazz and Charleston dance moves

Triple Step and Over The Top as well as plenty of other equally viral moves you can find inside my online dance school Secrets of Solo where I feature 10 separate courses, and 40+ hours of teaching material.

Two courses might of special interest: Secrets of Charleston 20s & Solo Jazz 101

Secrets of Charleston 20s

The first one is all about the “King of the Dance” 20s Charleston. By taking this course you will learn over 30 classic Charleston moves and their variations. You’ll discover all about the styling and try out some eccentric flash steps.

Solo Jazz 101

Solo Jazz 101 is for absolute beginners! You’ll discover the fundamentals of swing: feeling the beat, walking with groove and bounce. Ksenia will then guide you through major solo jazz dance steps and help you create your first dance routines. Advanced dancers can also benefit by firming up their basic solo jazz dance steps.

Hong Kong Dance Magazine’s marked Secrets of Solo as Top 5 Favourite Online Dance Schools. To date, there have been over 3,500 dance students who have joined Secrets of Solo! You can read their testimonials here, we have 4.9 rating in Trustpilot.

Even if after watching all these classes you are still in doubt whether online tutorials are your thing or not, we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. So there is absolutely no risk at all for you. Sign up now & give it a go.

Solo jazz dance lessons for beginners in Nizhny Novgorod

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It's not often that you can find a dance school that focuses on solo versions, and even less often - solo jazz. But you are lucky, because solo jazz dance lessons for beginners in Nizhny Novgorod are conducted by our studio.

Usually the solo format is inherent in such areas as strip plastic, hip-hop, belly dance. And now many even better imagine how the listed types of dances look like. And what are jazz movements anyway? Is it something well forgotten, something that our great-grandmothers were well versed in? No, jazz is immortal exactly as much as it has survived centuries, for example, tango dance. And even though we only know music well, jazz solo classes for adults will help to complete this picture, the attributes of which are seascapes, park rotundas, palm trees and snow-white gulls.

Perhaps only foxtrot and charleston come to mind, and solo jazz includes the same sets of movements, but the style is also enriched with modern dances, in which there is more looseness and impetuosity, even some sportiness.

  • If you have chosen to dance solo jazz with us, training is possible even for beginners who have never had to dance to a jazz melody before.
  • It's enough for you to love this style of music and feel the desire to break away into a dance as soon as you hear the characteristic chords.

The teachers of our studio will help to hone the rest. By the way, you can master not only an exclusively solo program, but also a pair version of the dance. And if you have learned to feel syncopations - rhythmic breaks characteristic of jazz music, then it will be easy for you to master any Latin American styles in the future.

First of all, this is an unlimited field for expressing oneself, for the release of energy, moreover, not so much physical, but emotional. Jazz is a direction of music where any instrument can become a soloist for a while, that is, a very democratic style. That is why a jazz solo school can be a great choice even for someone who has been used to feeling on the outskirts in life. If you take jazz solo training from scratch in our studio, you will be surprised to find that you can express your feelings openly.

The most shy are recommended to attend private jazz solo lessons. In a symphony orchestra, everything is subordinated to a common idea. Only certain instruments can solo there, and the double bass or drums rarely have such an opportunity. And in jazz there can be a bright solo on the double bass, and on percussion, and on drums. And you can easily master it too. Are you clumsy? The studio will fix everything, where you can start with individual lessons.

Why is the social dance format good?

One could call these dances folk dances, but this term was simply assigned to purely folklore movements. Our solo jazz price is as democratic as the dance itself. And with our teachers, solo jazz itself will become an easily accessible activity for you.

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Solo Jazz - Swing Dance Studio

    First there was a solo
    Dancing in a pair is, of course, fun, interesting and all that 🙂 At the same time, it’s more difficult, especially for beginners, since it’s not enough to do everything yourself correctly and still somehow synchronize with a partner, lead or, on the contrary, guess , what will happen next. Partners are especially responsible. And if something doesn’t work out on your own, then it’s not up to your partner. The result is frustration and disappointment.
    Confidence and relaxation
    Jazz solo can be a good addition to other partner dances, as you can learn to listen to music, keep the rhythm, control your body and weight, all with less stress if something doesn’t work out, compared to when a partner is nearby. Solo classes will give confidence and naturalness to all your movements, which is so appreciated in dancing.
    Learning rate
    There are many examples of how people with great experience in solo dancing got into the Lindy Hop. At the same time, they achieved much better results and an order of magnitude faster than all the others. Just because they were well acquainted with their body, they understood how it can move, what needs to be done for this, what muscles to use, how much energy to apply, etc.
    Only music and you
    When you are one on one with music, there is no need to wait for something from a partner or to adapt to him in any way. Then the brain works in a completely different way. You get your own ideas about how to play with the music, you think, “What does the music say to _me_? What is the best thing for _me_ to do right now?” Thus, solo dancing provides more opportunities for self-expression. But the beauty is that all these ideas can be built in already dancing in a couple, and it will look much more interesting. This will already be a plus for more advanced Lindy Hop dancers.

    1. Solo jazz battle 🙂

    2. Incredible musicality!

    3. Another competition - the dancers go crazy %)

    4. Famous Big Apple routine performed by the coolest modern dancers!

    5. And finally, a little bit of Minsk Solo Jazz 🙂

    Let's dance together! Sign up for a group!

    • Wedding dance
    • Production of wedding dances in the style of rock and roll, retro, vintage or dudes (Charleston, Lindy Hop, boogie-woogie, rock and roll, blues). The most important day you will remember for the rest of your life!

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