The Impact of Vernon and Irene Castle

Most people today would likely not know who they are, but Vernon and Irene Castle were superstars in their time, known around the world.

By Brigitt Mayer. Excerpts from Ballroom Icons©

Vernon and Iren Castle were the first big international exponents of “modern dancing.” The Castle Walk is named after them and they helped to popularize the Foxtrot, Hesitation Waltz, Maxixe and the Tango. At Castle House they taught New York society the latest dance steps by day, and greeted guests and performed at their clubs by night. They were instrumental in launching the ballroom dance “craze” of the 1920s, taught private lessons and appeared at fashionable parties. They were just “IT”!

“… and Vernon and Irene Castle were far more famous and influential in their day than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were later, though they are less remembered now …”
Irene and Vernon Castle posed as instruction for dancing their version of the tango. From their 1914 book “Modern Dancing” published by The World Syndicate Co. by arrangement with Harper & Brothers.

Arthur Murray expands on their foundation

“…but although his mentors, Vernon and Irene Castle, were primarily responsible for launching the ballroom dance craze in the 1920s, Arthur and Kathryn Murray were instrumental in keeping it going through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the disco era…”

“…and of particular historical interest is Arthur’s innovative approach to “this dance business” and how to advertise dance lessons. He was first to do many groundbreaking things like broadcasting live music, creating infomercials, franchising, and starting mail-order dance lessons. Chances are, if you conducted a poll today, most people would know the name Arthur Murray…”

Brigitt Mayer, Canada, author of Ballroom Icons©
All rights reserved. No part of this book/piece may be reproduced in any form, by print, microfilm or any other means without written permission from the author.

  1. Brigitt is so right about the Castles’ star dimming in the decades following their heyday, but their influence has long been touted by dance aficionados and historians. I was proud to have been able to include the reference to the Castles in my story about Maxine Barrat, about whom Look magazine proclaimed: “Maxine, like Irene Castle, is ‘Best Dressed Dancer’ of her time.” Loper & Barrat were hailed as “artistic heirs to the Castles” and comparisons were frequently drawn between the two dance teams.
    Dance Archives should be proud of their efforts to keep stories like the Castles’ alive & well. BRAVO!

  2. The above clip is an excerpt from The Whirl of Life, a 1915 silent film, so the music must have been added later. The Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, where I work, has a better quality version of the film which now can be viewed online from anywhere in the world. To get to this clip specifically, go to the catalog record at

    and click on “Connect to Reel 2 online.” The excerpt starts at around 20:52 into Reel 2.


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