While the Charleston as a dance probably came from the "star" or challenge dances that were all part of the dance called Juba, the particular sequence of steps which appeared in Runnin' Wild were probably newly devised for popular appeal. At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap. Further changes were undoubtedly made before the dance was put on stage. In the words of Harold Courlander, while the Charleston had some characteristics of traditional Negro dance, it "was a synthetic creation, a newly-devised conglomerate tailored for wide spread popular appeal. Although the step known as "Jay Bird", and other specific movement sequences like the snare stare are of Afro-American origin, no record of the Charleston being performed on the plantation has been discovered.
Although it achieved popularity when the song 'Charleston', sung by Elizabeth Welch, was added in the production Runnin' Wild, the dance itself was first introduced in Irving C Miller's Liza in the spring of 1923.
The characteristic Charleston beat, which Johnson said he first heard from Charleston dockworkers, incorporates the clave rhythm and was considered by composer and critic Gunther Schuller to be synonymous with the Habanera, and the Spanish Tinge.
Charleston was one of the dances from which Lindy Hop and Jazz Roots developed in the 1930s, though the breakaway is popularly considered an intermediary dance form. A slightly different form of Charleston became popular in the 1930s and 1940s, and is associated with Lindy Hop. In this later Charleston form, the hot jazz timing of the 1920s Charleston was adapted to suit the swing jazz music of the 1930s and 1940s. This style of Charleston has many common names, though the most common are Lindy Charleston, Savoy Charleston, 30s or 40s Charleston and Swing(ing) Charleston. In both 20s Charleston and Swinging Charleston the basic step takes 8 counts and was danced either alone or with a partner. Tap Charleston (1925 to 1926): Leonard Reed was said to have invented Tap Charleston after he learned tap in 1925. Tap Charleston was the Charleston with breaks into open position to do tap steps.