Archive for the ‘ Dancers ’ Category

1921, March 6 – Premiere “Four Horsemen and The Apocalypse”

Julio is beguiled by the seductive girl dancing the tango…with a confident, menacing stare he strides to the center of the dance floor, with gaucho whip in hand and asks the man let him cut in….in a cavalier manner the man simply ignores Julio and continues to dance with the girl…Julio is enraged and shoves the man brusquely away from the girl…the man takes his knife out and lunges at him but Julio adeptly evades the knife and hits the man on the head with the handle of his whip.. the man falls down and Julio takes over the girl to finish with a spectacular tango dance to the enthusiastic applause of the audience...it is precisely this scene from “Four Horsemen and the Apocalypse” which launched the tango craze throughout the world…based on Vasco Ibanez’s classic novel, several studios had tried unsuccessfully to adapt the novel but it was writer June Mathis who finally succeeded…it was she who hired Rodolfo Valentino, an obscure B film struggling actor who had worked as a taxi dancer…the tango scene in fact was not part of the original story but Mathis included to take advantage of Valentino’s dancing skills

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It premiered to great acclaim and had a huge cultural impact; it became the top grossing film of 1921 and the first ever to earn one million dollars at the box office…it turned Rodolfo Valentino into a superstar and launched the tango craze; June Mathis would become one of the first powerful women executives in Hollywood…Valentino was born in Castellaneta, Puglia to an Italian father and a French mother…he spent some idle time in Paris and finally returned to Puglia but unable to get a job he left for the United States and arriving there on December 23, 1913…he ran out of money and for a while he lived on the streets of New York…he eventually moved to Los Angeles where he taught dancing to older high society women…on August 15, 1926 he collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador in New York; he was operated on, for a ruptured appendix; surgery had gone well and a recovery was expected…however, he unexpectedly developed pleuritis in his left lung and fell into a coma..he passed away on August 23, 1926; he was 31 years old…interestingly, the film inspired a young Betty Davis to try acting; in 1999, the American Film Institute rated Davis as number two on the list of the “Greatest Female Stars of All Time”

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1934, February 24 – TOYO AND MASAFUMI WED IN TOKYO

Isami’s considerable investment and sacrifice in his daughter’s education and presentation was beginning to pay off in the social class aspirations of the family ….his investigation of  Ishikawa Masafumi including conversations with his family’s neighbors had confirmed that he came from the “right” famiily…his was a traditional samurai family and like his daughter he had been educated at Japan’s preeminent Tokyo Imperial University Bin’ichi; he was an engineer at the prestigious Mitsubishi Trading Company…his father Ishikawa Masayoshi was a career military officer and war hero who had died valiantly in the 1920 Siberian Expedition…that grand day, Toyo wore a red kimono made of the finest silk; Masafumi wore stripped pants, vest and tails and was carrying white gloves…the ceremony was partially held at the Shinto shrine General Nogi Maresuke, hero of the Japanese-Russo war who had been the embodiment of traditional samurai spiritual values; when his emperor Meiji had died, he and his wife had committed  ceremonial Seppuku….

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Toyo and Masafumi shared one other thing, a love of tango and in fact during their one year engagement they had taken tango lessons at the renown Baron Tsunami Megata’s tango academy; it was Baron Tsunami Megata who introduced tango to Japan…in 1920 he had gone to Paris to treat a skin condition on his feet but became so enamored with the night life that he stayed for six years…in the Club Garron where the Manuel Pizzaro orchestra was playing, he became ensnared by tango; he went on to become an accomplished dancer…upon his return to Tokyo he opened a tango academy and it quickly became  fashionable for the aristocracy to learn tango…he later published a book “A Method to Dance Argentine Tango”…the first Argentinean orchestra to visit Japan was that of Juan Canaro; later, several home-grown orchestras developed, prominent among them was Shimpei Hayakawa’s, Typical Orchestra of Tokyo

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  • CLICK HERE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ebfeKwEPeo to hear Ranko Fujisawa sing“Cristal”, composed by Mariano Mores…Ranko was born on July 21, 1925 in Japan became a noted tango singer in Japan during the golden era

1923, February 18 – VALENTINO DANCES AT TRIANON BALLROOM

By the 1920s several dance crazes had swept American, non more than tango….but politically powerful anti vice forces also criticized dance halls and in particular tango  as unhealthy, immoral venues for the seduction of women and the practice of prostitution…hoping to capitalize, Andrew Karzas, invested one million dollars into the construction and promotion of a new dance hall on the South side of Chicago, “The Trianon Ballroom”…the interior was designed to accommodate enormous crowds of up to 3ooo dancer in the main hall and another 3000 in the upper floor…to protect his investment against the moral reformists, Karzas instigated strict rules of conduct which were enforced by six men and women who would evict offenders…a prominent sign read, “we do not allow spooning or petting between the dances” …it is in this atmosphere that Karzas took the courageous act of booking living legend Rodolfo Valentino.

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Born in Italy, Valentino danced with his second wife Natacha Rambova to the delight of six thousand delirious fans some of which, it is said, actually fainted…  Natacha Rambova was a costume designer and art director when he met her on the set of the film “Uncharted Seas” in 1921…he married her in Mexicali Mexico but as soon as he returned to California, he was arrested for bigamy as California law required a one year waiting period between marriages…Natacha was a disaster; she was controlling and unsocial causing him many problems personally and professionally; two years later they had a bitter divorce…at the news of  Valentino’s sudden death, 2000 people crammed into the Trianon Ballroom to hear a eulogy from Judge Francis Borelli, president of the Valentino Memorial Association who said of Rodolfo, “he was ever the personification of romance, he was the ideal of love at once Cyrano, Romeo and Don Juan”

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1885, February 14 – BIRTH OF “EL CACHFAZ”

Dancer (Aquarius) – his last words were“Carmencita, I will be waiting for you to drink half a glass of whiskey after the match”, he walked out and a few seconds later he dropped dead from a massive heart attack….starting as a dirt poor boy, El Cachafaz, was to become, in the eyes of many, the greatest tango dancer of his time…he attained fame and glory and earned and spent huge sums on a bohemian life…and yet he died penniless, his friends had to take up a collection to pay the 800 pesos for a simple funeral….reflecting on that day at the city of Mar de Plata at the club “El Rancho Grande”, his partner Carmencita Calderon, who would live to 100, would say, “he was actually pocked-marked and ugly but he was the greatest tango dancer and many women fell in love with him”…El Cachfaz had even  survived the mythical duel with El Pardo Santillan, another great dancer, which El Cachfaz had won and which just barely missed turning into a bloody knife fight as was the custom in those times for men to protect their honor

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Ovidio Jose Banquet “El Cachafaz” was born in Barracas al Sur but grew up in the legendary Abasto neighborhood in Buenos Aires…apparently he was quite mischievous as a boy and one day he took undue liberties with a girl and when the girl’s father complained, his father is said to have shouted, “mi hijo es un cachafaz” (“my son is a rascal”); the name would remain with him for the rest of his life…he began dancing as a young boy on the sidewalks to the organists who played for spare change…at the age of 19 he won an important dance contest at the El Parisien Club which had been organized by the prominent Baron de Marchis…it is de Marchi who would introduce him to the high society ladies who would help his career and pay him huge sums for private lessons…in 1919 he went to Paris to perform at the famous “Club Garron” with the Manuel Pizzaro orchestra but he missed his life in Buenos Aires especially the Cafe Corrientes to where he assiduously went everyday at six in the afternoon to drink with a tight group of friends including Carlos Gardel…he danced with the legendary Sofia Bozan in “Carnavales De Antano” in 1940…his life inspired composer Miguel Bucino to write “Bailarin Compadrito” in 1929…he danced with Carmencita Calderon in the renown film “Tango” in 1933

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1998, February 12 – PREMIERE OF SAURA’S “TANGO”

Mario is devastated, his wife has left him for another man and to make matter worse, he has to see them together every day as they are dancers in the tango film he is making…the financier of the film, a powerful and dangerous man, asks him to give a part to Elena, a young, beautiful dancer who is his lover (Elena is played by Mia Maestro who would later star in “Frida”, another film with a tango scene in it)…Mario eventually falls in love with her and the two begin an affair together risking both their lives; in the mean time, the making of the tango film goes on….it is roughly a remake of the mythical Moglia Barth “Tango” of 1933…it won a nomination for an academy award and has won awards in film festivals all over the world primarily for the dancing and the cinematography which was created by academy award-winning Vittorio Storaro who also did “Last Tango In Paris”…”Tango”, one of the best tango films of all time was directed by renown Spanish director Carlos Saura, famous for his combination of passion and dance in films like  ”Carmen” and “Flamenco”…Janet Maslin, the New York Times critic was to write of the film, “Tango offers transfixingly beautiful glimpses of the dance and all the wide range of emotions it can conjure”

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One of the most exciting scenes in the film occurs when mythical tanguero Juan Carlos Copes dances with his daughter Joanna Copes…Copes is one of the last remaining of the great, authentic, tangueros of the golden era who has done everything in tango for 50 years…he began dancing as a young boy in the bars and clubs of Buenos Aires; his hero was Gene Kelly …but he had decided on a career as an electronic engineer when at the age of 20 he happened to win a tango contest in which 300 couples were competing…it launched a career which would take him all over the world…the film also featured a young singer Roxanne Fontana who would  go on to become one of the most gifted and versatile  tango singers in history…”Tango” includes a clip from the 1955 classic “Mercado De Abasto” in which Tita Merello sings her great hit “Se Dice De Mi”…Juan Carlos Copes got to meet his hero Gene Kelly who summoned him to his house in his waning days … “tango”, Copes  says, “is the only dance that allows imagination and creativity to form in three minutes and to become a history of love and of hate”.

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1905, February 10 – BIRTH OF CARMENCITA CALDERON

Dancer (Aquarius) – in 2005, at the age 100, she did her last public performance at the famous milonga La Baldosa with dance partner Jorge Dispari…her fans, many in tears, were ecstatic; just two months later she would pass away feeling fulfilled and content in her life…poet Jose Gabello was to say of her, “you are a girl without age…you are eternal like the tango that drives you”...Carmencita Calderon was born into a poor italian immigrant family in the neighborhood of Villa Urquiza in Buenos Aires…her mother would sing tango and dance by herself as she was doing the laundry and she began passing on this passion to her daughter when Carmencita when was thirteen years old …a tragedy soon befell the family when her mother died leaving behind young children; it fell upon Carmencita to fill the role of the caring and the upbringing of her younger siblings and although she loved to dance, girls in her station did not dare to dream…one day her two younger sisters expressed the wish to attend a neighborhood dance at the  club “Sin Rumbo” and so she went along as a chaperone…

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Renown dancer “Tarila”, happened to be present and someone suggested that Carmencita dance with him; she was terrified but finally accepted his invitation…the following day Tarila took her to meet the legendary El Cachafaz at the Bar Corrientes where he assiduously met a close group of friends including Carlos Gardel…El Cachafaz was so impressed with Carmencita’s dancing that from that day on, he made her his exclusive dance partner; they made their debut with the Pedro Maffia orchestra at the Teatro San Fernando to enthusiastic applause …their ten years long collaboration would take them many places…but in 1942 disaster struck;  at a performance at Mar De Plata, at the club “El Rancho Grande”, after having danced to the milonga “Don Juan“, El Cachafaz died suddenly of a massive heart attack…she would never forget the shock of suddenly seeing her dance partner’s body lying lifeless on the floor…with tremendous personal resolve, she continued….she would in time perform with the best dancers of the time El Tarila, El Cachafaz and El Negro Alfredo and Juan Carlos Copes…reflecting on her success she was to comment “I adorned the tango when I danced it; this was my secret”

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1929, February 5 – GARDEL SINGS AT PARIS OPERA HOUSE

“Who would have thought back then, sixteen years ago that one day I would be singing here” wrote Carlos Gardel to his friend and manager Jose Razzano referring to their boyhood when the thought of performing at the mythical Paris Opera House was only a wildly unattainable dream for boys from poor immigrant families…indeed to have been invited to sing at the Paris Opera House for the “Bal de Petit Lits Blanc”, the most important social event of the year, was to have conquered Paris and therefore the world…he became the darling of a decadent aristocracy and it is they  who would catapult him to international fame; it is they who would export tango into a world sensation…on this particular night the well liked President of the Republic Gaston Doumergue was especially thrilled and he sent down a note to Gardel, would he please re-sing “El Cerretero”; with deep respect Gardel bowed to the president and did, to the enthusiastic applause of his excellency…

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Ten days later he opened at the Casino in Cannes for the unbelievable sum of 4000 francs a night; a famous magazine “La Rampe” in the luxurious end of the year edition, ran a full color photo of him….telegrams were personally delivered to him, a service reserved for only the most important people…he relished his success in paris, “I am living better than a millionaire in paris, in the best district in a comfortable house” he would write in letters to friends; much of his fortune would be squandered in his horse gambling habit…..150 years earlier, other Gardels were conquering an earlier version of the Paris Opera, Maximilien and Pierre Gardel ballet dancers and choreographers…Maximilien became the dance instructor of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI…he died young from an infection resulting from a small toe injury sustained while dancing…his brother Pierre became a renown choreographer and ballet master for 35 years surviving a number of political upheavals including the French Revolution…on the day that Louis XVI was beheaded, the Paris Opera was performing Pierre’s “The Trial of Paris”…Gardel would meet his own premateur demise just six years later in a fiery airplane crash .

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