Archive for the ‘ Male 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 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


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”



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….


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


  • CLICK HERE – 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


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.


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”


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


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


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”


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”.



Francisco Canaro had the midas touch, he made money in everything he touched with one exception, film making…he was to say, “sound movies left me completely silent” “Con La Musica en El Alma” was his last film and it was in theory successful but not for Canaro, he had to sue his production partners to recoup his 400, 000 peso investment…not that he needed the money; he was undoubtably the richest man in tango history…a common saying to refer to some one of means was, “he is rich like Canaro”….after this attempt, he sold what was left of his Rio Plata Production Company…the film was based on the musical by the same name, written by Homero Manzi, which had been produced two years earlier…it was staged at the Teatro Casino and was headlined by legendary child actor Andres Poggio  ”Toscanito”,  and singer Alberto Arenas;


It was also the early start of actor Alberto Dalbes who would have a long and fruitful career in Argentinean films…Francisco Canaro, as well as providing the music, also had a small role…the play had a highly successful six month run and was then moved to the Teatro Artigas in Montevideo, Canaro’s home town…the success of the play inspired Canaro to convert it into a film which premiered at the Normandie Theater…Toscanito and Alberto Arenas reappear in the film with the addition of beloved comedic dancer Tito Luisardo who appeared in over 40 films to the delight of his legion of fans…the film was directed by Spanish film director Luis Bayon Herrera who found success in Argentina and remained there for the rest of his life…several notable tangos were featured like “Mataderos”; “Boliche de barrio”; “Sentimiento Gaucho” and Canaro’s intriguing Tango Fantasia in F…when Canaro died of a strange and rare bone growth disorder his immense fortune was apportioned between his French wife and his daughters born of his affair with a young, seductive chorus  girl he had met through one of his musicals


1933, December 29 – PREMIERE OF “FLYING DOWN TO RIO”

For this film Vincent Youmans composed the tango “Orchids in the Moonlight” which would be a smash hit and another leap forward in the tango craze in the United States and consequently the world…it is sung by Raul Roulien and danced by Fred Astair with Dolores Del Rio who was considered the female Rodolofo Valentino…”Orchids in the Moonlight” would be subsequently recorded by many other artists including The Platters in 1960 and by the legendary mexican trio Los Panchos in English; Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Cherise were to do an unforgetable dance to it in the 1948 film “On An Island With You”…this was the first time that Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers had worked together…Interestingly, Fred had been reluctant to work with her; having danced with his sister for many years, he now dreamt of finally breaking away to a solo career…


The film was originally conceived as a showcase for silent film beauty star Dolores Del Rio, instead the unexpected chemistry between Fred and Ginger usurped the headlines and buzz and created the greatest dancing couple in history; they were to make nine other films together…”Flying Down to Rio” , directed by Thorton Freeman,  follows the adventures of  Roger Bond a band leader and aviator who falls in love with the Brazilian beauty Belinda de Resende (Dolores Del Rio) even though she is already engaged to Julio played by Raul Roulien…Roulien was the first Brazilian actor to make it in Hollywood; in the later part of his career he successfully produced and directed a number of films…Vincent Youmans composed some successful broadway hits although his career was relatively short; like the legenday Eduardo Arolas, he finally passed away relatively young  from complications of TB and alcoholism