KEVIN DIXON: 1914 - Savage dancing comes to Torquay
Sometimes new forms of artistic expression aren't immediately appreciated in Torbay...
The Tango is a dance and musical style that began in the 1890s in the working-class port neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires.
By 1912, dancers and musicians from Buenos Aires travelled to Europe and the first European Tango craze took place in Paris, soon followed by London, Berlin, and other capitals. Towards the end of 1913 the Tango came to New York.
However, these exported versions of the Tango were modified to have less body contact ('Ballroom Tango'). Nevertheless, the dance was still thought shocking by many, as had earlier been the case with dances such as the Waltz.
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So how did the new dance craze go down in Torquay? Predictably, not well...
In January of 1914 the Torquay Directory gave its verdict on the "savage dance":
"It lacks swing, rhythm, fluidity. The dancers are rarely in time with the music; they never appear, as good waltzers appear, to have the music so intimately in the blood... They are thinking of their legs and feet; and to think of ones legs is to perform physical exercises... The Tango is ungainly, ridiculous and dull."
Above all, the Tango was foreign:
"In its native land the Tango has a meaning, but it is not one that can be expressed in an English ballroom... We are not hot-blooded Southerners, or orgiastic negroes, or volatile New Yorkers, or pagan Greeks.''
Despite all this, the popularity of the Tango continued. Here's one of its greatest exponents, Rudolph Valentino, along with Beatrice Dominguez, in the famous Tango dance scene from the 1921 film 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse':
60 years later, things hadn't changed that much. From the Herald’s front page of June 1977:
“Top Rock Group Banned from Town Hall.
"A top rock group has been banned from Torquay Town Hall – and the man who was to promote the concert said that the decision by the council was due to “apathy and bloody-mindedness”.
The Stranglers were due to appear on June 9 as part of a national tour. Mr. Greg Van Dyke, the Plymouth promoter, said “I was told that the council were not willing to take the risk. But I was not told what the risk was… The council did not even do me the courtesy of ringing me. They clearly don’t know a thing about the band.”
No one at the Town Hall was available for comment this morning.”
Apparently, the problem was largely to do with the ‘risk’ that young people would hear the Stranglers swearing.
Music fans were understandably angered: “For goodness sake, what are the council trying to do, bore us to death… Let us decide what’s best for us… Plenty for OAPs and visitors… nothing for the youth of Torbay… Head in sand council…”
Hopefully, we're all now ready for the next cultural shock?