Category Archives: Diaspora

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”  is a 1921 Hollywood silent movie. It was based on a Spanish novel of the same name by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. The story depicts an Argentinean family which was divided during WWI and ended up fighting on opposite sides. It stars actor Rudoph Valentino in the role of Julio Desnoyers, grandson of Argentine landowner Madariaga.

The movie is famous for a scene involving tango dancing. It occurs in a club of La Boca where Julio goes to enjoy an evening with his grand father. He notices a couple on the dance floor, walks up to them pretending to get the woman for himself, knocks out his rival and conquers her while dancing a very particular sort of tango in his gaucho attire. After looking down on him and laughing in his face, the woman fall head over heels, kisses him on the lips in front of everyone and ends up sitting on his lap at his table.

“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” became the the top-grossing film of 1921, beating Charlie Chaplin and turning Rudolph Valentino into a superstar. The latin lover’s effect was such that men were seen wearing gel in their hair and people began learning to dance the tango. [1] Another silent movie involving tango dancing and gauchos in the Andes was released in Hollywood in 1928. [5] Tango remained a recurrent theme in american films ever since, unfortunately perpetuating fantasists clichés for the most part. [3]

In 1995 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. It now pertains to the public domain and can be viewed or downloaded online on the Internet Archive website. [4] π

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[1] GROPPA, Carlos G. The tango in the United states. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc. 2004. Print.

[2] QUIN, Eleanor. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). Turner Classic Movies. Online. 

[3] GROPPA, Carlos. Hollywood vs Tango. Tango reporter. Online. 

[4] The Four horsemen of the Apocalypse [4]  

[5] The Gauho (1927). IMDb. Online. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0017918/plotsummary ref_=tt_ov_pl

Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino was a dancer and Hollywood superstar. He is famous for a scene in the 1921 movie “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” where he dances the tango with Beatrice Dominguez.

Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguella was born in 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy, of a French mother and Italian father. In 1913 he traveled to the United States in search of new opportunities and this is where he learned to dance the tango, possibly with Casimiro Aín.

These were the years when tangomania was taking over New York. Valentino worked as a taxi dancer in restaurants such as Maxim’s Restaurant-Cabaret where dancing tea parties were held in the British fashion. In 1917 he was entangled in a scandal with a married woman which led him to leave the city. This is how he began traveling and working with theatrical companies which took him to the west coast.

After traveling for a few months Valentino settled in Los Angeles where he worked as a dance teacher. He began looking for work as an actor and landed his first major role playing Julio Desnoyers in the silent movie “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, the 1921 movie where we can see him performing the tango in his gaucho attire. [2]

Valentino’s good looks and seductive attitude on the dance floor made a strong impression on the american public and quickly turned him into a superstar. [1] The popularity of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and the so called “latin lover” was such that men were seen wearing gel in their hair and young people were suddenly interested in learning to dance the tango.

With his wife Natacha Rambova, Valentino toured the country to perform the exotic dance in his own particular style. He also pursued his career as a Hollywood actor and was starred in fourteen films including The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, and The Son of the Sheik before he died in 1926 following a surgery. He was only 31-year-old.  π

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[1] GROPPA, Carlos G. The tango in the United states. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Inc. 2004. Print.

[2] QUIN, Eleanor. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). Turner Classic Movies. Online. 

Tangomania (New York)

It wasn’t long before tango reached Paris in the 1910’s, soon after it began gaining popularity in Buenos Aires cafes and nightclubs. The tangomania  made it’s way from Paris to other parts of Europe, including London where tango became ultra fashionable with high society around 1913, [3]. From London tangomania made it’s way to New York where it conquered the public for the first time through a British musical presented on Broadway in 1914. [1]

Though there is evidence that tango was present in the US earlier in the 1900’s, it seems like the impact of this first contact was minimal. There is evidence that Los Gobbi came to the Philadephia in 1905 to record for Victor Talking Machine and were back in New York in 1911 to record with Columbia [1] and that El Cachafaz was invited to perform in the US in 1911 but nothing to suggest that their presence made a strong impression on the American public.

The first sign of popular interest for tango in the United States came with the presentation of “The Sunshine Girl”, a British musical  which had been a huge success in London in 1913. The American version presented on Broadway featured a couple of American ballroom dancers, Vernon and Irene Castle, who immediately became a reference for tango dancing and began teaching in the US. [2]

One year later tango was a huge phenomenon in New York. People gathered to dance at “tango teas”, [3] which were held in restaurants and hotels in the London fashion. Tango dancing was a scandal and a sensation at once and there is abundant evidence in newspapers that these gatherings were the object of a strong public controversy. It’s in one of these establishments that Rudolph Valentino worked as a taxi dancer before he made his way to Hollywood were he became a start dancing tango in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”  in 1921.

The tangomania  came to an end in New York around 1918.  π

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[1] Groppa, Carlos G. The tango in the United States. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2004. Print.

[2] Castle, Vernon, and Irene Castle. “Teaching argentine tango in New York, 1914.” Todotango. Web. Aug 2016. Online. http://www.todotango.com/english/history/chronicle/ 99/Teaching-Argentine-Tango-in-New-York-1914/  

[3] Holland, Evangeline. “Tango Teas and tangocitis”. Edwardian Promenade. Web. Aug 2916. Online. http://www.edwardianpromenade.com/dance/tango-teas-and-tangocitis/ 

Tango Argentino (musical)

Tango Argentino is a musical by Claudio Sergovia and Hector Orezzo. It became a huge success in Europe and on Broadway in the 80’s and it contributed to spark the wave of popularity tango dancing is experiencing today around the world.

The premiere of Tango Argentino took place in 1983 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris as a part of the Festival d’automne. It featured many well known dancers, singers and musicians such as Juan Carlos Copes, Maria Nieves, Horacio Salgán, El Sexteto Mayor and Roberto Goyeneche.

Tango dancing had been out of fashion for many years when Claudio Sergovia came up with this project and no one knew what to expect of it upon arriving in Paris. Shortly before the premier only 250 out of 2500 tickets were sold and the director was looking to invite friends to fill up the theater. [2] However the press wrote excellent reviews of the show after seeing the last rehearsal and on the first function Tango Argentino attracted more people then the organizers could handle.

The show ended up a being a huge success in Paris, traveled Europe and appeared on Broadway where it was offered 199 presentations between 1985 and 1986 [3], attracting not only tourists but locals, artists, personalities and a large cultivated audience. [4] After a year in New York the show went on a 3 years sold out tour of the US and stayed in Los Angeles for a few weeks before embarking on an international tour.

Tango Argentino went on traveled the world for a total of almost ten years and became the prototype of many other tango shows. It was  presented for the first time in Argentina in 1992 after touring the world. It was filmed in 1986 to be preserved by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Library and a remake was presented on Broadway in 1999 and 2000 as well as in Buenos Aires in 2006. The show was brought back to life again in 2011 for an open air performance at the Obelisco in Bueno Aires before a crowd of 15000 people. [1] π

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[1] “Claudio Segovia: el señor del tango.” La Nación. Aug 31, 2003. Web. Sept 2016 Online. http://www.lanacion.com.ar/523391-claudio-segovia-el-senor-del-tango  

[2] Gambarotta Lisandro. “Tango Argentino.” El Tangauta. #146, Dec 2006. Web. Sept 2016 http://www.eltangauta.com/nota.asp?id=589&idedicion=0#nota-mas 

[3] “Tango Argentino”. Broadway Database. Web. Sept 2016. Online. https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/tango-argentino-4380 

[4] Groppa, Carlos G. The tango in the United States. Print.

[6] Gazenbeek, Antón. Inside Tango Argentino: The story of the Most Important Tango Show of All Time. Enrico Massetti, 2013. Print.