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The Kinkajou, one of the many dance crazes of the Twenties

A kinkajou is a small mammal native to Central and South America with nocturnal habits and related to raccoons.

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Kinkajou

The name of this cute little animal was used for a dance novelty in the late 1920s. An article of the Examiner in 1927 explained how to dance the Kinkajou: ‘You must sway the shoulders, tango like a sailor manipulating a gangway, and then change from one foot to the other as though in pain, lifting each foot well off the ground.’

While the dance originated in the 1927 Broadway musical Rio Rita, there was a serious disagreement in Paris on who created the original dance routine: the dance teacher Jean Mesnard, the beautiful Irvin Sisters or Albertina Rasch? In fact, all three of them contributed to the pseudo-craze.

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Music by Harry Tierney, lyrics by Joseph McCarthy, cover by Würth
The Albertina Rasch Girls illustrated by Würth
The Albertina Rasch Girls, as illustrated by Würth
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The Albertina Rasch Dancers in costume for Rio Rita (1927).

It was Albertina Rasch,  leader of her own troupe The Albertina Rasch Girls, who choreographed the Kinkajou for the original Ziegfeld production on Broadway. The Albertina Rasch Girls also performed the Kinkajou dance routine at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, together with Harry Pilcer.

Strangely, at exactly the same period Publications Francis-Day edited another version of the Kinkajou sheet music, also by Würth. This time Würth chose not the stage of the Moulin Rouge as the central theme, but drew a highly stylised close-up portrait of the two main actors.

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Also in 1927 Paddy & Zez Confrey composed The Black Kinkajou. Although the manager of the Irvin Sisters insisted they had nothing to learn from a dance teacher and that they could very well invent their dance routines themselves, it was Jean Mesnard who choreographed the dance moves that were presented by the Irvin Sisters at the Concert Mayol in Paris.

A lot of quarreling for nothing, because the Kinkajou was never really succesful…

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The Black Kinkajou, illustrated by Pigeot

Pigeot, the illustrator of The Black Kinkajou had presumably never heard of a kinkajou and thought a drawing of a cat might do as well.

In 1929 the stage musical Rio Rita was made into a film. A rare excerpt with the Kinkajou dance routine made it to YouTube:

Marcel·lí Porta

Babilonia, foxtrot by J. Demón (Editions Salabert, Paris, 1928)
Babilonia, foxtrot by J. Demón (Editions Salabert, Paris, 1928)

After many years our patience has been rewarded! With thanks to Santi Barjau’s blog we have been able to attribute the ‘MPortal’-monogram to a poster designer from Catalonia named Marcel·lí Porta Fernanda. He was born in Barcelona in 1900 or 1903. The joyous Mesopotamian cover for the Babilonia Foxtrot Song appears to be an early work (1928), as most of his other known creations are from the Thirties or later, such as his anti-fascist poster ‘Feixisme No!’ from 1938. Too little is known about the life and work of this artist, but he appears to have been actively involved in the Republican movement with his publication of posters, caricatures, cartoons and illustrations for satirical magazines.

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Feixisme NO! Poster designed by Marcel·lí Porta in 1938 for the PSUC (Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia)

As many of his compatriots at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 he was forced to exile from his native country, never to come back. He stayed for some time in Montpellier and migrated to Mexico City in 1942. In his new country Porta would be active for many years illustrating books and magazines, worked as a painter and even designed murals. Marcel·lí Porta died without leaving family in Mexico City in 1959 (or 1979 according to other sources).

Portrait of Marcel·lí Porta
Marcel·lí Porta in a photograph published in 1988 in the Journal of the Orfeó Català de Mèxic, an organisation that had become his second home (source: El blog d’història del cartell de Santi Barjau).

Innocenzi

InnoCenzi (monogram) Innocenzi

Carlo Innocenzi is a wonderful man. He died in Rome in 1962 but is still very much alive. Firstly, there are his art-deco covers which he designed for popular Italian songs: they keep you happy all day long.

Sheet music covers, illustrated by Carlo Innocenzi (ca 1928)
Sheet music covers by Carlo Innocenzi (ca 1928). View more at Images Musicales.

Secondly, as a trained violist and composer he launched several popular songs of his own, a.o. ‘Il primo amore‘ and ‘Prigoniero di un Sogno. Part of this success was due to the lyrics by Marcella Rivi, nom de plume of Sonia Pearlwing (1910-1981), the woman he promptly maried. In the late 1930s  he started working for Italian cinema and was hardly able to stop: he composed more than 150 songs and scores for the screen. 

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But in the third place, Innocenzi is still amongst us because in the Umbrian town where he was born in 1899, Monteleone di Spoleto, a street band named Corpo Bandistico Carlo Innocenzi brings his name and memory very much aLIVE.

Viva caro Carlo, viva!

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Corpo Bandistico Carlo Innocenzi in Monteleone di Spoleto (2010)