Category Archives: Dance

Dirty Dancing: Animal Trotting

turkey trot 1
Turkey Trot‘ by Oscar Haase, published by Jos W. Stern & Co (New-York, 1908, s.d.); unknown illustrator.

In a time of dirty dancing with sexually explicit twerking, daggering and grinding, it is hard to imagine that these lame turkeys irked the guardians of morality. But they did!
In the early 1900s a number of animal dances became very popular. They were inspired by animals demeanour, knew a fast ragtime rhythm and shocked society. The three most provocative dances were the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear and the Bunny Hug. The oldest of these dances in our sheet music collection is the Turkey Trot by Oscar Haase from 1908. But initially it had no great success: the craze of animal dancing started a few years later, originally from the saloons and dance halls of San Francisco.

turkey trot frans
The same ‘Turkey Trot‘ by Oscar Haase, published in France by Edouard Salabert (Paris, 1908). Henri Armengol illustrated this cover, which was  probably published between 1911 and 1912.

Together with the syncopated beats of the ragtime, the animal trots became very popular between 1910 and 1913 in the United States but also in Europe. In France, Edouard Salabert published Oscar Haase’s Turkey Trot as la dernière danse élégante Américaine (the newest elegant American dance). Although the year of copyright (1908) is printed on the sheet music we can realistically date it to 1911 or 1912 because those are the only years that Henri Armengol illustrated for Salabert.

2 turkey trotten
Left: ‘Dindonnade‘ by de Crescenzo, published by Ricordi (Paris, 1913). Right: ‘Truthahn Tanz‘ by Neil Moret, published by Roehr (Berlin, 1912) and illustrated by Louis Oppenheimer.

The most popular of these fads in Europe was The Grizzly Bear, known respectively as the Bärentrot (Germany) or the Pas de L’Ours (France).

Left: ‘The Grizzly Bear‘ by George Botsford, published by Salabert (Paris, 1910) and illustrated by John Frew. Right: ‘Le vrai pas de l’ours‘ by Gracey & Nikelmann, published by Smyth (Paris, 1912) and illustrated by Leon Pousthoumis.
Left: ‘The Black Bear Dance‘ by Willy Michels, published by E. De Saedeleer & E. Possoz (Brussels s.d.) and illustrated by Valéry. Middle: ‘Le Pas de l’Ours‘ by Alteirac, published by Jean Péheu (Paris, 1912) ans illustrated by Pousthomis. Right: ‘Bärentrot‘ by Max Oscheit, published by Alfred Lehman (Leipzig, s.d.) and illustrated by Telemann.

Bye-bye Belle Époque! These new, fresh and daring dances were a sign of modern times, the waltz was passé. They were easy to learn for people who had no time for dancing schools. They were just a One-Step (a kind of walk) with some special routines, embellishments and humorous gestures (flapping elbows, outstretching paws, kicking or hopping). No special music was required as long as it was syncopated. One couple could dance the Grizzly Bear while another would do the Turkey Trot. According to Walter Nelson “All would share a dance floor and dance to the same music as everyone walked or slid or hopped forward, backward, or in a circle, and assumed a variety of postures – and each would be as wild or as silly or as dignified as their own tastes dictated.” In Paris, Salabert published Irving Berlin’s famous ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ as Le Célèbre Pas de l’Ours.

celebre pas de l'ours
Le célèbre pas de l’ours‘ by Irving Berlin, adaptation by Francis Salabert, published by Salabert (Paris, 1912) and illustrated by Armengol.

But these animal dances became increasingly disagreeable to the taste police. With dance partners hugging, moving too close and being far too intimate, the dances were labelled ‘offensive to modesty and dangerous to purity’. According to one cleric the Turkey Trot was a ‘gait to Hell’. Another one told Catholic parents to ‘shield their children from the slimy touch of moral lepers’ (meaning young men and women who engage in these infamous dances).

the bunny hug
The Bunny Hug‘ By Harry Von Tilzer & William Jerome, published by Harry Von Tilzer (New York, 1912) and illustrated by De Takacs. (Not in our collection – Johns Hopkins University, Levy Sheet Music Collection)

A frenetic hater of dancing said that ‘the Bunny Hug is danced in imitation of the sex relation between male and female rabbits’. Although the lyrics ‘Squeeze me, please me, tease me, while we glide along‘ are suggestive, I find it difficult to fantasize these winsome rabbits to go all the way. Nor did the dance resemble two rabbits engaging in anything but having some fun:

Many European religious leaders also attacked the modern dances, which even resulted in a Papal ban. Mind you, the Pope did not condemn all dances, indeed some were blessed (like the Furlana).

Chaste dance halls soon forbid turkey trotting, bunny hugging and bear trotting. A number of colleges adapted a strict rule that dance partners should be separated by at least six inches. Austere dance monitors enforced these rules on the dance floor. Worse still, people were arrested and had to defend themselves in court for dancing one or other animal trot. In several places in the United States the police threatened to shut down every dance hall where the Bunny Hug or Turkey Trot was performed. Elsewhere, a police officer had to be present at all times to prevent the dancers to hug each other. Furthermore a lot of medical complaints were attributed to the trotting. And finally, ragtime was considered a madness and a threat to mental health.

But you can judge for yourself: a surviving reel from 1913 shows how the Grizzly Bear was danced. Cute isn’t it?

In Downton Abbey the footman Thomas learns the kitchen maid Daisy how to dance the Grizzly Bear.

Here and there balls were called off. The most famous one was president Wilson’s inaugural ball in 1913. Wilson, a man of deep religious faith, replaced the ball by a reception. Allegedly, he feared that in spite of all warnings and prohibitions, young people would do the scandalous trots anyway, thus provoking a national disgrace.

President-elect-Wilson turkey
Left: The New York Times, January 21, 1913. Right: President-elect Wilson prior to the inauguration ceremonies, March 4, 1913.

Wilson’s youngest daughter, Eleanor, requested that the academy where she was attending school would ban inappropriate forms of modern dance. Her appeal was granted: since then students at her art-school were only allowed to sedately dance the waltz or the two-step.

eleanor wilson
Left: The Washington Post, Januari 11, 1913. Right: Eleanor Wilson (Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing Collection).

In 1913 one of the staunchest defenders of modern dancing, the female composer Elsie Janis, wrote the obvious ironic song ‘Anti Rag-Time Girl’, enumerating all the offensive dances that the girl in question refuses to participate in. For the songs sheet music cover, the Starmer brothers drew the portrait of a demure girl, not unlike the prudish Eleanor Wilson….

anti ragtime
Anti Rag-Time Girl‘ by Elsie Janis, published by Jerome H. Remick (New-York, 1913) and illustrated by Starmer. (Not in our collection – Johns Hopkins University, Levy Sheet Music Collection)

By 1914 the Bunny Hug, Turkey Trot and Grizzly Bear were out of fashion. And the anti-dance league busied itself in tackling other dances, like the Maxixe or the Tango.

Of all the animal trots, only the foxtrot survived and became the most popular dance of the entire first half of the twentieth century. But that’s another story. Doris Day can finish this small history by dancing the Turkey Trot in the 1951 film ‘On Moonlight Bay’. If America’s sweetheart can dance the Turkey Trot, then the puritan interdict is lifted: yeeha!

Jean, Sergei, Erik, Pablo, Leonide et Les Autres…

'Rag-Time Parade', composed by Erik Satie (Rouart, Lerolle & Cie, Paris, 1919)
Rag-Time Parade‘, composed by Erik Satie (Rouart, Lerolle & Cie, Paris, 1919).

The best part of this post is the short movie. If you haven’t got time, directly scroll to the end and have a good laugh with the dancing ‘horse’.

Left: the Théatre du Chatelet in Paris; Right: photo of The Little Girl in Parade.
Left: the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris today; Right: photo of the little American girl posing for the 1917 Parade. The girl’s costume should have been designed by Picasso, but it was just bought in a shop.

In 1917, almost a century ago, two big events happened that would affect the lives of millions of people: the United States entered the Great War and Russia held its October Revolution. It is hard to imagine that against this grim historical background the bizarre, eccentric and crazy ballet Parade was created in Paris, a few hundred miles away from the mud, misery and inferno of the WWI front lines.

Left, Leonid Massine as the Chinese conjurer in Parade. Right the design for the Chinese conjurer’s costume by Pablo Picasso.

Parade was a short ballet. It premiered, together with other more traditional ballets, at a war time charity gala to support the troops, in May 1917 at the Théâtre du Chatelet. Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) had set the whirling story somewhere at the fringe of a fairground. Cocteau imagined acrobats, clowns, a Chinese conjurer, a little American girl (based on the 1914 film serial The Perils of Pauline) and other strange characters parading on the stage to entice the passers-by to enter the show.

Author Jean Cocteau and composer Erik Satie
Portraits of the author Jean Cocteau (left) and composer Erik Satie (right), both by Pablo Picasso.

The music composed by Erik Satie (1866-1925) was mixed with many real-life sound effects, e.g. from typewriters and gunshots. The dances were choreographed by the young Leonide Massine, the successor of Nijinsky. Finally, none other than Picasso designed the decors and cubistic costumes.

Two of the costumes designed by Picasso and made of wood, papier-mâché, metal and cloth.
Two of the costumes designed by Picasso and made of wood, papier-mâché, metal and cloth.

Preparing the ballet in Rome, Sergei Diaghilev wanted to be part of the avant-garde art scene using a modernistic environment for his Ballets Russes. The Parade ballet caused a scandal. About time! It was from 1912 (L’ Après-midi d’un faune) and 1913 (Le Sacre du printemps) ago that the Ballets Russes had provoked public outrage and the scorn of the critics.

'La Diva de l'Empire', composed by Erik Satie ()
La Diva de l’Empire‘, composed by Erik Satie (Rouart, Lerolle & Cie, Paris, 1919). Not in our collection.

The ragtime from Parade was later adapted for piano solo and published in 1919 with its beautiful cover shown at the beginning. At the same time the editor also published an American intermezzo ‘La Diva de l’Empire’ by Satie with an equally striking cover. La Diva de l’Empire is a 1919 edition of a cabaret song with ragtime rhythms which Satie wrote in 1904. Obviously both covers were drawn by the same hand, but whose? Picasso, Natalia Goncharova, Fernand Léger, Charles Martin, ..? Or perhaps Satie himself who enjoyed typography and sketches?

Example of Satie's graphic and typographic experiments.
Examples of Satie’s graphic and typographic expressions.

“1917” is also the title of an exhibition held at the Centre Pompidou – Metz a few years ago. On that occasion the monumental theatre curtain (more than 16 m wide !), designed by Picasso for the ballet Parade, was unveiled. A few pictures tell about that enterprise.

The preparation for the 2008 exhibition of the Picasso curtain from the 1917 ballet Parade, at the Centre Pompidou – Metz.

With this giant scene Picasso refers to his previous more romantic rendering of street performers and artistic types, so distinctive for his earlier Rose Period. But at the same time the perspective and composition create a semi-realistic scene that is both upsetting and disturbing.

A detailed view of the Picasso decor.
A detailed view of the Picasso decor.

While working on Parade, Picasso met his future first wife, Olga Khokhlova, a dancer with the Ballets Russes. They married a year later in 1918.

picasso olga
Pablo Picasso with his future wife Olga Khokhlova, posing before the poster of Parade in Paris 1917.

Now as promised, the film, thanks to the dance performance of ‘Europa Danse’ who recreated Parade in 2008 (source:

The Furlana: a Blessed Dance Craze

La vraie Furlana papale‘ by Théo Noletty, published by Philippo, Paris 1914, illustrated by Clérice Frères.

Traditionally the furlana was an Italian folk dance from Friuli, a region between Trieste and Venice. Dating back to the 17th century it became popular on the European continent in the first half of the 18th century, thanks to Couperin and Rameau. Pietro Longhi the painter of Venetian 18th century everyday life immortalized the furlana in one of his typical genre scenes.

la biu bella furlana
Left, Peasants dancing the Furlana by Pietro Longhi (1702-1785). Right, ‘La piu bella Furlana‘ by Alfredo Barbirolli, published by Au Ménestrel Paris in 1914, illustrated by René Péan.

By the end of the 18th century the furlana was passé. Apart from an opera or two in which the furlana was staged, nobody cared about the dance anymore, let alone knew how to dance it. It was a rather cheerful tune though if the version from Amilcare Ponchielli‘s opera La Gioconda is anything to go by.

And then all of a sudden at the eve of the Great War, in the spring of 1914, the furlana became the dance craze! It was extremely short-lived and lasted but a few months. But in that fleeting period it had the ambition to replace the tango which had invaded Europe around 1912. As the story goes we have to thank Pope Pius X for this fad. Pius X was strongly opposed to modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine. He advocated traditional devotional practices, and of course abhorred the sensual and shocking tango.

pope furlana2
Left, Pope Pius X carefully watches a couple dancing the Tango. From L’Illustration.Right, ‘Friuli‘ by Bonincontro, published by Bornemann Paris in 1914, illustrated by Pousthomis.

Allegedly Pope Pius X, in a reaction to the dangerous vogue of the tango, had invited two young members of the Pontifical aristocracy to perform the notorious tango in a strictly private audience. Having witnessed these ‘ridiculous barbarian contortions’, Pope Pius X advised young people to adopt the delightful Venetian dance instead of the devilish tango. It was a (chaste) dance that he had often seen in his youth, where physical contact went no further than clasped hands. This papal advise was repeated in Rome’s Il Tempo newspaper.  And before long the furlana became the vogue in Rome, soon to be followed in Paris.

furlana venetie
Left, ‘La Giocosa Furlana‘ by L. Durand, published by Dupuis, Paris in 1914, illustrated by Léon Pousthomis. Right, ‘La Furlana‘ by Emile Doloire, published by Delormel, Paris in 1914, illustrated by Clérice Frères.

It is in that very short period of time, between the spring of 1914 and the outbreak of WWI, that every self-respecting dance teacher, every composer and every publishing house had to quickly concoct ‘the real’ furlana. A Venetian dance teacher claimed he had succeeded in recreating the original furlana after an interview with an octogenarian. It looked like this:

forlan gedanst2
The Furlana, reconstructed by the Venetian Professor Galante. La Revue Musicale S.I.M. april 1914.

At the same time a Roman dance teacher was quick to tell of his good fortune to discover an ancient dance manual explaining all the original movements of the furlana.

furlana X
Left, ‘La Furlana‘ by Paul Fauchey, published by Adolph Furstner in 1914, illustrated by Hippolyte Fournier. Right, ‘La Furlana‘ by Attic, published by E. Joullot, illustrated by Pousthomis.

In Paris as well, all in the music business were frantically claiming their importance in the furlanamania. One publisher tried to lure his potential clientèle reassuring them that the furlana could be danced everywhere: ‘La Furlana, nouvelle danse Vénitienne approuvée par sa sainteté le Pape Pie X, et pour cette raison adoptée dans les salons aristocratiques et mondains’. Another one boldly retraced the origins of the furlana to an ancient gondolier dance.

furlana bloem
Left, ‘Célèbre Furlana Venitienne‘ by Saratosga, published by Bons Auteurs, Paris, illustrated by Paul Dubois. Right, ‘Furlana Jolie‘ by Maria Rosset, published by Rosset, Paris 1914, illustrated by Clérice frères.

Parisian stylish dance teachers hurried to scrape together some movements in order to create a new choreography. Some of these teachers succeeded in attaching their name and theory to the published music. The best known of them was the elegant Duque (Antonio Lopes de Amorim Diniz) a Brazilian who abandoned a career in dentistry to become a dancer and dance teacher in Paris.  Duque was responsable for another dance craze: the maxixe. But this is for a later post. For now we’re off to Venice, going to dance with a gondolier!

La vrai Furlana‘, published by Edouard Salabert, Paris 1914. Photograph of L. Duque by Henri Manuel.