The Bowery Waltz of Vaudeville [Video]

Posted on: December 26th, 2011 at 10:24 am by

This certainly isn’t the Cupid Shuffle, Macarena, or the Twist. Or any other flavor-of-the-week step. No siree-Bob. What we have here is a brief forty-second clip from 1902 showing a popular dance at the time, nicknamed the “Bowery Waltz.”

This image has been archived or removed.

The Bowery Waltz, sometimes referred to as the “Tough Dance at McGurk’s,” actually owes its genesis to turn-of-the-century Paris. Its origins trace back to a purported street fight between two men and a woman outside a nightclub in the Montmart section of Paris, leading a local journalist to liken the incident to a “ferocity of savage Apache Indians in battle.”

This Bowery iteration of the so-called tough dance was quite popular in the vaudeville scene of the Lower East Side.  The video itself portrays the self-professed “champs” of the Bowery, Kid Foley and Sailor Lil, acting out a drunkenly misogynistic scene of drunken low-lives from the Bowery.

The dance is very physical and rather passionate as the partners pantomime an escalating domestic fight. The spin in the dance is known as the ‘Apache spin,’ (a.k.a. the ‘Texas Tommy’ in Lindy Hop), and is an integral part as is the ‘slow drag.’ The pace starts slow working its way up to a violent frenzy, all the while alternating between a slow drunk dance and a wild domestic blowout, usually culminating with the woman feigning unconsciousness and being carried out. The interpretation is commonly based on one of two motifs: a low class drunken couple or a pimp and his whore.

The Bowery Waltz, however, was first captured on film seven years earlier (1897) thanks to Edison Manufacturing Company.  It’s a much slower version of the dance.

Share

Recent Stories

Borough President Implores Parks Commissioner to Address Community Concerns in Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Two stabbings within a twelve-hour period last weekend highlighted the decrepit, yet dangerous state of Sara D. Roosevelt Park. The violence apparently pushed Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to exert pressure on the Parks Department to address certain core issues. In a letter to Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff this week, Brewer identified two key concerns – […]

Loved Ones Crowdfunding for Grubhub Deliveryman Stabbed to Death on the LES

Loved ones have taken to online crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to help raise money for the Grubhub deliveryman stabbed to death in Sara D. Roosevelt Park last weekend. As reported, the incident transpired early Saturday morning near the Hester Playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Surveillance footage shows that the attacker sat on the bench next […]

Coastal Resiliency Project Forces Lower East Side Ecology Center Compost Yard to Staten Island

The Lower East Side Ecology Center has its walking papers. The local nonprofit is amidst a move, relocating the East River compost yard it called home for the last two decades. Over the last week or so, the 22-year-old compost yard was dismantled, as the East Side Coastal Resilience Project is set to break ground […]

‘Citi Bites’ Takes Hell Square Corner

Another fast food option is coming to Hell Square. Citi Bites, not Citi Bikes, is described as a “modern deli,” this month signed a lease for the 2,000 square-foot cornershop at 101 Stanton Street. It takes the place of the former Prema hair salon which closed earlier this year. The bodega business reportedly agreed to […]

Police Release Chilling Video in Murder of Delivery Worker in Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Police released chilling new surveillance video showing the approached the defenseless delivery worker, moments before allegedly murdering him and stealing the electronic bike on the Lower East Side. As reported, the incident transpired early Saturday morning near the Hester Playground in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. The footage shows the attacker sitting on the bench next […]