Apache dance

v History

The Apache was a performace speciality of the popular 1910s dance performer Maurice Mouvet and is described over several pages of his 1915 manual _Maurice's Art of Dancing_. The plot is of a French underworld character (the Apache; possibly a pimp in this case) asking his woman (possibly a prostitute) for money. She refuses, he slaps her around for awhile, and eventually drags her into a dance--curiously enough, a waltz rather than a tango.

As well as having read Maurice's manual, I have done the Apache in a vintage dance workshop. It is very politically incorrect by modern standards and about half the dancers refused to participate (though my partner and I did). One woman was so upset she threw up in the ladies' room afterward. [Fran Grimble]

Apache dancers were common in the lineup of night club acts. Night clubs almost always had the same general lineup of entertainment from dinner and dancing through a chorus line of showgirls with elaborate costumes and maybe a boy dancer or two; a master of ceremonies who also served as a comic and/or singer; a feature comic or singer; a "novelty" act such a a contortionist, juggler, magician; a dance act (often Apache); and a return of the chorus line followed by general dancing to the house band.

"Apache" is indeed a Parisian term. Pronounced "ah-PAHSH" (French) rather than "A-PATCH-ee" (American), it refers to the "Bohemian" of the early 20th century, particularly the 'teens (1910-1920). Indeed, the beatnick of his time, the apache was usually lower class, often a pimp. The dance is a pantomime of the pimp accosting "his" prostitute and demanding her earnings. She refuses, and he beats her - slaps her - throws her around - drags her by her hair -- whirls her in a circle and dumps her in a heap in the corner. She crawls back to him, begging his forgiveness, professing her "love."

The first time I saw this dance (done by the [San Francisco] Bay Area group Dance Through Time) I was apalled and refused to applaud. The rest of the audience however went wild. Apache remains one of the most popular dances in DTT's repertoire. Lately they've tacked on a "coda" where the girl gets revenge -- turns the tables and beats HIM up a little bit! Naturally this extra soupcon of violence charms the audience even more (this part wins over any recalcitrant "feminists" in the crowd).

Ballroom dance at the turn of the century was a lower-class amusement. The upper classes had grown bored with it (too many waltzes...?). The bar-and- brothel scene spawned the Animal Dances (Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear) in San Francisco's Barbary Coast, the Tango in Argentina, and the Apache in France.

Not until Vernon and Irene Castle came along (c. 1915) did ballroom dance regain some grace and social acceptability.

Sex and violence are not new to 1990's culture - see the Apache!

> Appearance in movies and such

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Last modified on: Wednesday, 2001 August, 15.

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