Take a look at the dance clip below. Unless you are already familiar with the film, we bet you’ve never seen anything quite like it before!!!
As for the dance style, experts can weigh in to argue whether it is indeed rumba or an early form of mambo; but no matter what you label it—we like it!!
One reader points out: “Rene and Stela are not dancing “rumba” nor “mambo” in the video. They are dancing an early form of son, with particular roots in Danzon. the term “rhumba” was created to market the dance and music outside of Cuba, and make it more “catchy” or lets say more “exotic”. The music being played in the video is danzon (not mambo).”
“So Rene and Estela are “Son and Danzon”royalty to clarify.”
About the Dancers
René Rivero Guillén and Ramona Ajón (stage names René and Estela) were a brilliant Afro-Cuban dance team who rose to fame back in the 1930s. Originally from Matanzas, Cuba, the couple later moved to New York City where they appeared regularly at the Havana Madrid Nightclub on Broadway and 51st Street.
Renowned for their high-energy, acrobatic style, by contrast in the video below, we see yet another of their trademark routines— the dramatic “tornillo” (or cork screw) routine.
This clip below comes from the 1939 MGM film “Another Thin Man” starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
The dance scene takes place in “The West Indies Club”.
Here’s the video.
A “corkscrew” is a pretty accurate description of the movement, or it’s like imagining oneself being stuck in a revolving door. Needless to say, the result mesmerizing, with no trick cameras required!
Speaking of Cameras…
Thanks to ongoing efforts to restore and preserve classic films, today’s viewers and future generations can discover and enjoy incredible performances like these.
Also, for those of you who subscribe to Turner Classic Movies, on April 14, 2014, the network will celebrate its 20th anniversary, with many free events planned nationwide. Check it out! Just click on the banner below.
Related Links & Resources
- Savoring the Roots of New York Mambo by Robert Farris Thompson, Vincent Livelli & Pablo E. Yglesias: http://www.firstofthemonth.org/archives/2010/07/savoring_the_ro.html
- Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader (available in hardcover, 2008, and paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Ballroom-Boogie-Shimmy-Sham-Shake/dp/025207565X
- Newspaper article from the Pittsburg Press, August 30, 1939: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1144&dat=19390830&id=E_UaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SkwEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4255,4760288