Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dior Dancers

Further investigations in the bygone night-club era

In our investigations of the bygone nightclub era, we hope our followers remember the unveiling of the miraculous Charlivels from our vaults. In the current times of spandex vestuary, canned new-age music and skilled understudies from the athletic world, we are pleasant to remember once again the era when acrobatics, music and theatrics werea blend of pure art. The Dior Dancers, a prestigious variety act lived between 1958 and 1963, was the master example. They inherited the aesthetic of the remote “apache dance” (a specialty you’ll soon face on this blog) with the vocabulary of “adagio” acrobatic dance. Dior Dancers was produced by Bob Ganjou, who made famous the act of Ganjou Brothers (between late 20s and 1947), and starred his wife Merian Ganjou.

Dior Dancers starred in the British variety circuit, and in the opening show of Las Vegas Tropicana Hotel with the “Folies Bergeres” French imported production, where they starred for two years.
For you today, a selection of the lobby pictures of Merian and her boys, and their 1960 tv appearance in ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ hosted by Bruce Forsyth.
Please, take the necessary 9 minutes to enjoy the act. Appreciate the drama and pre-Actor’s Studio innocence in interpretation; the quality and timing of the musical selection and the quality of the live band; be amazed at the ease of skills that nobody in this world is likely supposed to see anymore, forever.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"The World's Great Magician"

An adieu to Carl Ballantine (1922-2009)

As Orson Welles wisely stated: "every magician is the greatest magician in the world".
The Great Ballantine (born Meyer Kessler) presented himself as such at the beginning at his act. Just to follow seven minutes of the worst possible exits for a magician's act. And in doing that, he consecrated a star on the stages of dying vaudeville and rising television: the rubber chicken.
As a zen priest, he dedicated 60 years of his life doing every day the same act: until his fictionary character sculpted himself on his face, body and voice, becoming more believable than truth. Until every smile and laugh from the audience became a sure-fire turning point of a little piece of art through the minimalist craft of the repetition in front of the most unpredictable audiences. Of his generation, only giants as Mac Ronay and George Carl can be compared to him.

When a magicians passes away, a wand is traditionally broken by colleagues on his grave.
What is broken here is not just the prestige of a glorious magic wand. It is also another link to an era and style of perfection in performing arts that never will be back again.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Battling Magicians

"FISM" in Beijng

The venerable ancient art of magic is still alive: yesterday in Beijing ended the FISM, the world magic championship. Few events in the world are as surreal as witnessing, every three years, hundred of the most unpredictable magic acts from the five continents, for an audience of thousand of other magicians. It is an experience spanning from the most grotesque parochial flavour to few sublime exemple of a great art.

This year's Grand Prix of magic was awarded to magician Soma from Hungary.
Next FISM will be in Blackpool, UK, July 2012.

Here is Soma's winning act:

Friday, July 03, 2009

Torp's Flea Circus

Tivoli park in Copenhagen stands as one of the last paradises of novelties and wonders. One of its main attractions in the 50s was Mrs.Torpe's flea circus. This being probably one of the last genuine shows of this kind as intended in the last two centuries, and today resting in obscure memorabilia.
The show was founded by William Torp in England in the 20s, probably inspired by some companies of the early 1900. After touring Egypt (poster above), Else Torp established a permanent show at Tivoli in 1952, to sadly close it in 1956 "for lack of performers". It was replaced by a mouse show, it seems. Her son later toured with a similar show in a special trailer through the Usa coast to coast.
We are happy to offer you today a magnificent documentary film about Torpe's flea circus in his golden years at Copenhagen' s Tivoli park.

(photo courtesy from Torp's family website)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The obscures origins of "manualism"

With a tribute to the unique art of John Twomey.

It seems that all started in 1933, when a farmer named Cecill Dill traveled from Traverse City, Michigan, to Universal Studios in Hollywood to record his singular skill in a newsreel.

Mr.Dill claimed to play “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in a unheard form: by squeezing air thru his hands. He said to have started mastering his instrument by 1914.

Strangely, no traces seems to survive of this art during the golden age of vaudeville, music-hall and early TV. We have to wait the 70s and the arrival of John Twomey, who in 1974 took as a storm the millions of Americans watching Johnny Carson’s show, with his electryfying rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever”. It is to Mr.Twomey that seems credited the definition of “manualist”, a term that now dignifies and indicates a profession still rare but today relatively practiced in some outskirts of the musical constellation.

Today we offers you the sight of Mr.Dill’s first performance ever of manualism, and an excerpt of the legendary Twomey’s act on Carson’s. But expect more to come in future.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A lesson in showmanship

Eric Brenn, or the mastering of porcelaine for entertainment purpose

Plate spinning is one of the most widely replied standards in showbiz, from small country circuses to far-east night club. But the act itself is an insidious and marvellous machine for thrill, timing, skills, comedy, audience involvement and all that makes great an act.
It is a lesson for the eternal adagio: no matter what you does in front of footlight, yourself is what really matters. Personality will always be the eternal secret.
Now, is difficult to find in the history a man better than Eric Brenn to make of this specialty a masterpiece of pure art.
Here is Eric Brenn in action at Ed Sullivan's in 1969:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Man with X-Ray eyes

Kuda Bux, from India, was an unique act in the last century of inusual performances. He was able to read and write while wrapped as a mummy, or even drive a car. But he needed glasses to read his newspaper in normal conditions.

Half of the fascination of his internationally admired act was the ritual of meticolously obscuring his wiew with gauzes and napkins.
A deliciously mysterious blend of Esp, exotica, bondage, masochism, with a flavour of night-club fashion and a twist of sci-fi atmosphere, Kuda Bux was a sort of horror movie hero. It can be witnessed in the video below: even if not of the best quality, the relic preserves the entirety of his act.

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