Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Teens a Time to Tango Latin Dance Craze Got Century Moving

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Teens a Time to Tango Latin Dance Craze Got Century Moving

Article excerpt

The tango swept from the Argentine in 1912 and Jacksonville was right in the crosshairs.

Syncopated passion surged from the Pampas through the major capitals of the Western World and nowhere did it flourish more than in Jacksonville.

Paris was in the grip of the tango. New York was enthralled. Chicago was agog.

The young, the restless, embraced the tango as a tribal rite. The posh, the elegant and the dandy welcomed it. London went loopy.

The tango became the theme of cafe society in Jacksonville. It became the dance of the Sporting Life and the movie folk.

The tango was mystery and seduction, allure and enticement. The tango was the habenera and the milonga, dark and delicious and daring.

It was the first Latin American dance to catch on in the United States. It was an edifying ballroom dance tinged with spice and enchantment; long, slow steps followed by short, quick steps; sudden turns and striking dramatic poses.

Vernon and Irene Castle brought the tango to America in 1912. It landed in Jacksonville like mold in a petri dish.

Jacksonville at the time was rent betwixt Baptist and Bohemian. It was a new city with an old tradition and a wild side, physically built since the Great Fire of 1901 and peopled with monied transients bursting with adventurous spirit. Jacksonville beckoned to the rogue and wanderer by road and rail and sea. It was a border town where rules were bent; a gambling mecca that flourished on bicycle races, baseball games and carnivals and circuses that came and went each winter season.

The Spanish-American War brought soldiers and a downtown night life to the River City second to none. Horse racing meets at Moncrief Downs in 1910 and 1911 attracted the Sporting Life of the Eastern Seaboard. By 1914, Jacksonville was a film capital hosting up to 100 movie companies, each with its actors, actresses and supporting personnel chockablock with zest and folding money.

The Seminole, Mason and Burbridge hotels reached to the sky and sought to outdo each other with outrageous but elegant entertainment. The Panama Club beckoned in the dark and quiet pines north of the city. …

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