Apache (dance)

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Apachentanz by Leo Rauth [de] (1911)

Apache, or La Danse Apache, Bowery Waltz, Apache Turn, Apache Dance and Tough Dance is a highly dramatic dance associated in popular culture with Parisian street culture at the beginning of the 20th century. The name of the dance (pronounced ah-PAHSH, not uh-PATCH-ee, like the English pronunciation of the Native American tribe) is taken from the term for Parisian underworld of the time.

The dance is sometimes said to reenact a violent "discussion" between a pimp and a prostitute. It includes mock slaps and punches, the man picking up and throwing the woman to the ground, or lifting and carrying her while she struggles or feigns unconsciousness. Thus, the dance shares many features with the theatrical discipline of stage combat. In some examples, the woman may fight back.

In many films and cartoons depicting the Apache dance, the music traditionally used is "Valse des Rayons" from the ballet Le Papillon by Jacques Offenbach.


In fin de siècle Paris young members of street gangs were labelled Apaches by the press because of the ferocity of their savagery towards one another, a name taken from the native North American indigenous people, the Apache. In 1908, dancers Maurice Mouvet and Max Dearly began to visit the low bars frequented by Apaches in a search for inspiration for new dances.[1] They formulated the new dance from moves seen there and gave to it the name Apache. Max Dearly first performed it in 1908 in Paris at the Ambassadeurs and Maurice in Ostend at the Kursaal. A short while later, in the summer of 1908, Maurice and his partner Leona performed the dance at Maxim's, and Max Dearly made an even bigger impact with it, partnered with Mistinguett, in the Moulin Rouge show, La Revue du Moulin. [2]

Cover page of "Le Petit Journal", 20 October 1907. "L'apache est la plaie de Paris."


A 1902 Edison movie[3] of two Bowery dancers, Kid Foley and Sailor Lil doing a Tough dance which is similar in style, survives.

The "Valse des rayons" (also called the "Valse chaloupée") from Jacques Offenbach's ballet "Le Papillon" was used in a 1908 production at the Moulin Rouge and has become the music most associated with the dance.[citation needed]

In The Mothering Heart, a 1913 short drama film directed by D. W. Griffith, an Apache dance is shown in a restaurant cabaret.

The famous French 10-part 7-hour silent film Les Vampires (1915, re-released on DVD in 2005) about an Apache gang "Vampires" contains a number of Apache dance scenes performed by real street Apache dancers, rather than actors. A notable detail is that during part of the waltz the man holds firmly onto the woman's hair, rather than her body.

Parisian Love (1925) shows Clara Bow as an Apache dancer, with the dance itself being the first scene in the film.

Ivor Novello performs an Apache dance in the British silent film The Rat (1925).

In Hot Heels (1928) an Apache dance is performed by Glenn Tryon and Patsy Ruth Miller.

In the 1929 Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey's Follies, a rooster and hen perform the dance, interrupting it partway through so the hen can rush to her nest and lay an egg.

In Doughboys Buster Keaton in drag dances the woman's part in an Apache dance.

In The Apache Kid (1930), a Krazy Kat cartoon, Columbia's male version of Krazy and his girlfriend, Kitty, perform the dance, interrupting it repeatedly so they can puff at cigarettes.

In Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931) the Tramp sees an Apache dance in a nightclub and, thinking it is real, interrupts it.

The landmark 1932 Hollywood film musical Love Me Tonight features the song "Poor Apache."

Olive Oyl, Bluto and Popeye do the Apache in Popeye The Sailor 017 - The Dance Contest (1934).

In 1934's Limehouse Blues (film), nightclub owner Harry Young, George Raft, does an Apache dance with his star performer and lover Tu Tuan Anna Mae Wong.

Also in 1934 the Adagio Dancers, artists Alexis and Dorrano, perform the 'Danse Apache' in a British Pathe short set in a seedy French bar and watched by some "toffs".

In the 1934 Happy Harmonies cartoon Toyland Broadcast, two dolls Apache dance on piano keys, playing the music of "Valse des rayons", and ending when the girl doll throws the boy doll off the piano and against a spittoon.

In the 1935 movie Charlie Chan in Paris, Charlie Chan's agent (played by Dorothy Appleby) is murdered following her performance of an Apache dance.[4]

In the 1936 film The Devil Doll, a pair of the titular dolls perform an Apache dance to the tune of the "Valse des rayons" on a music box.

In the 1936 British comedy, Queen of Hearts, Gracie Fields performed a satirical version of Apache dance, at one point throwing her male partner through a stage window.

In the 1937 serial Blake of Scotland Yard there is an Apache dance sequence set in a café in Paris.[5]

In the British film Okay For Sound (1937) The Crazy Gang witness an Apache dance performed by the dancers Lucienne and Ashour in which the female dancer triumphs.

In the 1937 Silly Symphony Woodland Café a bad-boy spider and a good-girl fly perform a French Apache dance.

In the 1938 Jessie Matthews musical, Sailing Along, the actress delivers a comic Apache stage performance with her co-star Jack Whiting.

In You're in the Army Now (1941) a comic Apache dance, done to Offenbach's "Valse dey rayons," is performed with Jimmy Durante playing the woman.[citation needed]

In The Gang's All Here (1943) Charlotte Greenwood does a short, comic version of an Apache dance.[citation needed]

In Pin Up Girl (1944), Betty Grable, Hermes Pan and Angela Blue perform a musical number dressed as Apache dancers.[citation needed]

In "Lake Placid Serenade" (1944) Everett McGowan & Ruth Mack - performed the Apache dance on Ice skates named "Cafe de Apache" produced by Republic Films

In 1944, the opening scene of Die Frau Meiner Träume (The Woman of My Dreams), one of the last major Agfacolor musicals produced in Nazi Germany, features the actress-dancer Marika Rökk in an acrobatic Apache dance with two men. The film was extremely popular not only in Germany, but made it to the Soviet film distribution after the war, enjoying similar popularity. The big production finale was taken into the curriculum of the Soviet Film Institute and served as an example of a well crafted musical staging.

In the 1946 film, "The Razor's Edge", the main characters visit the Rue de Lappe and experience apache dancers in a rather seedy bar. One of the main characters Sophie (portrayed by Ann Baxter) has fallen into alcoholism following the death of her husband and child. Having lost touch with the rest of her friends, they happen upon her at the bar with her 'apache' lover - they dance.

In the 1947 film Crime Doctor's Gamble, Dr. Robert Ordway (played by Warner Baxter) visits a seedy Parisian cabaret with an Apache dance sequence.[citation needed] The dance ends with the male dancer Don Graham twirling the female dancer Dolores Graham around by her hair.

In the 1949 comedy film Totò Le Mokò, Antonio Lumaconi (Totò Le Mokò, played by Totò) performs an Apache dance with Flora Torrigiani.

An episode of I Love Lucy, "The Adagio" (1951, season one, episode twelve), revolved around Lucy wanting to learn an Apache dance.[6] In another episode, The French Revue Fred and Ethel perform an Apache dance in the hopes of starring in an act at the club with a French singer.[citation needed]

Apache Dancers Don & Dolores Graham performed the apache dance in Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954).

On October 9, 1955 an Apache dance was performed on The Jack Benny Program entitled "Massage and Date with Gertrude". Jack, and his date Gertrude were trying to eat their dinner at a French Nightclub while French Apache dancers kept interrupting their meal. The female dancer actually picked Benny up and tossed him out onto another diner's lap.

Also in 1955, the movie "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" features an apache dance in the scene introducing the title characters, where some of the dance interrupted in a predictably slapstick manner.

An example of an Apache dance number is seen in Twentieth Century Fox's film "Can Can" (1960) starring Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine and Maurice Chevalier.[7][8] The number is performed by Shirley MacLaine along with five male dancers as they toss and thrash her about. In this version she fights back and eventually "kills" all five dancers with a knife.

An episode of The Muppet Show, (1976, season one, episode five), included a "French tango"[9] performed by guest Rita Moreno.

An Apache dance also figures in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968). When Andrew Lloyd Webber set out to create a more than usually fascinating musical mix and included a wide variety of musical genres in this show, he added a very French number. When Joseph's brothers are explaining their impoverished state, after selling Joseph into slavery and experiencing the seven lean years, they sing about "Those Canaan Days" reminiscing of better days. Included within that number is an Apache Dance, a brief joyous celebration of what once was and a poignant expression of their regret for their actions.[citation needed]

In the movie Moulin Rouge! (2001), "El Tango de Roxane" is performed as a tango with Apache elements.[citation needed]

In the Apocalyptica video I Don't Care (2007), Apache dance is featured in a scene between Adam Gontier and a woman.[citation needed]

In the Pink video Try (2013), the singer and male dancer Colt Prattes can be seen performing an interpretation of the Apache dance[10] choreography by The golden Boyz - R J Durrell and Nick Florez - and aerial choreographer Sebastien Stella.[11]


  1. ^ Mouvet, Maurice (1915). Maurice's Art of Dancing. New York: G. Schirmer, Inc. pp. 26–33. ISBN 9781375450294.
  2. ^ The Apache, Gary Chapman, Jazz Age club, 2010
  3. ^ https://www.loc.gov/item/96520498/
  4. ^ Sonny Watson. "APACHE Dance |Dance of the Underworld|Gunmen of Paris|Gang dance". Streetswing.com. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  5. ^ Neyer, Daniel (2013-12-05). "Blake of Scotland Yard". Files of Jerry Blake. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  6. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  7. ^ "Reviews & Ratings for Can-Can". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  8. ^ "Can-Can: Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Juliet Prowse, Marcel Dalio, Leon Belasco, Nestor Paiva, John A. Neris, Jean Del Val, Ann Codee, Geneviève Aumont, William H. Daniels, Walter Lang, Robert L. Simpson, Jack Cummings, Saul Chaplin, Abe Burrows, Charles Lederer, Dorothy Kingsley: Movies & TV". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  9. ^ ""The Muppet Show" Rita Moreno french tango scene". YouTube. 2006-05-11. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  10. ^ Matt Donnelly (2012-10-11). "Pink's "Try" music video costar Colt Prattes talks to the Ministry - latimes". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
  11. ^ "Pink Premieres New Video For Try - Glasswerk Magazine". Glasswerk.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-07-26.

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