Hanging in my office for years is an image of Libby Holman, the 1920’s Broadway star. The image was taken in the century’s, and her own, forties when she toured the country with her show “Blues, Ballads and Sin Songs” (great title) where she used a fan for dramatic impact. In the photo Libby liked how the fan hid her “weak” chin. I am partial to Libby as she was a character in my first book, Cape Fear’s Haunting Women.
Turns out I am partial to fans as well.
When I arrived to town and stared learning danzon I liked how the women used fans while dancing. Later, as a teacher, often in classes overflowing with women, I learned how to design choreographies for groups of women dancing without male partners and using their fans for dramatic impact. A pack of fans opening and closing with the corresponding clicks is an audience favorite.
Recently the town’s best danzonera (female danzon dancer) has taken to using two fans in all her dancing. A feat not only of elegance but a superb sense of timing and showmanship that gave me idea.
Lately I’ve had a student that wanted the men to have fans in a routine much like a 1990s Spanish pop group did. (You can youtube their videos but I didn’t see the appeal to men dressed like they just hopped off their magic carpets to prance and sing with oversized satin fans.)
Instead of an all male, all fan, choreography I pondered trying a salsa routine where both the men and women have two fans each to a hit song by the Southern girl group, Parlour Tricks. It was great fun to design and figure out who has what fans open or closed when. Lucky for me, after years of teaching Danzon, I can do most anything with a fan (it’s all in the wrist).
Who is to say where the fan choreography will lead? Perhaps a routine at the upcoming Senior Center’s Miss Grandmother Pageant or one of the multiple of celebrations around town. All I know for sure, that when performed at a private fiesta, nobody is paying attention to anything but the salsa dancers with two fans each!
Always fun to fan the flames of showmanship that started decades ago with Libby Holman. Today’s trivia – she went on be Mrs. Reynolds or Reynolds Wrap fame and once widowed one of the wealthiest women in her lifetime. No more singing the blues for her if not for her fans!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin