1913 and 1914 were years of scandal, freedom, rising prosperity, change and the suffragettes. The change of the years saw the rise of a fashion which divided the nation- The Tango.
In October 1913, the primate of the Anglican church in Sydney preached a fiery sermon at St Andrew's Cathedral against the dance and its associated fashions. He denounced it as a symptom of a decadent civilisation. But his denunciations didn't prevent the arrival of the tango and its split to the knee dresses to Sydney.
In January 1914, Sydney Carlton, performed the dance as part of a revue called 'The Dandies' in the not so decent playhouse, Eden Gardens in Manly. The show was so popular that it led to the development of the famous Tivoli tango teas, which featured American import Josephine Davis.
Miss Davis was a respectable young lady, and although a tango lover and dancer made it very clear that she was in no way supportive of the suffragettes. She took pains to tell the press of all the highly regarded people in the US who were dancing the tango. These included several Vanderbilts and a couple of Astors. She also ensured that she was in no way associated with Mrs Pankhurst and her unwomanly pursuits.
The women of Melbourne were scandalised by the arrival of the tango in Australia. Mrs Shiel of the Australasian women's conference, told her audience that the fashions were indecorous. She was appalled at the number of women in Melbourne wearing skirts split to the knee and the 'disgraceful sights ' being seen in St Kilda.
All this controversy fuelled the imaginations of astute theatrical entrepreneurs who hastened to capitalise upon it. The Tivoli tango teas were part fashion parade and part dance. William Anderson soon followed suit and incorporated the tango into his Easter pantomime Aladdin, which featured the lovely and also somewhat scandalous Carrie Moore. Aladdin toured New Zealand shortly afterwards and the company brought the tango with them to that country.
Despite the hype, it seems that many young gentlemen who attended the tango teas were disappointed. They were quite tame affairs, and a brief glimpse of a feminine ankle was the most salacious sight they saw at the show.
* Tango postcard from my collection- Check it out on flickr...