Juan Manuel Peña

The Dance of the Aviators

he aviators —like the students of medicine that held their annual dance— also organized their dancing galas that were carried out in the carnival celebrations in Buenos Aires, that is to say, in February or March every year from 1923 to 1936. We have been able to check fourteen of them even though it is said that they reached sixteen balls in which orchestras and singers appeared and new tangos were premiered.

They were held on the first carnival day and they were announced as El Baile de los Aviadores. Their creation is attributed to Amadeo Canale, the author of the tangos “Oro y seda”, “Desde las nubes” and “Hollín”. Furthermore, he composed the foxtrot “Reyes del aire” that refers to aviators.

But another publication that talks about the genesis of our aviation written by Julio V. Lironi mentions that the aviator Enrique Adrián Roger —who also was president of the Aero Club Argentino— had the idea of «...organizing in 1922 an annual camaraderie party which was called Gran Baile de los Aviadores. Those were crowded, unforgettable balls that, under his presidency, lasted for over twenty-four years...» a figure that does not match with the one in the above paragraph.

Leaving aside the number of balls held whether they were sixteen or twenty-four, it is worth saying that they were held at the Ópera, Coliseo and Casino theaters and, on one occasion, at the Teatro Colón when it was already run by the City Hall. According to the Fray Mocho magazine of February 25, 1916 the Casino was, among the venues, «...the most suitable for summer balls because it is the coolest one in the capital city thanks to its movable roof and a hundred and fifty strategically placed fans...».

In some reunions we have found that there were two balls the same day at the same hour which suggests that two different entities among the aviators, each one with its ball, might have existed. But that is not clear in the research because if they were held on the same day, possibly, all the newssheets sent to the journals were not published. Consequently, the figures corresponding to sixteen or twenty-four are arbitrary. Some authors state that the last ball was the Nº 16, but the research does not seem to show that. Anyway, we transcribe the results found:

1923. The first ball of the aviators was held at the Ópera on February 24, organized by a commission presided by Roger. The ad published in the Crítica journal on February 2, 1923 said: «Due to the character of the party the gifts for the attendants shall be distributed by means of small parachutes launched from the dome of the theater».

The same day at the Coliseo another masquerade or fancy dress ball was organized. The performing orchestras were the tango aggregation led by Augusto Berto and the Frederickson jazz band. Also there was a chase of balloons with awards, a dancing contest for professionals and amateurs, and awards for the best costumes connected with aviation, the most original masks and surprise numbers. Members of the Italian mission that arrived in the country accompanied by Major Pedro Zanni and Baron Antonio De Marchi were attendants to the ball.

1924. The Second Ball of the Fliers, as was also known, was held on February 29 at the Coliseo where the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra played and Azucena Maizani premiered the tango “Desde las nubes”, dedicated to «The dreamers of the space». At the celebration were the actors and singers: Linda Thelma, Julia Alonso and José Bohr. The lyrics of “Desde las nubes” was distributed among the attendants.

Another ball on the same day organized by the Aero Club Argentino was held at the Teatro de la Ópera which reunited a large number of civilians and military men, according to the corresponding information. Its special feature was that a jazz band or American band appeared and it was completely lined up by known aviators.

1925. With the box seats fully crowded, the Third Ball of the Aviators was held at the salon of the Ópera on the first day of carnival. The box seats were occupied by theater figures well-known in the journal and show business circles, as well as pilot officers. They were adorned with flowers and flags. The Crítica journal, in its edition of February 15, 1925 mentions that the cuplé female singer Ada Falcón was proclaimed as Queen of the Aviators and she appears seated beside the aviator Guillermo Hillcoat who was crowned as Prince for his air trip to Peru. On this occasion the tango “Oro y seda” was premiered. The ball «...ended at sunrise, an hour when the room of the Ópera began to be deserted...».

1926. On February 13 the Fourth Ball of the Aviators was held at the Ópera theater. On that occasion Ada Falcón premiered the tango “Bésame en la boca”. There were many attendants and the costumes were many and varied.

1927. The Fifth Ball was held at the Ópera theater and Osvaldo Fresedo premiered the tango “Arrabalero”. The exquisite Ada Falcón was again crowned as Queen of Aviators and his Prince was «the intrepid and famous pilot Mr. Bernardo Duggan». The latter had made the raid New York-Buenos Aires the previous year, accompanied by the pilots Olivero and Campanelli. This flight gave place to the composition of several tango pieces. The ball was dedicated to the Italian aviator Francisco de Pinedo in his visit to our country.

1928. On February 11 at 11:30 pm the Sixth Ball of the Aviators took place at the Teatro Coliseo. Here danceable music with themes connected with aviation was premiered, there were embellished box seats, costume and fancy dresses according to the celebration, baptism of the “little angels”, that is to say, the new pilots graduated in 1927 and presentation of artists. The orchestras of Francisco Lomuto, Luis Teisseire and Osvaldo Fresedo appeared. The tangos “Aterrizaje” by José M. Ruffett which was recorded by Roberto Firpo and “Águila real”, dedicated to the pilot Claudio Armando Mejía were premiered. The president of the organizing commission, the pilot Enrique A. Roger, and many civilian and military aviators were present.

1929. The Seventh Ball of the Aviators was held in February and the Uruguayan aviator, Mrs. Aris W. de Poli, was consecrated as Queen and the American aviators White and Mac Mullen, on a visit to Argentina, were chosen as Prince Consorts.

1930. Eighth Ball. It was held at the Teatro de la Ópera on February 28. The performers were the tango orchestra fronted by Francisco Canaro and the Adolfo Carabelli jazz band. «They played a selected musical program to the evident satisfaction of the dancing couples...» said La Nación newspaper on March 1. The pieces premiered were the tangos “A mí no me den consejos” and “Milonga canyengue”, both by Canaro and the foxtrot “Voy... volando” by Carabelli, in allusion to the aviators. The Queen of the Aviators was crowned but the newspapers did not mention her name.

1931. On Saturday, February 7 the Ninth Great Ball of the Aviators was held with «...contests of all kinds. Valuable awards and raffles». According to La Razón journal it was held at the Teatro de la Ópera. The performing artists were the Francisco Canaro orchestra and the jazz band led by Adolfo Carabelli. The actress Pierina Dealessi was chosen as Queen of Aviators and the civilian pilot Marcelino Viscarret as Prince Consort.

1932. The Tenth Ball of the Aviators was held at the Les Ambassadeurs, a new venue built on Figueroa Alcorta and Salguero where previously the old Armenonville had been located. In 1927 its demolition had begun giving way to the building of a new salon that would be a performing place for orchestras in the following decade, the famous 40s, to later, in the 60s, turn into the facilities of the TV Channel 9.

1933. The Eleventh Ball of the Aviators had the Francisco Canaro orchestra and the American jazz band of Adolfo Carabelli. A special guest was the Scotch aviator James Mollison who had made a flight from England to Buenos Aires without an accompanist. Eduardo Bradley and Florencio Parravicini and many civilian and military pilots, plus a large number of attendants appeared at the Monumental. Canaro premiered his tango “Si yo fuera millonario” and also “Tiburón”, “Cuando se escriba tu historia” by Edgardo Donato and Máximo Orsi and “Ventarrón”. Miss Mila Murphy was chosen as Queen of the Aviators and the civilian pilot Rufino Luro Cambaceres as Prince Consort.

1934. The female singer Mercedes Simone was chosen as Queen of the Aviators and the pilot Carlos Etcheveguren Serna, as Prince Consort. This anual ball ought to be numbered as Twelfth.

1935. The Thirteenth Ball of the Aviators was held, on this occasion, at the Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires on March 1. By that time the Colón was subject to the Buenos Aires city hall authorities. The hall of the first coliseum was embellished and lighted up for a carnival event «...and till dawn people danced constantly with enthusiasm. A great number of ladies showcasing luxurious costumes brought a bit of joy to the rendezvous attended by known civilian and military pilots...». Performers: the orchestra led by Julio De Caro with its “chansonnier” Pedro Lauga, according to the chronicles of the time. Other players were the Eduardo Armani jazz orchestra with its female singer Blackie (Paloma Efron) and the Golden Brothers. There were parades, quadrilles, can-can and other variety shows, and a choreographic show in charge of the dancing team of the theater. De Caro played his tangos: “Ja, ja, ja” (with lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo) and “Puede ser” (with lyrics by Mario Gomila), “Luna arrabalera”, “Ideal” (by Francisco De Caro and Gomila), “Coquito” (by Carlos López Buchardo), among others.

The organist Julio Perceval conducted the orchestra of the Colón which introduced “Rapsodia de tango” composed by Arnaldo Spósito which «...was well performed in the discreet Nemanoff’s choreography...». Perceval also conducted a stylized tango rendering of the Julio De Caro’s tango “Copacabana”. Special awards were given to old aviators like Mrs. Enriqueta F. de Jarfelt, Carola Lorenzini, who was still in activity, the Swede Inga Karin Almstron, Frank Collins Abbot and the Argentine pilot Enrique A. Roger.

1936. On February 20 the last Ball of the Aviators took place, the fourteenth, and the Salvador Grupillo’s tango “Planeando” was premiered, especially composed for this occasion. It was held at the Teatro Casino on Maipú Street between Corrientes Avemnue and Sarmiento. The organizing commission was comprised by the aviators Enrique Roger, Bó, Eduardo Olivero, Carola Lorenzini and others. The danceable pieces were played by the Al Durante jazz-band and the orquesta típica criolla led by Salvador Grupillo.

On the same date this year, on February 20 at 11 pm, another Carnival Ball for masquerade and fancy dresses was held at the Monumental with worthy awards and the performance of well-known radio and theater artists. The set designer López Naguil prepared the salon which became an itinerant circus with tents and covered wagons. The Fresedo orchestra and the Eduardo Armani jazz band played. At the ball were seen well-known pilots of the early times of aviation who told amazing stories of that time. «This celebration was sponsored by the Centro de Aviación Civil, the Centro Universitario de Aviación, the Círculo de Armas and the Club del Progreso, besides other civil and sport institutions...», according to what was stated in the Crítica journal on February 21, 1936.

Later on these balls were not held anymore or, at least, we did not find evidence about that or they had not taken place under the labeling “Baile de los Aviadores”. Despite sixteen editions are mentioned we only reached up to the fourteenth. But what is important is that we rescued, unlike the Bailes del Internado, a danceable event which up to the present was neither well-known nor talked about.