Enrique Binda

El Cachafaz in the United States

hose who refer to the dancer José Ovidio Bianquet, also known as Benito and with the nickname El Cachafaz, mention a trip he made to the United States in 1911. Searching in newspapers of that country, we found that, in fact, it took place in the late 1912. It also turned out that he had not been the main figure of the couple —as it was usual with male dancers— but instead it was the lady he accompanied. Furthermore, it evidenced he was not a known character. The different spellings either of his first or last name and some striking comments about his persona attract our attention.

We verified it with the first piece of news that appeared in The Democratic Banner, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, on December 10, 1912, according to news of New York about day 7. The heading announces the arrival of the dancer Gabbi. The text says: «Eloisa Gabbi, the Argentine Tango dancer, arrived from Buenos Aires. With Mlle. Gabbi came an Argentine Indian, José Biquiet, and they will dance the 12 separate varieties of the Tango in the Ziegfeld Follies».

Later, The Evening World of New York, of December 14: «Eloise Gabbi and Bendito Bianquetta, Argentine tango dancers, will appear for the first time in the "Ziegfeld Follies" at the Moulin Rouge, Monday evening».

The next news appeared in The Sun of New York of December 15, in an advertisement of the Moulin Rouge theater, venue of the Ziegfeld Follies: «Tomorrow night first American appearance of Eloise Gabbi assisted by Bendito Bianquetta, original Argentine tango dancers».

In the same paper we found: «Gabbi and Bianquet –at last his family name is correctly spelled-, who are said to know more about the Argentine tango than the most confirmed cabaret frequenter in this city, will next week be added to the attractions of the "Ziegfeld Follies" at the Moulin Rouge on Monday».

The New York Tribune of December 17 titles a note: «Broadway watches tango». It says: «A dance new to Broadway was introduced into the "Ziegfeld Follies" at the Moulin Rouge last night, when Señorita Eloise Gabbi and Señor Bendito Bianquetti executed the Argentinian dance of the concourse, the tango. The dancers have won fame in South America, and the dance, which was introduced into the second act of the play, was heralded as a novelty. It proved to be such, although lacking in any sensational features. The dancers perform in the position taken for the waltz, its intricacies consisting in the peculiar steps required. Señorita Gabbi and Señor Bianquetti interpreted them with consummate case and interested without thrilling».

Up to here the news about El Cachafaz. We have to mention a long interview to Eloisa Gabbi published in, among others, The Bee, Omaha, January 2, 1913. Even though in it there is almost no reference to tango, we summarize some passages. It tells us about a Gabbi with brown eyes and brown hair who came from Buenos Aires to teach us the true Argentine tango. Next, the chronicler warns us that she has not to be mistaken with a blonde whose last name is differently spelled but that is pronounced similarly. Who would be that one? It says she is all alone in New York, far from her sister who is her dancing partner (curious information). (That might indicate that the team with El Cachafaz may have been temporary for the Ziegfeld show). It says she is deeply affected by cold weather, and that she was only warm after she started to dance tango on the Moulin Rouge stage. (It is worthwhile saying that neither up to this place nor later a male partner is mentioned). For her, it was impossible to practice her dance in an empty environment. Because of that, in a rehearsal at 11 in the morning, she asked that the few theater employees that were present would sit on the first rows to avoid the sensation of lonesomeness. In another paragraph she admits she is unable to speak English and that she had thought as it was January it would be summer (like in Buenos Aires). The note goes on making reference to the beauty of the porteñas (Buenos Aire girls) who, it says, prefer paleness, no rosy cheeks, but they like red lips and darkened eyes.

We conclude this article with news appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune on December 1, 1912. It is not about El Cachafaz but it is an example of the surprises that we may find with this searching in journals. In fact, a character we may have never thought connected with our music by that time is mentioned. Let us read: «Two youngsters are Fred and Adele Astaire and perhaps there are none so popular at their age as these two are in vaudeville. They sing duets and solos and both of them are excellent pianists. The finish of their act is “The Tango”. They call their offering “A rainy Saturday”. It was written for them by Ned Wayburn».