French language in tango: bataclan-bataclana
he Bataclan is a venue for shows in Paris, located on the Boulevard Voltaire. It was built by the architect Charles Duval in 1864 and, despite its hazardous story that includes bankruptcy and several reforms, it is still open. Its name makes reference to Ba-Ta-Clan, the name of an operetta by Offenbach. But the origin of the name is the word bataclan that in French means trash, stuff, thingummyjig.
These meanings are the ones that fit best to the different replicas of that famous venue that, in the early years of the twentieth century, were installed in Buenos Aires. The most widely known would be the Teatro Bataclán, in the port area, where the unforgettable Tita Merello started her career as singer and chorus-girl in the early 1920’s. By extension people began to call bataclanas all the female singers and dancers at theaters and locals for revues and shows.
Tango collects uncountable references to them: «…no soy una, soy montón, para cantar a mis hermanas: cantantes, bailarinas, bataclanas…», says Susana Rinaldi in a brilliant introduction to one of her tangos.
In the tango “Garufa” (1927, music by Juan Antonio Collazo), its authors use it as synonym of successful and presumptuous female singer:
Del barrio La Mondiola sos el más rana
y te llaman Garufa
por lo bacán;
tenés más pretensiones
que hubiera hecho suceso con un gotán…
Celedonio Flores in “Audacia” (1926, music by Hugo La Rocca) depicts her as a «chorus-girl in disgrace»:
Me han contado, y perdoname
que te increpe de este modo,
que la vas de partenaire
en no sé qué bataclán…
In sum… girls that worked for a living in their own way… There are worse ones. I would say that regretfully the word has become to mean «easy woman» and other meanings of the sort. In Chile and Colombia it simply means «prostitute». But not in Argentina (or, at least, not completely).
From the book: El francés en el tango, Proa Amerian Editores, 2011 / www.elfranceseneltango.com.