Maurice, Florence Walton, and the Legitimacy of the Tango

According to an article in the New York Tribune, dated June 12, 1914, page 9, married (at the time) professional dancers Maurice and Florence Walton were invited to perform for a party that notably included the King and Queen of England.  Ms. Walton was required to wear a dress without a slit for the occasion.  Though the couple had not anticipated performing the scandalous tango, the Queen specifically requested it.  The article noted that this enabled amateur dancers to dance the tango at the accompanying ball, the first time such a thing had occurred in the presence of royalty.

New York Tribune 1914 Queen specifically asks Maurice and Walton for Tango

New York Tribune 1914 Queen specifically asks Maurice and Walton for Tango

The print is small.  Here is the relevant section transcribed:

“QUEEN MARY SEES N.Y. TANGO DANCE

Expresses Approval of the One-Step as Shown by American Professionals.

London, June 11. – The King and Queen saw the tango as danced in New York for the first time to-night at a dinner given by the Grand Duke Michael Mikhaylovich preceding a ball for the Countess Nada Torby at the Grand Duke’s residence, Kenwood, Hampstead. The dancers, Maurice and Florence Walton, are the first Americans to appear by royal command to dance. Maurice was once a Bowery denizen and Florence was formerly a chorus girl.

They danced after dinner in the drawing room before the ball started. Only thirty persons were present, including Countess Torby, the Duchess of Marlborough, the Countess Nada and Zia Torby, the Grand Duke Paul, and the Countess of Granard, the Duke and Duchess of Teck, Premier Asquith and Ambassador Page. They danced for forty-five minutes continuously. They had omitted the tango for fear of the royal displeasure, but the Queen asked Countess Torby, “Can they dance the tango for us? I’ve never seen it?”

So the tango was danced. Florence Walton wore an unslit dress at the request of a court official.

The Queen said: “What a pretty frock!” and laughed and applauded delightedly, but the King was rather austere and only smiled at the grotesque solo dance by Maurice.

After sixteen figures had been done without a pause, including two invented for the occasion, the Queen demanded another one-step.

“I like that figure best of all,” she said.

The daners were detained so long that they were late on the Alhambra stage.

Two thousand persons attended Countess Torby’s ball, and as a result of the professionals’ exhibition the tango was afterward danced by aristocratic amateurs for the first time before royalty.”

The article was reproduced from Chronicling America.  The featured image for this post was made available by the Library of Congress, which believes it is subject to no known restrictions on publication.

According to Goodwin’s Weekly, dated June 21, 1913, page 10, London society had been debating the morality of the tango at least since the previous season.

Goodwin’s weekly – a thinking paper for thinking people., June 21, 1913, Page 10

Goodwin's weekly - a thinking paper for thinking people., June 21, 1913, Page 10

According to the article, “It so happens that at the present moment a heated controversy is raging over the subject of the tango dance and its suitability for the ballroom.”  The article notes that despite the suspected vulgarity of the tango, Maurice and Ms. Walton had recently performed it for a variety of Dukes and Duchesses.  Ms. Walton states, “If it had the slightest note of vulgarity we could not have done that … nor could Maurice have taught it, as he did, to the ladies of New York, Baltimore, Washington, Boston and Paris.”

This article was provided by Chronicling America.  The picture below, featuring Ms. Walton and Maurice, was provided by the National Portrait Gallery.

Perhaps it’s not vulgar if you’re married.

by Bassano, whole-plate glass negative, 17 September 1912
by Bassano, whole-plate glass negative, 17 September 1912
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