Joan Sawyer describes the “Sawyer Maxixe” to the Omaha Sunday Bee, 1914

Joan Sawyer published the following article detailing “The Sawyer Maxixe” in The Omaha Daily Bee on October 18, 1914:

Omaha Daily Bee, October 18, 1914, EDITORIAL SOCIETY, Image 22

Omaha Daily Bee, October 18, 1914, EDITORIAL SOCIETY, Image 22

Unlike Anna Pavlowa, the famed Russian ballerina writing contemporaneous social dance articles,  Ms. Sawyer’s descriptions are delightfully straightforward and easy to parse.  She describes eight maxixe figures in this article, mostly from the follow’s perspective, as is her custom:

  1.  The Backward Walk: the gentleman backs the lady several steps, before transitioning into a swaying turning two-step.
  2. The Heel and Toe Slide: in normal partner position, the couple slides to the lady’s right.  The lady steps onto her right heel, draws her left foot to meet her right, then steps onto her right toe, and repeats the action.  The gentleman mirrors.
  3. The Left Hand Raise: The couple joins left hands over head, with right hands meeting behind the lady’s waist, and two-step.
  4. The Two-Step Start: Lady and gentleman side by side, with right hands on her hip and left hands outstretched.  Both two-step starting on left foot.
  5. The Plain Maxixe Step: Man slides directly behind lady and encircles her waist, and do the plain maxixe (the first step)
  6. The Two-Step and
  7. The Whirl: The gentleman raises the lady’s hands over her head.  She then “revolves several times while in this position,” stopping when she reaches the figure 3 position.
  8. The Cortez: Ms. Sawyer actually breaks this step into two parts – working up to the cortez, and the cortez itself.  The discussion is rather involved, although the diagram helps enlighten somewhat.

Joan Sawyer was an entrepreneur of the highest order.  For a time she had her own orchestra called Joan Sawyer’s Persian Gardens Orchestra, named after her short-lived Persian Gardens nightclub.  They recorded a number of songs for Columbia in 1914.  UCSB has provided what appears to be a comprehensive list of those recordings.  Here is Ms. Sawyer’s orchestra playing the maxixe “Bregiero”:

Youtube was provided the recording by The Orchard Enterprises.

In addition to overseeing her own house orchestra, Ms. Sawyer also composed music.  Ragtime Dorian Henry published the following recording of Ms. Sawyer’s original composition “Joan Sawyer Maxixe”:

The article discussed in this blog post was provided by Nebraska Newspapers.  The cover picture is a clipping from Chronicling America and advertises headliner “Dainty Joan Sawyer.”  It was printed March 26, 1916 in The Washington Herald.


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