[Cake-Walk] [Florida Creole Girls]

"Danse du Cake-Walk" – Postcard Photograph Set

Group of five Walery of Paris postcard photographs depicting members of the Florida Creole Girls dance troupe, ca. 1902–1903, including Miss Shippert (the founder of the group), Miss Hobson, Miss Adams, Miss Hall, and Miss Fitch.  Some light edge wear, else very fine, approx. 3.5 x 5.5 inches (9 x 14 cm.).

Between November, 1902 and January, 1903, Paris experienced its first tastes of the danced cakewalk through the performances of two American touring ensembles: “Les Elks” and their troupe of black and white dancers appeared in the revue Les joyeux nègres at the Nouveau Cirque, while the “Florida Creole Girls”—seven African-American women—performed the cakewalk at the Casino de Paris. Within a matter of weeks the dance became the latest sensation of the capital.

"The Florida Creole Girls were well-known performers who frequented the Casino de Paris after the turn of the 20th century. The young ladies were performed as part of an American dance troupe and helped introduce the Cake Walk Dance throughout Europe.  In 1886, the Cake Walk was first publicized at the Philadelphia Centennial. It featured blacks who would sing plantation songs and perform a dance which at the time was called the ‘Chalk-line walk.’  The dance originated on the plantations when captives would dance for their owners. Plantation owners served as judges for these contests — and the slave owners didn’t know it but the enslaved were actually mocking them during these highly elaborate dances.  Eventually, the dances found their way into minstrel shows. The ‘Grand Cakewalk was held at Madison Square Garden in 1897, the largest venue in New York City." ("Florida Creole Girls: Introduced the Cake Walk Dance Throughout Europe," Jae Jones, June 26, 20021, Black Then)

The Cakewalk became a popular stage act for expert dancers as well as a craze in fashionable ballrooms at the turn of the twentieth century.  Couples formed a square with the men on the inside and, stepping high to a lively tune, strutted around the square. The couples were eliminated one by one by several judges, who considered the elegant bearing of the men, the grace of the women, and the creativity of the dancers; the last remaining pair was presented with a highly decorated cake.  The cakewalk originated among enslaved Black Americans who, often in the company of their captors, used the dance as a subtle satire on the elegance of white ballroom dances. It contributed to the evolution of later American and European dances based on jazz culture, rhythms, and that musical influence on the growth of ragtime. (Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume 1, p. 175)


Unsigned Photograph