Page 23 - Montecito Journal Glossy Edition Winter Spring 2012/13

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spr ing
attributes. And it all came together first right here in Santa Barbara.
At the end of a vibrant second act of
An American Tango
, Ms Drake and
Mr. Stewart mimicked the exact dance that Veloz & Yolanda had performed
on the Lobero stage in 1939 during their one and only appearance in Santa
Barbara. As a black & white film clip of the dancers was projected on a
gauze curtain in front of the stage, Leila and Jack performed the same dips,
the same sweeping steps, the same graceful moves simultaneous with the
images of the real Veloz & Yolanda dancing on the same stage on the curtain
in front of them 72 years ago.
It was magical.
Well Paid and Famous
Veloz & Yolanda’s level of popular success in the 1930s and ‘40s made
them among the most well-paid performers of their era, having signed on in
1937, for example, for a run in a Chicago theater at $8,500 per week. And,
this was in the middle of the Great Depression. They became wealthy and
famous and all because they could dance as no others had ever danced. Frank
was handsome, elegant, smooth and strong. Yolanda was beautiful, a natural
athlete who could effortlessly follow and perform the most complicated
steps gracefully. And, she could learn them quickly. After Rudolph Valentino
popularized the Argentine barrio-born tango in the U.S. via his famous scene
with Beatrice Dominguez in the 1921 silent film,
The Four Horsemen of
the Apocalypse
, Veloz & Yolanda created their own version of the dance and
performed it better than any of their competitors. They were the first couple
to ever grace the cover of
magazine (October 30, 1939).
Frank’s style was graceful power; he designed all of Yolanda’s outfits.
One of the dresses he created weighed nearly 18 pounds; she was small, but
no one had seen lifts as powerful as Frank’s. One critic wrote that he figured
out the appeal of Veloz & Yolanda: “bullets and cameos,” he called it.
The couple’s work can be enjoyed on YouTube in the movie
Pride of the
during which Frank picks up and throws Yolanda – especially at the
end of the dance scene – as effortlessly as if she were a three-year-old child he