Danse espagnole de la Feria Quadro Flamenco



Danse espagnole de la Feria Quadro Flamenco

Ces deux vues, très jolies, ont été prises à l'Exposition universelle de Paris, en 1900 ; elles représentent chacune un couple de danseurs avec accompagnement d'orchestre. Au fond, les monuments de l'Exposition.

LUM 1905


1 Lumière 1124 (AS 559)  
2 Jacques Ducom  
3 [01/07/1900]-08/07/1900 17 m
4 FranceParis  


10/06/1900 FranceLyon Cinématographe Lumière  Danseuses espagnoles 
08/07/1900 FranceLyon
Cinématographe Lumière Danses espagnoles : de la Feria quadro flamenco

Who is Who in the Lumière Films of Spanish Song and Dance at the Paris Exposition, 1900 (Kiko Mora)

Who Is Who in the Lumière Films of Spanish Song and Dance at the Paris Exposition, 1900


Department of Communication and Social Psychology, University of Alicante, Spain

The Lumière Company and Spanish Dances at the Fair

On 15th April, 1900, the Paris Universal Exposition was inaugurated with the intention of becoming “the philosophy and the synthesis of the century; that it had at once greatness, grace and beauty; that it reflects the clear genius of France. That it shows us the past as well as the avant-garde of the progress”, according to Francis Picard, the General Commissioner (as quoted in Bon Marché 1900, 4). One month later (but after almost five years of activity), the Lumière Brothers became an example of the “avant-garde of the progress” by setting up, with financial aid of the General Administration of the Exposition, a cinematograph with a giant screen (21x16 meters) in the Festival Hall of the Gallery of Machines, a pivotal place gathering a large number of people every day.  According to the General Administrative and Technical Report,between 3.000 and 5.000 people attended two free shows each evening (Toulet 1991, 16). The General Committee considered the inventions related to cinema “only as a derivative of photography (…) and as a technique of reproduction, nearly a form of printing”. (as quoted in Toulet 1991, 11). However, it has also been written that the Exposition offered “an opportunity for official and international recognition, [providing] an experimental context for a range of uses of film before a very large audience”; (Toulet 1991, 10); these showings became “the apotheosis of the cinematograph Lumière” (Rittaud-Hutinet 1995, 384).

The Frères Lumière not only screened motion pictures at the Exposition, but also filmed 33 clips, showing different places, events and attractions at the Fair (Aubert and Seguin 1996, 179-187). Two of those films, whose cameraman is still unidentified, deal with the cinematic representation of Spanish song and dances. They are the films titled Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos  (n. 1123) and Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco (n. 1124) (Aubert and Seguin 1996, 185-186), which are available in the Forum des Images website’s film collection.

At this point, a key clarification must be made. The titles, referenced in the Aubert and Seguin’s catalogue as “n. 1123” and “n. 1124,” are inverted. It is evident that film Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos, where song, dance, and guitar playing are shown, matches with a cuadro flamenco, while film Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco shows a group of musicians and dancers (but not singers) dancing sevillanas of the escuela bolera, the bolero, or classical, school. Thus, in this article I will only use the titles of the motion pictures. They will be cited with their full original titles, but adding the suggested change in brackets: Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos  [Cuadro flamenco]; Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco [Sevillanas].

As Richard Abel (1994, 59) has noted, “early French films were mostly produced in the café-concerts and music halls of the larger urban centers and the fairground theaters that circulated throughout the country, setting up temporary sites of exhibition in cities and towns”. The ephemeral 1900 World Fair became another locus of production and exhibition of French films. At this time, the Lumière Company had at disposal a full range of shows of Spanish color invading the Paris theatre bills. It was not anything new. Since flamenco was introduced for the first time to the French capital in the Atheneum Theatre in 1880 by Antonio Calzadilla’s troupe, Spanish popular music and dance had a remarkable presence, and had been extremely popular in the 1889 Paris Exhibition. 

At the 1900 Fair, the visitors could attend Spanish dancing performances in L’Andalousie au temps des Maures in the Trocadero, Panorama de La Tour de Monde’s Théâtre Exotique in the Champ-de-Mars, La Feria restaurant in the Spanish Pavilion of the Rue des Nations, Terpsichore in the Palais de la Dance of the Rue de Paris, and, occasionally, in the Blue Pavilion’s shows, on the outskirts of the Eiffel Tower. The presence of Spanish dancing at the Exposition is so large that a chronicle points out that ‘even in the selfsame Theatre of the Vieux Paris an attractive performance called Las sevillanas is given (Mendoza 1900, 4).

Besides these live performances, other Spanish dance numbers were screened in the Phono-Cinema Theater, such as Saharet, Le bolero, performed by Christine Kerf and Achille Viscussi, and "La habanera" from the opera Le Cid, performed by Carlota Zambelli and Michel Vazquez, shot in the Palais de la Dance (Cruces Roldán 2017) .

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Locations at the Paris Exhibition where Spanish dances were performed

However, the flamenco and bolero school performances of the Spanish Pavilion seem to have had a special appeal for the visitors of the Exposition. French chronicles pointed out that La Feria “is always, despite the heat, the meeting place of the most elegant society, and the Parisian and foreign notables”, (Le Journal, July 27, 1900) and reminded readers of “the always brilliant success (…), [and the innumerable] emulators that only confirms the great vogue of this fashionable restaurant” (Le Journal, September 11, 1900). La Feria was so fashionable that Urioste’s entire pavilion was referred to by this name (La Vanguardia, August 17, 1900). A day after the closing of the Fair, a journalist’s account published in L’Écho de Paris (November 15, 1900) emphasized the best spectacles: “I am not suspicious of vilification, I who went to see ten times the Gypsy girls from the Feria and the graceful, coquettish, naïve, pathetic, tragic, the eurythmic Sada Yacco”. It does not seem to be by chance, thus, that the Lumière company was interested in shooting La Feria’ Spanish dances. However, surprisingly, the motion pictures were not shot on the outskirts of the Spanish Pavilion, as might be presumed, but in a terrace of the Palace of Horticulture, on the other side of the Seine.

Foreground artists in the Lumière Films

El negro Meri

The main titles sharing both motion pictures, “Danse espagnole de la Feria”, indicate that the artists appearing belong to the cast which performed every day in La Feria restaurant, located in the basement of the Spanish Pavilion. So far, scholars who have analyzed in brief the film Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos [Cuadro flamenco] (Ortiz Nuevo 2013; Navarro 2014; González Alcantud 2016), have assumed that the artist singing and dancing is José Otero Aranda, a renowned dance master from Seville. Although Otero and his students were recorded by the Lumière brothers in Seville in 1898 (Aubert and Seguin 1996, 86-88), there does not seem to be any evidence of Otero’s presence in Paris during the Universal Exposition. In his treatise, the Maestro himself does not mention it (Otero Aranda 1912). It was clear from my preliminary research that the Sevillian dance master could not be the one who is shown in the clip, for the simple reason that the artist bears little resemblance to the many photos of Otero: although costumed in the chaquetilla goyesca (high-waisted jacket) and sombrero calañés (the traditional hat from Calaña, Huelva) with which Otero was often photographed, this artist is clearly of black African descent.

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From left to right: José Fernández, Anita Reguera, El Negro Meri, unidentified artist, Eduardo Salmerón, Aguilera sister?, unidentified artist.
Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos [Cuadro flamenco]

Several chronicles published in the Spanish and French press provide useful information on the cast of artists performing at La Feria. Some of these performers such as Anita Reguera from Mallorca, and Algerian-born Paris Opera choreographer Mariquita Martínez, were best known in France. Others, such a María La Bonita, the sisters Felisa and Juana Peña, sisters Margarita and Amparo Aguilera, zarzuela singer Matilde León, Mera Arriaza (Emerita Arriaza, a member of the illustrious Arriaza dance family), La Carito, Santos and Meric were, in different degrees, known also within Spain. Musicians included flamenco guitarist Eduardo Salmerón, and a troupe of Spanish Students headed by two prominent musicians, José Sancho and José Fernández, the latter being the director of the troupe. It has been impossible for me to ascertain the identities of a singer surnamed Moreno and a dancer named Conchita.

But the press does not mention Maestro Otero. It does, however, record the presence at La Feria of a ‘remarkable mulatto artist’ singing “sentido cante hondo y guajiro” (deep and guajiro, that is, Cuban, song) (Romo Jara 1900b). Besides playing the guitar, another chronicle points out his multifaceted gifts: ‘In the background, the musicians are placed—guitars and mandolins—and, among them, without any instrument, a huge mulatre […] mainly in charge of shouting and handclapping accompanying his own dance’ (Les Annales Politiques et Littéraires, July 1, 1900). Three weeks after the opening of the La Feria restaurant, a description of the Rue des Nations’ promenades emphasized what is to be seen in this cafe-chantant:

The copper-colored Cuban, chubby, thick-lipped, keeps in step with his bamboo cane, his strange and out-of-key monody. Behind the pillars of Lilliput, the dark haired Spanish women with their red flower-studded buns, sell liquors and trinkets in stalls set up inside the semicircle of the Cordove’s ‘horseshoe arch’ where Juanita and the Carmela display smile as they serve mate which they stir and shake with the bombella –it is a spoon. Besides, on the floorboard, you can see the guitars, the guitars, the guitars!!!

Le Matin, May 27, 1900.

The description of this “copper-colored Cuban” performer, holding “his bamboo cane”, matches perfectly with the singer-dancer of black African descent in Lumière’s Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos [Cuadro flamenco]. In a recent article, I have identified him as the bullfighter and flamenco performer Jacinto Padilla, known in the artistic circles as ‘El Mulato Meri’ (Mulatto Meri) or “El negro Meri” (Black Meri), also known as ‘Meric’.

So far, very little is known about El Negro Meri. In 1922, a chronicle described him as a “torero de mojigangas” (El debate, May 15), and as late as 1949, the magazine El ruedo devoted some lines to him as a bullfighter (Anónimo 1949): “The Mulatto Mery was a colored bullfighter who debuted in Madrid bullring in August 8th, 1881, accompanied by Germán Suárez y Francisco Parrondo ‘Oruga’”.

Flamenco scholar Eusebio Rioja (2005), citing Bejarano Robles (1984) and Martínez Barrionuevo (1887), states that, in the first years of the XX century, Padilla was the owner of El Café de La Loba, “a small tavern at the end of the Salvago Street”, in Málaga. Almost certainly of Cuban ancestors, it seems that he was born in Algeciras (Cádiz), according to a full page announcement of a bullfight in the Murcia bullring (Las provincias de Levante, June 10, 1887) and a notice of his performance in Alcoy’s bullring (El Serpis, September 2, 1893).  However, this is not confirmed. A brief chronicle of the life of bullfighter Francisco Arjona, known as Curro “Cúchares”, states that el Mulato Meri fought bulls together with Cuchares in La Habana before 1868 (Don Crispín, April 11, 1932).

A written portrait of this artist is given by Bejarano Robles in his book Las calles de Málaga. De su historia y ambiente:

The owner of the establishment was a not very tall and not very muscular mulatto, of amusing face and bright white teeth, already of a certain age, considering the times we are referring to (1900-1908) (...).
He was a popular and picturesque person in Málaga in 1900s., having lived a dangerous and rugged life. It was known that he had been an acrobat during his youth, and that he worked in the Circo de La Victoria, where he executed a thrilling jump over some mozos de circo [circus’ assistants], holding each one the riffles with bayonets. He also was a high-level equestrian trainer and had spent time as a bullfighter. In hard times, he managed to make a living as a shoe shiner, and during the best times by performing as a magician. Because of his frequent travels abroad, he got on well with foreigners by speaking, although imperfectly and with limited vocabulary, several languages. During the last part of his life, he set up a little tavern, where, if he was in a good mood, he also played the guitar and sang for the amusement and entertainment of any salerosa (clever humored) and garbosa (jaunty) party

quoted in Rioja, 117.

With regards to his familiar lineage, K. Meira Goldberg (2018), suggests a challenging hypothesis in her forthcoming book on the blackness in flamenco:

But there is another Meric [announced as Sr. Meric], a “grotesque clown” [as El Negro Meri will also be often labeled] who shows up even more frequently at the BNE, especially in the years 1847-48 (…). I find no mention in the press that this artist, billed expressly as “Spanish” was either black or Cuban. Nevertheless, my hypothesis, based on the flamenco custom of passing nicknames as artistic lineages within families, is that this “Sr. Meric” might have been Padilla’s father. Like Sr. Meric from the 1847 Madrid Circus, Padilla performed as an acrobatic clown in the equestrian circus…. [Given that, according to Carlos Alba, flamenco street singer El Piyayo took his tango of Cuban origin from El Negro Meri] it is possible that Padilla inherited some of his outstanding flamenco songs from his father.

Flamenco scholars Eusebio Rioja and José Gelardo Navarro unearthed the earliest press mentions, placing El Negro Meri in Málaga in 1872 (cited in Goldberg, 2018). A year later he will be seen in Cordove’s Gran Circo de Madrid, as a member of the Rafael Diaz’s Compañía Ecuestre. During a benefit show for the former, it was announced that “Meric will sing, play and dance a lo flamenco [in the flamenco style]” as pantomimic act titled “El mono de Brasil” (Diario de Córdoba, April 4, 1873; Diario de Córdoba, April 20, 1873). During the following years the same company would also debut in Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz, Seville and Madrid, where Jacinto Padilla is advertised as an acrobatic jumper (El comercio, April 3, 1875) and banderillero of inmature bulls (Boletín de loterías y de toros, July 3, 1876; La correspondencia de España, July 27, 1876).

Between 1876 to 1886 he was mostly devoting to bullfighting. In 1883, he seems to have lived in 93rd Fuencarral Street (Madrid) (Diario oficial de avisos de Madrid, April 29, 1883). During these years, he performed in Spain (Málaga, Seville, Valencia, Valdepeñas, Segovia, Madrid, Almería, Toledo, Valladolid, Granada, Colmenar de la Oreja, Alcoy, Palma de Mallorca, Jaén) and abroad (at least in Lisbon and Narbone). In 1882 in Talavera, Meri was injured by a bull named “Asesino” (the killer) which caused him a severe wound in the right thigh (Boletín de loterías y de toros, May 5, 1882).  In 1886 Meri’s quadrille included bullfighter Tancredo López “Salerín”, who became known in early twentienth century as the “torero hipnotizador” (hypnotist bullfighter), performing a mojiganga number called “La estatua” (the statue).

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El Mulato Meri. 
Sol y sombra. Semanario taurino ilustrado, December 13, 1897
© Biblioteca Nacional de España

In 1887, he would be performing in the Cartagena Teatro-Circo. His equestrian number consisted of a Voltige a la Richard, riding bareback on a galloping horse. The show included other acrobatic acts and closed with the zarzuela Las ventas de Cárdenas, in which Padilla, “accompanying himself on the guitar, will sing serranas, malagueñas…etc.” (El eco de Cartagena, July 13, 1887). According to Blas Vega and Ríos Ruiz (1990, 488), his usual repertory also included soleares, siguiriyas, tangos and other festero (party-like) styles”.

A year later, during the Spring and Fall theater seasons, the Barcelona Circo Ecuestre offered a pantomime of Andalusian customes titled La Feria de Sevilla “where the famous bullfighter Meric, the mulatto, and his brave team will fight a beautiful little bull, then simulating its death” (La dinastía, January 4, 1888; La dinastía, March 24, 1888; and December 3, 1888).  It is very possible that this show, which ran in Barcelona until January 1889, became an essential section in La Foire de Séville, performed in the Nouveau Cirque during the 1889 Paris Exhibition. A chronicle of Le Figaro (March 22, 1889) proves Meri’s participation in this Spanish show in Paris, where Carmencita, La Cuenca and other flamenco artists performed, and where a sort of parody of the bullfight was also presented. But some days before the closing of the exhibition, El Negro Meri also presented his own number in the Paris-Madrid bullring, accompanied by members of the estudiantina and a group of Spanish dancers from de Cirque d’Hiver (La Justice, October 19, 1889). The dancing show was choreographed by master Manuel Guerrero and the female members of the company were Soledad Menéndez, Rosita Tejero and Encarnación Gutiérrez (Cruzado 2016).

During the early 90s, Padilla was in Madrid, Palma de Mallorca and, more often, in Barcelona and southern France. He was injured a second time by a bull in Nîmes in 1893 (El Oxomense, August 12, 1893), but still continued bullfighting in Murcia, Valencia, and Algés (Portugal) in the following years. 

After his performances in La Feria restaurantin the 1900 Paris Exhibition, Bejarano Robles places him in Malaga’s Café de la Loba. However, he seems to have continued bullfighting and was again wounded in Marseille and Barcelona (La Vedette, October 18, 1902; Le petit Journal, April 20, 1903). Thus, it is possible that he decided to retire for a while in Malaga by 1903. But, by then, the Café de la Loba had already closed.

Was Malaga the place of his final retirement? It is very possible. In 1908, a bullfighting magazine announced a “becerrada” in this city on past October 15th:

The announced mojiganga or becerrada was finally celebrated, the outgoing note being the old novillero El Mulato Meri, who, at the end of its many years, killed with determination his two utreros (3-4 years old bulls) with two stabs and two punctures. He was good at bullfighting, but it was his contoneos (wigglings) and desplantes (fancy dance moves) that evoked the greatest enthusiasm.

La Fiesta Nacional, December 1, 1908.

And Arturo Reyes (1914, 164), a poet from Malaga, mentions him as a popular character in the city, within an Andalusian dialect poem titled “De mi tierra” (From my Land), whose dialogue takes place among gathering of bullfighters and Gypsies in the Santa María Square.

However, in 1906, the Argentinian Company Parravicini-Podestá premiered Los disfrazados, a creole tragicomic sainete, in the Buenos Aires Teatro Apolo. Written by Carlos Mauricio Pacheco (Montevideo 1881-Buenos Aires 1924), the plot is located in a popular town house of the Argentinian capital during the Carnival. Almost at the end of the play, and assisted by a chorus, three compadres (mates) sing an Argentinian tango composed by Antonio Reynoso. Written in lunfardo, an Italian-Argentinian dialect, the first stanzas say (Pacheco 1906, 16):

Soy el mulato Padilla,
Bailarín de bute y soda.
Soy el taquero más pierna
Para un tango quebrador.
Cuando me enrosco a la mina
La hago girar y me estiro.
Bailando en sus ojos miro
Todo mi orgullo y mi amor.

So, it seems that Jacinto Padilla had become a kind of particular tango dancer in the Buenos Aires’ popular imaginary during the first decade of the twentieth century. Which confirms the multifaceted aspect of his artistry.

Anita Reguera

What about the woman dancing in the foreground of both films, Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco [Sevillanas] and Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos [Cuadro flamenco]? Despite mentioning several members of the cast of La Feria, the French press took special note of the performances of dancer Anita Reguera, whose fame increased in Paris during the following years under an artistic name that recalled her presence in the cafe-concert of the Spanish Pavilion: “Anita de La Feria” (Anita from La Feria). However, there does not seem to be any trace of this dancer in the Spanish press. A chronicle in the French press announced Anita’s performances:

La Feria, the great success of the Exposition, will offer an absolutely sensational act. We must congratulate the intelligent directors Mr. Henri and Mr. Cauderon. Their Restaurant café-concert is in full vogue; it is even fashionable to have lunch or dinner at La Feria. Who has not attended such suggestive dances by Reguera, the flamenco star? Right, despite the success, these gentlemen are so committed to satisfying their clientele that they did not hesitate to make a trip to Mallorca to bring for a golden price an extraordinary Gypsy dancer. This charming artist will not only dance during dinner and concert times, but also she will perform during lunch.

Le Journal, July 19, 1900.

The Aubert-Seguin catalogue (1996, 185-186) records that the films were shot between April 15th and July 8th. In addition to the announcement of Reguera as the new star, it can be inferred from the quote above that visitors in La Feria had already had the opportunity of attending Reguera’s performances “during the dinner and concert times” and that an extra performance was now announced “during lunch”. Also, the newspaper Les Annales Politiques et Littéraires had chronicled a replacement of the main female dancing star in June 30st:

Who said that the loveliest one has retired? Rest assured, she could not have smoother skin, blacker hair, bigger eyes, smaller feet, and a more sinuous waist than the Sevillian woman who arrived yesterday to take her place and who dances, wrapped in a fringed shawl, and with a red flower in her bun.

July 1, 1900.

The chronicle labels Reguera as “Sevillian”. It is very possible that she was announced like that for adding her an Andalusian touch, since Mallorca would not mean much to a French audience.

In addition to this circumstantial evidence concerning the replacement of the main star, Anita Reguera’s portrait by Italian painter and caricaturist Giovanni Boldini leaves little room for controversy, since it shows an absolute resemblance, in costume, hairstyle and complexion, with the woman dancing in both films. So, it is very possible that the Spanish dances were shot for the Lumière camera between July 1st and July 8th.

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Giovanni Boldini, Anita de la Feria, oil on canvas. 
81 x 47½ in. (205.7 x 120.6 cm.), 1900
© Christie's Images

A year after her success in the Paris Exhibition, Anita Reguera performed in the Paris Casino within a pantomimed “revue-ballet”, by singer and poet Ernest Grenet-Dancourt, titled Paris qui Danse (Le Figaro, April 27, 1901; L’avant-scène des premières, April 1901; The Era, May 25, 1901). Soon later she was hired for a long stay in St. Petersburgh (Le Rappel, October 16, 1901; Le Rappel, March 20, 1902), but she went back to Paris to perform in the Marigny, sharing the bill Loie Fuller and Margarita Ugalde (Gil Blas, September 15, 1902). It is possible that she toured other European cities afterwards. At the end of 1906 she reappeared in the Paris Olympia theatre (L’Humanité, December 1, 1906), without any trace of her in the French press during the following years.

Virgilio Arriaza

The motion picture Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco [Sevillanas] features the same woman in the dance role. But now a group of ten Spanish Students (six bandurrias, two lutes, and two Spanish guitars), distributed in two rows, are placed in the background, and a different male dancer performs. But he is not the dancer same who appears, together with José Otero, in the motion pictures of .Spanish dances shot by the Lumière company in Seville in 1898. Concerning La Feria’s show, press correspondent Romo-Jara (1900a) wrote that one of those nights the bill closed with an Aragonese jota “expressed with inimitable feeling by Moreno and skillfully executed by the pandera Arriaza”.

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Background: The Estudiantina. Foreground: Anita Reguera and Virgilio Arriaza.
Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco [Sevillanas]

This “pandera” Arriaza can be none other than dancer Virgilio Arriaza, whose father, Domingo Arriaza, ran an academy in Seville and had been Carmencita’s teacher (Barzel 1944). A photograph of the Arriaza family taken in Seville in 1884 and published in Virgilio’s sister Aurora Arriaza’s “Autobiography of a Spanish Dancer” in Dance Magazine (1948: 20) leaves little doubt about the resemblance of the man who stands close to Domingo Arriaza in this photograph to the dancer who appears in Lumière Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco [Sevillanas].

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Virgilio Arriaza [Detail enlargement]. 1884
Dance Magazine, November 1948

At the turn of the century, Virgilio and Aurora had toured all over Europe. In October 1905, he arrived in New York from the port of Southampton, with a Spanish company of fourteen members. The passenger list states that he was 37 years old and had last resided in Paris. In New York, he would met his younger sister Aurora, who had arrived in the city two months before. The next year, the company would be engaged to perform in a drama titled The Rose of the Rancho, which premiered in Boston Majestic Theater on November 13th (Boston Herald, November 13, 1906). Produced by theatre impresario David Belasco and written by Californian writer Richard Walton Tully, Virgilio Arriaza was in charge of the dance arrangements (El arte del teatro, February 1, 1908). The plot was summarized by a New York chronicle as follows:

The scene is laid in California in the late fifties when American land-grabbers took advantage of the law requiring the former residents of the newly acquired territory to file titles of their lands with the United States Government, on pain of forfeiture if another should claim the property. The Spaniards, resenting the invasion of Americans, often refused to acknowledge the rights of this new Government to make laws for them. It is about the consequences of these refusals that Mr. Tully and Mr. Belasco have made their play.

New York Dramatic Mirror, December 8, 1906.

A Boston chronicle provides significant information about the music of the drama, composed by William Furst:

[The music] made much use of the Spanish dances and songs that are typical of southern California. The instruments used on the stage and played by Spanish and Mexican musicians are the bandurria, mandola, treble and bass guitar. The music is suggestive of the habanera [sic], bolero, tango and the seguidilla manchega.

Boston Herald, November 11, 1906

After the performances in Boston, The Rose of the Rancho debuted in the New York Belasco Theater in November 27th, and went on tour around the country until the middle of 1908. In February of that year, when the drama was being performed in the New York Alhambra, a “testimonial performance” in honor of veteran actor Frank C. Bangs gathered the cast in the Casino. According to the New York Dramatic Mirror, they appeared in “characteristic specialties” and Arriaza performed “a Spanish tambourine dance” (February 23, 1907). Was this “tambourine dance” the jota dance which Arriaza executed in the Spanish Pavilion restaurant in 1900? No certain answer can be given, but the notice confirms his devotion to using the “pandera” in some of his dance numbers.

Around 1910, Virgilio Arriaza opened a recruitment agency in the Saulnier Street, Paris, where, as the announcement showed, he taught other artists “Danses Cosmopolites”, with special attention to the Spanish dances (Paris musical et dramatique, December 1910). According to Aurora Arriaza’s autobiography, he was still living in Paris in 1948 (Arriaza 1948, 20).

Background Artists in the Lumière films

José Fernández

The man seated in the left of the image in Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos [Cuadro flamenco] is a member of the Spanish Students, from Zaragoza (Spain). The French press of the time cites José Fernández and José Sancho as the most prominent musicians of this group. This man, who plays a bandurria and gives instructions to the rest of the band while performing, also appears in Danse espagnole de La Feria Quadro Flamenco [Sevillanas] (lower row, third from right). Since Sancho was mainly skilled in the guitar, and Fernández was not only the director of the group but also a musician specialized in the bandurria, it is more likely that José Fernández occupies the chair in the left side of the image. 

José Fernández (1850-?) was a member of the “Estudiantina Fígaro”, founded by Dionisio Granados in 1878. Between 1878-1879 “La Fígaro” toured around Europe. The estudiantina was at least in Paris, Lisbon, Oporto, Berlin, Cologne, Vienna, Trieste, Rome, Moscow, St. Petersburgh, Prague, some city in Denmark, Brussels and London.

The Spanish Students arrived in London on June 13rd, 1879, and remained there during the whole summer. The group played in the Crystal Palace, Alhambra Theatre and The Pavilion (Morning Post, June 14, 1879; London Evening Standard, June 30, 1879; The Era, July 27, 1879; The Globe, August 6, 1879).  During their London’s performances, they also appeared in Brighton (The Era, August 24, 1879), and came back to Great Britain to perform at least in Sunderland and Manchester at the end of the year (Manchester Courier, November 22, 1879; Sunderland Daily Echo, December 4, 1879). Manchester Courier’s advertisement stated that The Spanish Students consisted of fifteen members, while it had seventeen during the Summer tour in London.

By the middle of December 1879, José Fernández and the rest of the group, now calling themselves “The Spanish Students”, crossed the Atlantic and performed in the Boston Park Theatre (Boston Journal, December 16, 1879; Boston Daily Advertiser, January 13, 1880). The group included fifteen members, the same number performing in Great Britain weeks before. A chronicle in the US press stated that “it was while playing in France that their present manager, Mr. [Henry] Abbey, met and engaged them for an American tour” (Weekly-Picayune, August 28, 1880). Afterwards, they toured in the states of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, (Portland, Brookline, Springfield, Worcester, and New Haven) and debuted in New York Booth’s Theatre on February 3rd (New York Herald, February 3, 1880). Later they moved to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and toured in the Eastern seaboard for the rest of the year. On their US tour, The Spanish Students were engaged for a huge pantomime and variety show titled Humpty-Dumpty, that combined tightrope walkers, clowns, jugglers, harlequins, and magicians using complex staging tricks (Mora, 2017).  Later, the played at least in Trenton (NJ), Philadelphia (PA), Wilmington (DE), Richmond (VA), Washington (DC), Boston (MS), Cincinnati (OH), St. Louis (MO), Chicago (IL), Macon (GA), Portland (ME), Springfield (MS), Montpellier (VT), New Haven (CT), Lancaster (PA) and Baltimore (MD). A Mexican newspaper listed the names of the Spanish Students performing in St. Louis Garden Theater: Gabino Lapuente, Valentín Caro, Miguel Justos, José Rodríguez, José Fernández, José García, Melquiades Hernández, Miguel López, Manuel González, Eugenio Antón, Antonio Carmona, Laureano Hernández, Juan Ripoll, Enrique Olivares and Vicente Dragones (La libertad, October 9, 1880). So, from the original list of names which appeared in Boston and New York at the beginning of the tour, it seems that Ignacio Martín, the director of the company, was substituted by Vicente Dragones. The rest remained the same.

According to Martin Sárraga’s outstanding research, which gathers a set of previous articles written by different scholars and himself (Paul Ruppa, Guadalupe Munguía, Eleazar Torres, Rafael Asencio, Jean-Pierre Silva and Jorge Carvalho de Mello), José Fernández moved to Spain together with the group in 1881, and then returned to South America in 1886, where he performed with La Fígaro in Chile and Venezuela. According to my own research, Fernández may have been performed with the same group in Lima (Peru), Cochabamba (Bolivia) and Panama City (Panama) in the same year (El comercio, April 6, 1886; El Heraldo, July 13, 1886; Estrella de Panamá, November 13, 1886).

It is possible that Fernández had already settled up in South America, since, according to Martín Sárraga, he played again in Venezuela in 1887. However, ten years later, press chronicles announced his passage through Paris where he played for several cultural and military circles (Le Figaro, December 17, 1896; Le Figaro, January 5, 1897). During that time, he seemed to be settled in the French capital where he headed “La Estudiantina Fernández” (Gil Blas, May 30, 1897): “Yesterday, Felisa and Juana Peña, the two stars of the Fernández’s troupe, have had a very vivid and meritorious success in the Casino de Paris’ evening party. Pepe Fernández had, however, his share of triumph” (Le Gaulois, April 8, 1897). As we shall see in the pages below, the Peña sisters, as Fernández himself, will become members of the cast of La Feria restaurant during the 1900 Paris Exhibition.

After the Paris Exhibition, it seems that Fernández made a living as a music teacher (Le Petit Journal, May 27, 1903) and French press locates him in Paris Le Figaro’s Hotel in 1906. In March 1908, an evening party organized by the Associations Professionnelles de Femmes (Professional Women Association) gathered an orchestra of guitars and bandurrias directed by Fernández and a group of Spanish dancers and singers, among them La Fornarina, Pastora Imperio and Trinidad Navarro “La Trini” (Les Modes, March 1908). Months later, he was engaged, together with flamenco dancer Francisco Mendoza Ríos, “Faíco”, to perform in Montmartre Pigalle Street’s cabaret Boîte, owned by singer and lyricist Henri Fursy (Le Figaro, May 7, 1908).

At the end of the year it was announced that “Pepe Fernández and his guitarists” performed in the show Noël à Séville, a “fantaisie Espagnole”, in the Paris Olympia. In addition to La Fornarina, a famous Spanish coupletist, the cast included a good deal of flamenco talent: Juana Vargas “La Macarrona”, Antonio de Bilbao and Faico’s cousin Manuel Ríos “El Mojigongo” (L’Intransigeant, December 28, 1908).

Eduardo Salmerón

Little is also known of Eduardo Salmerón Clemente, born in Berja (Almería), the guitarist who appears in Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos [Cuadro flamenco], in the center of the background. In his visit to La Feria, Gómez Carrillo would describe Salmeron as a guitarist who “plays gravely, without moving a single facial muscle, without smiling, without enthusiasm”, just as he can be seen in this Lumière film. Chronicler Sevillano Miralles (1996) considers him one of the most remarkable flamenco guitarist from Almeria at the turn of the century. Having started his career in 1887 in the Casino Almeriense and Café de Santo Domingo in the company of flamenco singers José Sánchez “El Marmolista” and Alfonso Pérez “Porreta”, Salmerón pursued an extensive career in Spain and abroad through the 1920s. It seems that he arrived in London in 1892, giving guitar lessons and performing in spectacles (The Era, April 23, 1892).  In the following years, he performed in London’s Prince’s Hall, Crystal Palace, and Queen’s Hall, as a guitar soloist in the Orchestra of the Amateur Banjo Mandolin and Guitar Club. His repertory included at least two pieces titled “Canto de amor” (Love song) and “Rosas andaluzas” (Andalusian roses) (Morning Post, December 6, 1893; Evening Standard, April 25, 1894; Morning Post, December 3, 1895). Salmerón also performed in the area of Birmingham in a company of the same name (Leamington Spa Courier, November 24, 1894; Birmingham Daily Post, October 8, 1895; Leamington Spa Courier, October 12, 1895; Birmingham Daily Post, December 5, 1895; Leamington Spa Courier, January 11, 1896). Among the members of the orchestras who shared a bill with Salmerón were mandolin player Signor Guerra, guitar player A. F. Cramer, and banjo players A. D. Cammeyer, Clifford Essex, Joe Morley and Will C. Pepper. In 1897, Salmerón would also play with Spanish bandurria player Manuel López, virtuoso banjoist Mr. Kennedy, and a band of mandolinists in London’s St. Martin’s Town Hall (Morning Post, December 12, 1897).

1123 07

Eduardo Salmerón Clemente
Unión patriótica, April 11, 1925
© Biblioteca Virtual de Prensa Histórica

Between 1898 to 1900’s Paris Exposition, there seems not to be any trace of this Andalusian guitarist. It is possible he became a member of the Penarth Amateur Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra, performing in the area of Wales (Isle of Man Times, January 21, 1899; South Wales Daily News, October 27, 1899; South Wales Echo, October 28, 1899).

After Salmeron’s performances in La Feria restaurant, it seems he might have settled in Paris but, according to Sevillano (1996, 67) he also performed in “Berlin, Bologna…with recitals before the Russian Tzar and Edward, the King of England”. In 1906, because of the marriage of King Alphonse XIII and Ena de Battenberg, a party for the Spanish and British colony was given in the Le Figaro’s hotel. Among the prominent artists invited to entertain that evening were French soprano Emma Calvé, Spanish violinist Pablo Casals, and French-Italian pianist Gabrielle Ferrari. Before finishing the party, a closing act of Spanish dances was offered. Teresita Alonso and Santos performed sevillanas, peteneras, boleros and tangos. A bandurria and guitar ensemble formed by José Fernández, José Sancho, Eduardo Salmerón, [unknown name] Pérez y Miguel Casares accompanied the dancers (Le Figaro, May 31, 1906).

It is possible that Salmerón had met Faíco when, in the summer of 1908, the latter came to Paris for the first time to perform in the Pigalle Street’s cabaret Boîte, where, as I have mentioned above, José Fernández was also in the cast (Le Figaro, June 7, 1908). Or, maybe, when, assisted by an orchestra, Faíco was dancing, together with “La Macarrona” in the Pre-Catalan restaurant of the Champs Elysees (El diario ilustrado, August 16, 1908).

In September, Faíco’s flamenco company, including dancers Antonio de Bilbao and Lola la Flamenca, would perform for the reopening of the Apollo (Le Petit Parisien, September 4, 1908). Bilbao and Macarrona stayed in Paris, performing that Fall at Bal Tabarin cabaret (Gil Blas, November 11, 1908). However, Faíco, Lola La Flamenca, guitarists Amalio Cuenca and Eduardo Salmerón, and bandurria player Miguel Casares crossed the Atlantic to perform in a show, Anna Held’s Miss Innocence, produced by famous US theatre entrepreneur Florenz Ziegfeld. The company shortly debuted in the Philadelphia Chesnut St. Theatre in November (The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 23, 1908), and then moved to the New York Theatre (New York Sun, November 30, 1908). The show would run until May 1909. In the same month, Salmerón and the rest of the flamenco company visited the Edison laboratory in New York to record thirteen 4-minute Amberola wax-cylinders for the Edison National Phonograph Company.[24] The guitarist from Almería, together with Cuenca and Casares, recorded three instrumental pieces titled “Farruca – Baile flamenco”, Joaquin Valverde’s “La Gitanilla”, and Federico Chueca and Joaquín Valverde’s “Caballero de Gracia”, the latter from the zarzuela La Gran vía.

Eduardo Salmerón came back to Almería, his city of birth, in 1916, where he participated in some musical soirées. According to Sevillano (1996, 67-68) he “ended his artistic life as resident guitarist of the Lion d’Or, accompanying, among others, [flamenco singers] the Niño de Graná, Niño de Cañete, Niño de las Moras and Juan Soler el Pescaero”. During the thirties he was playing for private parties and asked for a licensee to open a kiosk to make a living (Diario de Almería, May 14, 1933; Diario de Almería, June 27, 1933).

Felisa Peña y Juana Peña (Peña sisters)

With regards to Peña Sisters, announced as ‘young artists of Spanish [dance] genre’, they debuted in Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela in March 1896. A newspaper chronicled that, due to the audience’s enthusiasm, their sevillanas were repeated eight times (La Iberia, March 5, 1896). This type of dance, together with “Panaderos” and “El torero y la malagueña”, constituted their repertory in this theatre. The following months they will perform in the Madrid’s Princesa, Lara, and Príncipe Alfonso theatres (La Iberia, May 1, 1896; La Iberia, May 2, 1896; La Correspondencia de España, July 17, 1896). A year later, as I have already mentioned, the sisters would be performing, accompanied by José Fernández, in the Casino de Paris. By 1899, their fame in dance circles of Madrid is apparent. In a party to celebrate the anniversary of the restoration of a hospice founded by the queen Maria Cristina, a chronicle of the event states that a young girl danced a sevillanas “even worthier than that of the Peña sisters” (La correspondencia de España, July 11, 1899).  

Although, until now, the Peña sisters are very rarely mentioned in flamenco literature, they seem to have enjoyed an ephemeral success in Paris at the turn-of-the-century. In 1902, a well-respected Spanish magazine briefly recognized their merits in the City of Light by considering them “the most elegant dancers of the new generation dancing now in Paris” (Miquis 1902, 158). Besides their participation in the 1900 Exposition, sisters Peña would dance in the re-opening of the Jardin de Paris the following year. Spanish theatre manager José Oller presented a musical event where the Peña sisters’ dances shared the bill with the acrobatique ‘danses americaines’ of Mado Minty, among other attractions (L’Orchestre, June 2, 1901). A year later, the Peña sisters headed a Spanish dance and song show in the melodrama Jean la Cocarde in the Paris Ambigu Theatre. The plot of the piece develops in Saragossa, during the Spanish War of Independence (1808-1814). According to French press, Peña’s troupe was ‘only formed by Spaniards’ who presented ‘a very pleasant interpolation of Spanish dances, of flamenca [sic] dances, that is, Gypsy dances’, and who were partially responsible for the melodrama’s success (Le Petit Parisien, February 18, 1902; Le Temps, February 10, 1902). The same year, these artists will return to the Jardin de Paris, now just as a couple sharing the headlines with other artists (Le Matin, July 2, 1902).

Amparo Aguilera and Margarita Aguilera (Aguilera sisters)

In relation to the Aguilera sisters, I believe it is best to clear up a possible misunderstanding. At the turn of the century, there was another pair of Aguilera sisters, widely recognized in the history of flamenco: Paca (singer) and María (guitar player), from the province of Malaga. There is no doubt that these are not they: while Amparo and Margarita were performing in the Jardin de Paris in 1903, Paca and María were performing the same day in the Madrid Salon de Actualidades (La Vie Parisienne, January 3, 1903; La época, January 3, 1903). Since the restaurant La Feria was mainly devoted to dance, since there is no evidence of Paca singing nor any women playing guitars there, and since French press states that sisters  Aguilera come from Seville, it is more likely that Margarita and Amparo were the artists who performed on the stage of this café-concert.

According to the book about the life of Valencian dancer Francisco Miralles, Rodríguez Llorens (2015: 55) has noted his presence, together with María La Bella, during the Paris Exhibition:

María La Bella was 21 years old then, and she performed with Miralles, accompanied by a group of guitarists and “mandolinists”, as they were labeled in the French press to bandurria and lute players. In April, they dance in the Ambassadeurs Theatre, café-chantant in the Champs Elysees and, throughout the month of August, in the Paris Alcazar d’Eté.

Miralles might have met Amparo Aguilera at that time, but it seems more probable that they had met in any other European main town in the years after. By 1911, Miralles and Aguilera were a couple. Postcards from the latter to the former provide some information about Aguilera’s tour in Europe. During the Fall of this year, Aguilera had sent several postcards announcing his stay in Hamburg and Copenhagen Tivoli theatre. In December, Aguilera sent from London two postcards to Miralles, who was then in St. Petersburgh. The first one mentions her in the London Palladium Theatre. In the second one, Amparo Aguilera writes:

(…) I received your two postcards at last. I am very happy you are well and that your stay had been extended two more weeks for going to Moscow. Our stay has been extended two more weeks, and we are performing tomorrow in the Grand Palace, a beautiful theatre. Then, we are going to Grand Cirque Varietes in Belgium

December 29, 1911.

But British press does not mention Aguilera sisters either in The Palladium or The Palace. It is possible that they were members of the ballet corps of a Russian company headed by dancers Vallya Ladowska and M. Pavie performing in the latter theater by the time Aguilera’s first mentioned postcard was sent. A newspaper emphasizes one of its main artists: “Amid all the Russian and Oriental dances, it is interesting to find Mme. Ula Api at the Palladium dancing with distinct individuality, and yet in a way which strongly recalls the flamenco dances of the gypsies in the Seville district of Spain (Northern Whig, December 12, 1911). A day after Aguilera’s second postcard was sent, news of the Palace Theater, where actress Vesta Tilley is the performing star, simply don’t match with a show of Spanish touch; nor with any other bills in the London theaters. Only by the end of January a Carmen ballet is presented at the Alhambra Theatre, where María la Bella and La Malagueñita starred the Spanish section of the company (The Stage, January 25, 1912).

The Aguilera sisters from Seville were also the dancers appearing in a 1896 British film, shot by Henry W. Short in Lisbon for the Robert W. Paul’s animatograph and titled Andalusian Dance (Paul 2007). In October 2, 1896, the Lisbon newspaper O Seculo published a notice including the following information: "Estreia do 3º quadro da série de quadros portugueses… As Irmãs Margarida e Amparo bailarinas do Real Coliseu, no baile andaluz “As Sevilhanas”… tirado no dia 16 de setembro." (Ferreira 1986, 64).

Although, unfortunately, their faces cannot be discerned clearly from this brief reel, one of them is short-haired, manly dressed and dances with a white hat on. This look matches with that of the hand-clapper woman seated between the guitarist (Eduardo Salmerón) and the hand-clapper placed in the far right of the image (perhaps a dancer called Santos). With regards to Santos, nothing can be stated for sure since the Lumiére’s motion picture does not frame him properly. In a postcard sent by Emerita Arriaza to Francisco Miralles from Rostov (Russia) in 1902, the former writes: “Dear friend Miralles: Today, I have received a postcard from my dad telling me that Santos, the dancer who performed with me in La Feria hanged himself because he could not maintain his wife and daughter. He was ill, maybe from his legs”. However, as we have mentioned in the section devoted to Eduardo Salmerón, a dancer after the name “Santos” performed in the Le Figaro’s hotel in 1906.

It is also possible that the woman seated between the Mulato Meric and Eduardo Salmerón is the other Aguilera sister, who shows some resemblance with the other female dancer in Robert W. Paul’s motion picture. But, in the absence of images of all these dancers, nothing can be said beyond mere speculation.


In this article I have aimed to identify the main artists who performed the flamenco and bolero school dance numbers appearing in the Lumiere`s films of the 1900 Paris Exhibition. Evidence of the presence of El Negro Meri, Eduardo Salmerón, Anita Reguera, Virgilio Arriaza and José Fernández seems conclusive. Other members of the cast who performed in La Feria restaurant, like one of the Aguilera sisters may match for the woman seated in the right side of Danse espagnole de La Feria Sevillanos [Cuadro flamenco]. The woman seated between El Negro Meri and Eduardo Salmeron might be either one of the Aguilera sisters, or one the Peña sister, or even La Carito (for whom I have not found any image), since photographs and illustrations of the rest of the female dancers performing in La Feria (Mariquita Martínez, María la Bonita and Emerita Arriaza) don’t match with the woman who appears in this motion picture. Finally, dancer Santos might be the hand-clapper seated in the far right of the image. However, all of the latter can only be pointed out by weak circumstantial evidence.

Now I have definitively identified at least some of the artists who performed Spanish dances before the Lumières’ camera in 1900. But, does it really matter? What can we learn from this research, beyond the recognition of some members of these motion pictures’ cast? In my view, three significant conclusions can be extracted from these identifications.

First, the most influential books dealing with turn-of-the century flamenco history, beginning with the ones by Guillermo Núñez de Prado (1904) and Fernando de Triana (1935), don’t mention a large number of flamenco artists who made their living abroad and helped to construct an image of this music and dance for a foreign audience. It is obvious that these artists had a close contact with other modern styles and traditions of dance in Europe. So, the history of flamenco and bolero school of the time must be rewritten in this light.

Second, the presence of a Cuban black man as a representation of Spain and Spanishness in a World Exhibition is extremely significant, especially in the context of the loss of Spain’s last colonies overseas in 1898. And also it highlights the complete erasure from the history of flamenco of the participation of black artists, and Afro-American culture as a whole, in the development of this art.

And last, despite the overwhelming presence of female dancers as a landmark in any flamenco Parisian venue at that time, this research reveals that it has been easier to identify the male artists appearing in the Lumiere’s films. Although Anita Reguera plays a starring shared role in both movies, male artists outnumber the former (Fernández as the director of a male estudiantina and hand clapper; Salmerón as a sole guitarist; El Mulato Meri and Virgilio Arriaza as starring dancers). So, the history of both flamenco and the bolero school requires further research to unearth the forgotten women who captivated with their talent the foreign stage’s audiences.


I am most grateful to K. Meira Goldberg for reviewing the English in this article, for her comments on Jose Otero’s treatise and for providing me with the Dance Magazine issue and some digital copies of newspapers dealing with Virgilio Arriaza’s performances in the USA.

I am most grateful to Rosario Rodríguez Llorens for providing me with the original transcriptions of Eduardo Ranch Fuster and digital copies of postcards sent by Amparo Aguilera and Emerita Arriaza to Vicente Miralles.

I am most grateful to Jean-Claude Seguin for his trust and support, and for provinding me with significant information about the Aguilera sisters' appearance in the 1896 Henry W. Short movie.

I am most grateful to José Manuel Mora for helping me with the translations of French newspaper's notices.

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