Burlesque Series: Sally Rand’s Fan Dance, 1933

Happy New Year! Or at least, happy soon-to-be New Year, if you happen to be located in a time zone further West than myself. I figured that there was no better way to close out the year on this new blog of mine than with an 85-year-old burlesque performance by noted artist Sally Rand – and so this one should go live automatically just before midnight on New Year’s Eve (since, you know, my wife and I aren’t shut-ins).

This is also a natural stepping block from the post I made last night – on the Century of Progress, Chicago’s 1933 World’s Fair. By many accounts, Rand’s performance of this dance – which got her arrested numerous times, including four times in one day – was the most popular draw at the entire Fair, and the reason it got into the black so quickly. It was not without controversy; even the supposedly-libertine period preceding the Second World War was not without its moral crusaders. But when a Chicago judge ruled that the dance could not be deemed anything other than art, the critics were muted – and the dance went on. The following year, Rand would debut her second-most-famous dance at the 1934 version of the Fair.

As Tru Vue was on hand documenting the World’s Fair, it’s only natural that they made a roll of the Fan Dance – and built a relationship with Rand that would last over a decade. She even appeared in 3D advertising rolls for products, custom-created by the budding stereoscopic company. But here, the photography is rather basic – just the routine, reasonably well-lit, and some considerably better stills at the end.

I’ll delve more into Rand’s history and life when presenting one of her later burlesque series – but hey, it’s New Year’s Day! So grab your sweetie and a bottle of bubbly (or sparkling cider), and enjoy this decadent performance from one of the great mid-century American burlesque performers!

And it’s interesting to note when the master for this particular print was made:

13 years after this performance was captured, it was still selling well enough that, in one month, at least 6 new masters had to be made to create saleable copies! Not bad, Ms. Rand, not bad!


Happy New Year!

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