The Radium Dance
The "Radium Dance" was written by Jean Schwartz for the Broadway musical "Piff, Paff, Pouf." For what it is worth, not very much, pouf was occasionally spelt with a double "f."
The items in the collection pictured here include the sheet music, a perforated metal polyphone disk (a polyphone is akin to a large music box), and a phonograph record.
The entire score can be viewed at http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sheetmusic/a/a56/a5676/a5676-3-150dpi.html
Even better, thanks to the recording kindly provided by Karl Ellison, you can now actually hear the Radium Dance! Click here to do so. According to Karl, who plays the piece, this is an "enhanced version" of the score.
The record (10 inch diameter) was produced by the Victor Talking
Machine Company of Camden New Jersey. It seems to have been recorded October 12, 1905 in Philadelphia with Walter Rogers conducting the Victor Orchestra (Discography of American Historical Recordings).
The music sheet cover to the right shows five costumed figures twirling or jumping a rope and glowing in the dark as they do it. This item likely dates from 1904 or 1905.
The Original Radium Dance
The original "Radium Dance," a creation of the American Loie Fuller, made its debut in Paris. The earliest reference to it that I have found was a short note in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (February 10, 1904):
More details concerning Fuller's dance were provided in the Buffalo Commercial (March 14, 1904):
This would have been the original "Radium Dance."
Various videos on the web employ the title "Radium Dance," but none of these attempt to recreate the original. However, what is worth seeking out is the original footage of Loie Fuller - this probably gives some idea of what the original dance would have looked like.
The Radium Dance on Tour
Other than the fact that they all employed some sort of glow-in-the-dark effect, I wouldn't expect that the various versions of the "Radium Dance" performed in the United States (including that in Piff, Paff, Pouf) were very similar to Fuller's original version. However, the following statement in the April 6, 1904 issue of the St. Louis Republic vaguely suggests that she might have had some creative input:
The "Pike" was an entertainment section of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Note that this version of the Radium Dance doesn't seem to be connected to the Jean Schwartz composition in Piff, Paff, Pouf.
By May, the "Radium Dance" was being performed in New Orleans and Atlanta by the "Dixie Troubadours, including Eight English Girls." At the same time, it was also being performed in London - the May 23, 1904 issue of the Guardian described the dance as follows:
Quoting the Oshkosh Northwestern (July 16, 1904) review of the "The Maid and the Mummy" being performed in Chicago's Garrick Theatre:
Despite the occasional claim that the glow-in-the-dark costumes employed radium (Lionel Laurence, San Francisco Chronicle, May 29, 1904), radium was too scarce and valuable in 1904 to have been employed for such a purpose.
The following descriptions of the glow-in-the-dark costumes come from the June 30, 1904 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The Radium Dance in Piff, Paff, Pouf
Despite the somewhat uncertain nature of the aforementioned radium dances, we have a pretty good understanding of what the one in "Piff, Paff, Pouf" looked like. Some idea can be obtained from the picture on the cover of the music sheet seen towards the top of the page, although the English Pony Ballet that performed the dance consisted of eight, not five, dancers.
From the Evening World News (April 4, 1904):
The following description of the "Radium Dance" in "Piff, Paff, Pouf" comes from a review in the New York Times (April 13, 1904):
After "Piff, Paff, Pouf" ended its run, the same Pony Ballet continued to perform "radium dances" in subsequent productions, e.g., "The Runaways."
Piff, Paff, Pouf, the Musical
"Piff, Paff, Pouf," variously described as "comic opera" or a "musical cocktail," opened April 2, 1904 at the Casino in New York City. The show's creator/writer was Stanislaus Strange, William Jerome wrote the lyrics and Jean Schwartz composed the music.
The show's title refers to three of its leading characters: Lord George Piffle, Macaroni Paffle and Peter Pouffle. The latter was played by Eddie Foy who three months earlier (December 30, 1903) had barely escaped the fire at the Iroquois Theatre by crawling through a sewer. Over 600 people died however.
Although it was not well regarded by many of the critics, the show was popular enough to enjoy an extended run until November 19, 1904. Consider the following reviews:
Copyright 1999, Oak Ridge Associated Universities