History of Carioca Dance History of Carioca Dance

The Carioca is a 1933 popular song with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Edward Eliscu and Gus Kahn, as well as the name of the dance choreographed to it for the 1933 film Flying Down to Rio. It was sung in the film by Alice Gentle, Movita Castaneda and Etta Moten and danced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as part of an extended production dance number illustrating the ballroom dance.

The dance, which was choreographed by the film's dance director, Dave Gould, assisted by Hermes Pan, was based on an earlier stage dance with the same name by Fanchon and Marco.

The word "Carioca" refers to inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro.

Astaire and Roger's short dance has historical significance, as it was their first screen dance together. Though billed fourth and fifth, many felt they stole the film, which became a big hit for RKO. The song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 7th Academy Awards, but lost to an even bigger Astaire and Rogers production number, "The Continental" from The Gay Divorcee (1934), their next film together and their first starring vehicle. They were billed by RKO as "The King and Queen of 'The Carioca.'"

While the song has become a jazz standard, the dance did not have longevity. Following the success of Flying Down to Rio, an attempt was made to propagate it as a new ballroom dance, without much success. It was a mixture of Samba, Maxixe, Foxtrot and Rumba. The distinctive feature of the dance - at least as portrayed in the movie - was that it was to be danced with the partners' foreheads touching.

Notable recordings
Max Steiner and the RKO Orchestra (1933) - one of the earliest recordings issued directly from the soundtrack
Artie Shaw and His Orchestra (1939)
Jack Jones - Shall We Dance (1961)
Mel Tormé - Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dektette - In Concert Tokyo (1988)
Caetano Veloso - A Foreign Sound (2004)
Johnny Dankworth - Too Cool For The Blues (2010)

In popular culture
The credits of The Kentucky Fried Movie feature a comic version of the song recorded by Jo Stafford and her husband, Paul Weston, under the names Jonathan and Darlene Edwards.

A cover of this song was used in the French comedy film La Cité de la peur, in which a French translation of the song was interpreted by actors Alain Chabat and Gérard Darmon, along with a comic dance. In France, this version is widely known, while most people under age 50 are unaware of the original version.

Mueller, John (1986). Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 0-241-11749-6

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