The Jiu-Jitsu Waltz (“The Scrap Book”, Vol. 4, 1907)

  • Originally published on the site on Saturday, 31st May 2014
Jujitsu waltz 1


The novelty of the summer in London is the jiu-jitsu dance in which Mlle. Deslys and S. K. Eida are performing in “The New Aladdin.” A glance at the accompanying pictures is sufficient to convince one that it is novel and not quite like any of the dances in which Americans indulge. It is hardly as graceful as a waltz, nor does it require the agility of a “jig.” In seeking a comparison, perhaps the famous Bowery “spiel” is more nearly like it than anything else we have.

Gaby jujitsu waltz

After all, the jiu-jitsu dance is but a demonstration of the unflagging enterprise and initiative of amusement managers. Vaudeville strives to amuse, to appeal to our sense of humor; in a word, to present nonsense that incites the laughter and arouses the good spirit of the audience. Yet, there must be novelty, and the public is ever interested in those feats that involve the risk of the personal safety of the performer.

Jujitsu waltz montage

It matters not how really dangerous the feats may be, how much the pulse of the onlooker hastens, there is always a desire on the part of some to “see it over again.” Folks will talk about these hair-raising stunts, and managers know that there is no better publicity than the gossip that arises from an ever-increasing circle of public interest.

And knowing this, there is hardly an innovation in any field of human effort that is not exaggerated and made to fit the vaudeville stage and presented until public interest lags and the “new” act makes way for something “newer.”

The late Japanese-Russian War aroused great interest in things Japanese; in the home-life of the little yellow man; in his literature, his art, his sports, and his fads. Recall with what interest and lively expectation our athletes and physical-culturists hailed their “jiujitsu” manner of wrestling — that peculiar science in which sleight is a more potent factor than brute force.

Jujitsu waltz

Troupes of Japanese gave exhibitions of their skill upon the vaudeville stage, and no one who witnessed one of their “acts” can fail to remember that it was exceedingly rough, and that the necks of the participants were very often in great danger of being broken, not to mention the reckless manner in which limbs were twisted. Jiu-jitsu was then something novel; there was the spice of danger; the public was interested and the managers’ end was attained.

And now, perhaps because interest has abated, the original jiu-jitsu performance has been converted into a dance. London audiences have received the dance with marked signs of approval. It is exciting throughout, and excitement seems to be what the people want in theatricals these days. At any rate, they are getting it.

Deslys and Eida

Notes: Gaby Deslys and S.K. Eida introduced the Ju-Jitsu Waltz to London audiences during the run of The New Aladdin, a musical extravaganza, which ran at the Gaiety Theatre, London, from 29 September 1906 to 27 April 1907.

S.K Eida was one of three assistant instructors at the Japanese School of Jujitsu in Oxford Street, operated by former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and his fellow challenge wrestler, Taro Miyake.

According to the Footlight Notes blog:

Surye Kichi Eida (1878-1918), who was born in Japan, appears in the 1901 Census as an assistant gardener, living in Acton, West London, with his brother, Saburo Eida (1858-1911), an importer of art, and his family. In 1909 he married Ellen Christina Brown (1886-1931) and together they toured United Kingdom music halls in a Japanese dancing and ju-jitsu act, billed as Nellie Falco and S.K. Eida.

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