Successor to the Trots and Hugs

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Successor to the Trots and Hugs is an article published in various American newspapers on 14 july 1912.

The article is about the new dancing fad, the Sherlockinette. A dance patterned after the career of the detective.


Successor to the Trots and Hugs

The Buffalo Sunday Morning News (14 july 1912, p. 8)

The "Sherlockinette," Latest of Parisian Dance Fads, That Is Patterned After the Fabled Career of the Holmes Detective.

In order to keep up its reputation for wickedness, Paris has to furnish the outside world with naughtiness of a mild order. Not that the real Paris is the least wickeder than any other big city. On the contrary, no people are more moderate, temperate and generally clean in their home lives than the middle-class French people, who, naturally, form the bulk of the population.

Nevertheless, it would never do to foster this impression. The average tourist from Podunk, Squeedunk and Posey county, Indiana, wants wicked thrills when he or she goes abroad. If Paris were no wickeder than New York or Chicago, what would be the use of going there? The suitcase and steamer-trunk brigade would have to hunt Vienna, Naples and other cities that are always in a receptive condition toward American coin.

Parisian ingenuity, therefore, is continually inventing flashy naughtiness to export as bait for the eminently respectable travelers who have a wild yearning to part with their good money in a manner most wicked. Various dances have, in late years, served the purpose admirably. The terrible "tango" has almost overshadowed the delightfully shocking "Moulin Rouge" and other music halls. The apache dance was another thriller. Now comes the Sherlockinette, which has been sent to London on trial, and is founded on the career of the Conan Doyle detective. It is supposed to be admirably adapted to the needs of an impecunious gentleman who is desirous of stealing his partner's jewelry.

Theft has been a fashionable topic of conversation in Paris for several months. The auto bandits literally forced it into public attention. Of course, those were the most terrible bandits who ever lived — with the exception of a gang that was broken up recently in New York.

The main difference between the records of the Parisian thieves and the Manhattan desperadoes was that the latter got nabbed quicker. Commissioner Dougherty and his men, with the aid of a daring woman, had virtually the whole gang behind the bars before there was time to plan a second bank robbery. Probably a pitched battle, such as helped the French moving-picture business, was thus averted. The apache dance, which was supposed to be the wickedest thing ever invented, no longer excites horror. It has been done in opera, even, as in "The Jewels of the Madonna," and every one knows that a thing has to be fairly well aged before it can break into opera.

More recently came the terrible "tango," whose dreadful wickedness was enhanced by reason of the fact that it was adapted from the primitive dances of the South American Indians. If it had been done as the Indians do it, even Paris might have been shocked; but, as it is, every one who has seen it has survived without difficulty.

There have been some real shocks, though, caused by our native dances. The turkey trot, the grizzly bear, the bunny hug and their companion pieces of similar nomenclature crawled right out of the gutter. There was never any mistaking their meaning. The dance halls of the Pacific coast gave birth to a good many of them, and they never belied their parents.

Some of these got over to Paris, but not many. The Gaby glide, an imitation, is slightly known in the French capital; so is the Boston. But the latter is the only one that has gained any great vogue.

Still, these catchy names gave the Parisians an idea. Never slow to adopt any plan that promises to snare strange dollars, they straightway saw the attractiveness of freak fashions in the light fantastic.

Result: The Sherlockinette, which is clever enough to attract attention anywhere. As described in London, where it was sent on approval, it consists of four figures, representing the four evolutions of Sherlock Holmes in the four social classes. This sounds well, even if it is a bit indefinite. Usually we are led to believe that there are but three social classes, consisting of froth at the top, dregs at the bottom, with the real thing in the middle.

Be that as it may, the first figure of the Sherlockinette is intended to give the man in the case an opportunity to size up his partner's jewelry. To do this, he takes four steps of a two-step. For visual particulars, see photo No. 1.

Next begins the Sherlockinette proper. The partners stand facing each other, the man's feet at the right of the woman's. This gives Sherlock Holmes an opportunity to complete his inventory and formulate his plans, during which he turns round his victim. Then the two dancers separate, so as to find themselves standing side by side, after which the man turns round his partner, passing under her right arm; next she twines about and around and falls into her partner's arms in a final pirouette. Photos No. 2 and 3 show the beginning and the end of this figure.

The third figure is delightfully knavish. Sherlock Holmes pursues his partner, jumping alternately on the toes of each foot, as indicated by the fourth photo.

After this, the fourth figure comes along with four steps of a two-step and eight steps of a gallop, just like a regular dance.


Another novelty, which, however, lacks the picturesque features of the Sherlockinette, is being boomed by the Parisians for use the coming winter. London didn't take very strongly to the detective steps, but will probably not be able to resist what is called the Louis XV Boston. This is a combination that suggests cucumbers and ice cream; but it is, at least, novel. It combines, in one gavotte, the essential features of the minuet, the sarabande and the Boston.

Whether one or another of these innovations will attain the proportions of a fad, either in England or America, is rather hard to predict — just as hard as it is to take the manuscript of a novel and tell whether it is going to became a "best seller."

"There is no way to determine the fate of these dances," said a prominent dancing instructor of a big eastern city recently, "except to try them. Just what will appeal is not for us to decide, but for the people who dance. What they will like is a mystery to those who teach.

"The last few years have been seasons of fads. Novelties have been the rule, rather than the exception. Formerly one could get along very well with the waltz and the two-step, but it is so no longer. The public is just as keen for innovations in the ballroom as it is for spice and variety in fiction.

"We will take the Sherlockinette, for instance. I don't see much in it, so far as I am personally concerned. But I am a long ways from being the general public.

"In the first place, the Sherlockinette has some of the fascination of a little play. Just as like as not, young people will see a lot of fun in the manner in which the man sizes up his partner's jewelry. It will lead to funny remarks and agreeable conversations.

"In that respect, it has an appeal that no ordinary dance would have. Again, it is pretty, and affords opportunities of fetching poses by the girls. Naturally that feature of it will appeal to them, where it would not to me. So I am sincere in saying that I never pretend to predict the fate of any new dance that is brought out. What seems foolish to one person is funny to another; sometimes the sillier a thing is the better for its popularity.

"One thing I can say, however. and that is that both men and women who want to take up these new ideas in dancing need a general training, instead of a little coaching in the waltz and the two-step. To a person who has been well schooled, these Sherlockinettes and others of their kind are easy to get the hang of. The greater always includes the less, and one who is thoroughly well grounded in the principles of dancing has no trouble whatever in picking up the fad of the moment.

"That is the reason so many society people are taking up stage dancing. The groundwork of all is in the clog and buck-and-wing steps. Once one has mastered those, any others are easy.

"In fact, the dancing of the present day is running to the dramatic. Many of the amateur plays, that are so popular now as benefits for hospitals and charities, include a great deal of dancing. It is pretty, and is always popular, both with the audience and the actors.

"Whether in the ballroom or on the stage, there is no prettier accomplishment than dancing, and if the fads have no other merit, they at least require better and more thorough training, and that is something.

"However, as I said before, when it comes to predicting what dance is going to take, and what isn't, that is altogether beyond me."

Among the novelties for the coming season, in America, may be a revival of some of the old-fashioned steps of which our forefathers were fond. The minuet, for instance, is being taken up by the United Teachers of Dancing, who met recently in Indianapolis. They were inclined to criticise rather harshly the tendencies of the public dance halls, and to return to classic simplicity.

"The idle rich," they declared, were responsible for the decline of the minuet and others of its kind. The tendency of the age is toward speed, and the quaint old measures of the gavottes and minuets, that were so popular about a century ago, are much too subdued for the sensation-loving people of today.

After all, the public will decide. If the pretty minuet makes a hit, we will have it. Otherwise it's the Gaby glide, the Boston, and maybe the Sherlockinette.