I had heard of the “Apache dance”, but didn’t know much about it, until I ran across this youtube video:
It’s a humorous setting for a dance that isn’t meant to be funny. But the acrobatic moves do give it a circus-like quality. I saw some other versions on youtube that were done by professionals, but with less energy. It’s interesting that the rougher they are with each other, the better it is.
Apache is a highly dramatic dance associated in popular culture with Parisian street culture in the beginning of the 20th century. The name of the dance (pronounced ah-PAHSH, not uh-PATCH-ee, like the English pronunciation of the Native American tribe) is taken from a Parisian street gang, which in turn was named for the American Indian tribe due to the perceived savagery of the hoodlums. The term came to be used more generally to refer to certain vicious elements of the Paris underworld at the beginning of the 20th century.
The dance is sometimes said to reenact a violent “discussion” between a pimp and a prostitute. It includes mock slaps and punches, the man picking up and throwing the woman to the ground, or lifting and carrying her while she struggles or feigns unconsciousness. Thus, the dance shares many features with the theatrical discipline of stage combat. In some examples, the woman may fight back.
There are quite a few versions on youtube. This next one has a great twist; Jimmy Durante in drag playing the woman’s part. (clearly, the long shots have a stand-in)
Buster Keaton also played the female part in this example.
Here is yet another twist, with the roles reversed, and the woman is beating up the man, in this case, the clownish Ben Blue.
Disney included a Danse Apache in the 1937 Silly Symphony Woodland Cafe.
This example from Popeye is not really an Apache, but the way Bluto mishandles Olive Oyl it could well have been inspired by it.
Here is another one. The dance starts just after a minute, but it’s fun before hand too.
Finally, this is a very serious version of the Apache, and from 1910, I assume it is as authentic as we can see.