A story of long ago…………..
The episode at La Golondrina so many years ago had numerous repercussions following my impromptu performance for La Argentinita and her Spanish Ensemble.
On that first night when I danced for the special guests, Antonio Triana was among them. I had seen him perform in their concert. He was a great personality and a marvelous foil for the two sisters, La Argentinita and Pilar Lopez.
On the second evening when they came again to the Café to have dinner and see my dances, Triana approached me to say how much “he liked me” I was flattered and surprised by his attention. Later he spoke to my parents and me about himself as the real “star” of the troupe and made comments about the difference in age between himself and Argentinita inplying that he was about twenty years younger.
He was good looking with obvious charm. Although short in stature with a high pitched voice, he was undeniably charismatic.
Some weeks passed and I received a letter from Mr. Triana. The tone of his writing indicated a strong interest in my dancing. The troupe was still on tour during this correspondence. I answered and received a reply. A number of letters passed between us. A large collection of this correspondence remains in my archives today. An interesting history!
Finally he broached the subject of an engagement in Mexico City where he planned to present me as a Spanish dance discovery and become his partner. After much discussion, it was decided that the offer was too good to refuse. In letters that followed, a contract for an engagement at a night club and a train ticket sealed the arrangement. In May of 1940 my mother and I took the train to Mexico City.
Madame de Bonzo and her entire staff staged a going away celebration to send me off with their blessings. They escorted me out of the Café singing together La Golondrina (the swallow) to underline the dramatic aspect of my leaving to become a star!
We were greeted at the train station in Mexico City by Triana himself and a young man who evidently wasa friend of his carrying a large bouquet of red carnations for me. We were taken in a taxi to the Regis Hotel in the heart of the City. Triana seemed very excited and he sometimes spoke in Spanish as well as fluent English.
His personality was as sparkling in real life as on the stage and it was impossible not to be drawn to him. As the days went by, we visited a studio where he conducted classes. While I was there, he actually instructed me in two of his dances, one the Intermezzo from the Opera Goyescas by Granados, and another flamenco inspired piano number titled Claveles Rojos. This composition was the work of Triana’s brother, Manuel Garcia- Matos whom I met while in Mexico. I was able to learn these dances quickly.
At this same time, my old contact with Janet Riesenfeld ( Raquel Rojas)was renewed as she lived and worked in Mexico. We did visit her and she seemed enthusiastic about my developing partnership with Triana. Raguel and Tarriba, her dance partner were taking classes with him at the time.
During this period, I was taken to a dressmaker and outfitted with two gorgeous costumes, one of a Goya inspired gown in mauve velvet and gold lace called a Maja de Goya and another in white lace as a “presentation” costume for any number of “Theater” dances. I also bought two beautiful flamenco dresses from Janet and another lovely gypsy skirt and blouse was included. A visit to a shoemaker was a must to have some special gold pumps to match the Maja de Goya and fitted with metal taps for better sound. My heelwork had not yet developed enough power.
Triana also remarked to me that I was only performing dances of Andalusia and not of the other provinces of Spain. Very true in those times; but my studies so far had not included concentration on regional dances and the all important Escuela Bolera syllabus. Only later, after I studied in Spain was I able to offer a wide variety in Spanish Dance. Today, Flamenco is the only popular form before the public.
Publicity came out in a local publication of my coming debut at Rio Rita, the establishment where I was contracted. My photograph was on the cover and Triana had given me a new name …Ines Montes. Obviously he was setting up a background from which to launch his partnership with me. The town seemed well aware of my presence in the city. At night, many taxi cabs arrived at our hotel to offer rides to the Rio Rita. When I was backstage with my mother, the men in the orchestra and on the staff would pause in their conversations to stare at me. They seemed to associate me as the sweetheart of Triana. Such was the atmosphere in that environment.
Triana also arranged that I have my portrait painted by a well known artist of popular styles, C. Ruano Llopis. I sat for him and he remarked that he had never seen anyone able to hold a pose so long and so still. The painting was titled “The little white gypsy” La Gitanilla Blanca. There seemed no end to Triana’s invention of my identity. All this was mildly amusing to us and yet prophetic in view of my own dreams of becoming a Spanish dancer.
The work at Rio Rita was difficult. The hours scheduled to night life of a cosmopolitan city was physically demanding on me to stay alert most of the night to dance in two shows. For some reason, the performers were all paid in pesos on a nightly basis. I do not know why this was customary.
Despite the scheduling, I was a success. One night someone threw a coat on the floor as I finished my number. The orchestra was composed of musicians who understood the rhythms and feeling in the dances I offered. It was nothing less than an exhilarating experience. Triana himself was extremely pleased with it all and declared I was elegant.
Prior to the opening, we were taken to the Club and I was introduced in the spotlight as if I were an important celebrity. My mother commented to me that I was “a brave little girl”. At the time I did not see it that way, as my courage as a performer in any setting overcame my innate timidity.
During the initial days of our stay, Triana discovered that I was a pianist and my ability to sing some Spanish songs thrilled him.
Barely four days passed when Triana took me to dinner and astonished me by asking me to marry him! My first reaction was tremendous humility that this great dancer was interested in me romantically. My second thought was that although I greatly admired him, I was not really attracted to him because he was so much older than I.
As the weeks past, I grew to feel an affinity for him because of the dance and his obvious ardor for me. Kisses were exchanged and his amorous attentions stirred something in me, which in retrospect could not have been more than an infatuation. We attended a bullfight together and it was an exciting experience. Triana was emotionally stirred by the spectacle.
Janet heard of all this, and at first seemed to condone the idea. She declared I should “give myself to him body and soul”. This seemed to me a much overblown opinion as I was really too young and unsophisticated to be involved in such a relationship.
The situation in our trip to Mexico was complicated by two unforeseen matters that came up. Both of these problems were in fact disturbing and outside of the immediate events at hand.
On our trip by rail, a man engaged my mother in conversation and after some pleasantries realized that my mother did not have proper papers to re-enter the United States as a citizen. My mother appeared foreign; hardly a typical American type and he predicted she would have trouble convincing the authorities at the border that she was indeed a citizen of the States. (She had been born in Russia and brought as a young child with the family to America). Correspondence was begun immediately with my father to arrange documents proving her citizenship by marriage to my father who was native born in New Jersey. U.S.A. This fortunately was done and she was subsequently able to cross the border.
The other matter concerned Triana himself. Apparently he had some questionable aspects in his past which cast doubt on him as a suitor. In all likelihood, not more than rumors or hearsay. This is common in the artistic world.
By this time, I was caught up with mixed feelings for this man and I wavered between regret and exhilaration.
The entire experience gave me an aura and lift to my personality which I did not possess before. My dance skills and talent and innate gifts which were recognized by many who saw me perform were in contrast to my naiveté and lack of sophistication as a woman.
During this period, Triana gave me a diamond ring which I did return before leaving Mexico.
When we left to return to Los Angeles, Triana was at the train station to see us off. The master of ceremonies from the Rio Rita also came to say goodbye. When Triana saw him he was very jealous!
Back in Los Angeles, I found that a great deal of gossip was stirred by my association with Triana. His interest in me as an artist was an impetus which confirmed my potential and he never stinted in his praise for me as a great dancer. While it boosted my confidence, I was torn by my emotional state. This resulted in the decision to marry him, become his partner and cast my future with him.
When we returned to Los Angeles, letters continued about the plans for marriage and our career together. However, my mother had enormous misgivings. She did not consider Triana as a husband for me and persuaded my father to write to him and forbid the union. I was both relieved and saddened by the decision. The two sides of my own character set up a conflict within me and I realized I was too young to handle this.
In view of the events of that trip, I did come away with a rich experience, a credit of having performed in a foreign country, a lovely new theatrical wardrobe, some new dances and a strong desire to make my life work as a Spanish dance artist.
Subsequently, Triana went on to form his own Ballet Company presented by Sol Hurok, the great impresario in those years, and pursued his career. I still received letters from him for some time.
When he saw me dance at Grace Hayes Lodge in Los Angeles some time later, he spoke of me to my mother and said, “there is no one like her”.