Group of nine Société Industrielle de Photographie postcard photographs depicting two black male dancers, one in drag, performing "Le Cake-walk." The dancers are identified by the caption as part of an act called Les Nègres (sometimes also called Les joyeaux nègres) at the Nouveau Cirque, a Parisian circus owned by Joseph Oller (1839–1922), one of the co-founders of Moulin Rouge. Cards numbered lower-left corner, series no. 144, 1-9. Some light edge wear, else very fine, approx. 3.5 x 5.5 inches (9 x 14 cm.).
The Cakewalk became a popular stage act for expert dancers as well as a craze in fashionable ballrooms at the turn of the twentieth century. Couples formed a square with the men on the inside and, stepping high to a lively tune, strutted around the square. The couples were eliminated one by one by several judges, who considered the elegant bearing of the men, the grace of the women, and the creativity of the dancers; the last remaining pair was presented with a highly decorated cake. The cakewalk originated among enslaved Black Americans who, often in the company of their captors, used the dance as a subtle satire on the elegance of white ballroom dances. It contributed to the evolution of later American and European dances based on jazz culture, rhythms, and that musical influence on the growth of ragtime. (Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Volume 1, p. 175)