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Shanghai Paramount and Shanghai People’s Dancing Life

 
 
Nowadays, when we mention Shanghai, many of us will recall skyscrapers in the heart of her as well as her internationalization and modernization. But surely, there is still a place which full of old Shanghai’s flavor: dance girls wearing cheongsams, gentlemen keeping all hair back, jazz music circling in the air, rhyme of Ben-cha-cha through time machine. All these describes a nostalgic and quite modern entertainment thoroughfare---- Shanghai Paramount.
 
Paramount's    Profile                                        
Pinyin: Bǎilèmén(百乐门)
Literal meaning: A gate   of 100 pleasures         
Build in: 1932
Open to the public : 1933
Style:Art Deco
Honor: the first musical hall in the east
Location: No.218 Yuyuan Road in Jing’an
              Distrct, Shanghai
Function: entertainment
Shanghai Paramount---- the First Nightclub in China

In 1929, with the close of Dahua Restaurant with a ballroom, Shanghai’s aristocratic area ----Western part of Shanghai lost her adaptive amusement station unfortunately. But this bad situation did not last very long. In 1932, a group of Chinese bankers such as Liancheng Gu, bought a piece of land and invited S. J. Young (杨锡镠) to be the designer of the coming Paramount
As a gifted architecture designer, Young devoted himself to this holy job. Taking the most fashionable American style at that time in the world, Young designed Paramount into three floors. The first floor was a kitchen and storefront, while dancing floors and banquet hall were on the second storey. Crystals, white woods and marbles were main materials for decorations. The biggest dancing floor was more than 500 square meters which were supported by springs. Small dancing floors around were used for beginners learning or dating;  the third floor was a crystal floor with footlights which gave out a strong feeling of dancing on eggs. However, the most interesting and practical design was a huge cylinder tower made of glass and steel. When a customer was ready to leave, a waiter would put his car number or other useful codes on the tower, and drivers or carters would see in a far distance and rush to the gate of Paramount immediately.
In 1933, as the first nightclub in China, having the largest and a notorious ballroom in Shanghai, Paramount was unveiled officially. Bright light, Russian musicians, American jazz, beauties on the stage, popular dance girls on the dancing floors…… all these elements attracted noted public figures to patronize Paramount successfully. Besides entertainment, it was also a meeting place for the wealthy elites of upper class.
 
Dancing Life of Old Shanghai People


Although social dance as well as horse racing, absolutely was a custom of western country, yet, profoundly, it influenced Shanghai people almost 100 years.
In 1858, an English businessman named Henry Smith became the new boss of Richard's Hotel (now Pujiang Hotel).The bund at that time has already been a place full of foreigners. In order to make more friends, Smith moved salon with afternoon tea to his Shanghai hotel from England and later the popular social dance was also brought into the salon. This foreigner’s lifestyle was learnt and taken into the living rooms by some fashionable Shanghai people
In the early 1920’s, many foreign sailors gathered in the pubs near the bund. They danced blues and jitterbug with jazz music night by night. Therefore, in a very short time, the business of ballroom in Shanghai became flourishing. Till 1930’s, the fashion of dancing was extremely popular and spread among Shanghai society. Cooperating with the dance lifestyle, many ballrooms emerged in large numbers here and there. Without any doubts, ballrooms became one important landmark of Shanghai. As for a single foreign man, the way to feel the winningness of Shanghai night was dancing in the charming ballroom.

  300

bustling gate of Shanghai Paramount on TV

famous singers in old Shanghai

Gradually, the following four ballrooms were regarded as the representatives of Shanghai ballroom’s luxury and classic: Paramount, Ciros(仙乐斯), Metropoles(大都会) and Lido Garden(丽都花园). But Paramount was the best. Until today, old Shanghai people are still pleased in talking about Paramount in that segment of history. 

  

old Shanghai's modern girls

Shanghai old color(老克勒) still dancing today

At that time, Shanghai ordinary women were a little conservative that they would not like to dance in the public except these women who have learnt western social etiquettes. But speaking of men, they were called “color(克勒)” because they caught up every step of the fashion. So, in the ballroom, “color group” occupied more space. In order to make sure most of“ colors ” could have a dance partner, dancing girl emerged as the times required.Dancing was a must skill for old Shanghai people to squash into the upper class and dancing well or not was also a standard of one’s social identity.

Today, quite many customers of Paramount are old Shanghai people, such as “old colors”(老克勒), former courtesans and previous uptown girls. Even those people who are not live in Shanghai any more, but every time they come to Shanghai, they will go to Paramount for dancing and cherishing the memory of their young days.

 

Paramount and Her Celebrity Guests


Slap-up venue always will fascinate celebrities no matter when and where. Paramount witnessed many celebrities and remembered interesting or romantic stories about some great personages and beauties. 
The engage ceremony of American General Claire Lee Chennault and Chinese Journalist Xiangmei Chen was held here; Chinese first jazz band Jimmy King scored a massive smash with jazz music and Hawaii music in 1947.When Chaplin and his wife attended soldiers’ commemoration in 1936, they asked for dancing in Paramount though they would just stay in Shanghai for one day. In addition, Chinese General of Republic China Xueliang Zhang and romantic poet Zhimo Xu, both of them were frequenters to Paramount.

Paramount created a written permission system in Shanghai’s entertainment industry so some wealthy frequent customers could get their convenience. It is said that Sassoon (the boss of Sassoon Bank) not only was refused to sign but also was insulted by the waiter who did not know him. As a result of this farce, another famous ballroom Ciros(仙乐斯) was opened by Sassoon very soon.

Just like the Moulin Rouge which had prestige in France, attracted brilliant guests like Pierre Auguste Renoir and through his painting brush became very impressive, Paramount shared the same fate and became an image in the Chinese literature.

 

Paramount back to Shanghai


However, this western way of dancing was forbidden and replaced by Soviet dance when People’s Republic of China founded. Shanghai Ballrooms were closed, so was Paramount.In 1954, it was reopened as the Red Capitol Cinema showing Maoist films and a theater. After Cultural Revolution, the building became defunct. 

 

Paramount still as same as 1930's

 Paramount's dancing floor


In 1999, as one of the first group of old excellent architectures needing protection, Paramount was listed into the protection planning of Old Jing’an District. In the September of 2001, Taiwan businessman Shichong Zhao(赵世崇) got the operation right of Paramount. After invested 25 millions for recovering reconstruct, Paramount was back to Shanghai on July 28, 2003. However, in the later years, in order to score more people to be the customers, the second and third floor of Paramount were changed into a Disco particularly for young generations.
As a high-level ballroom, Paramount has already attracted rich people or tourists both from home and abroad from then on. 

 

 

 

 

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