George Bernhard Shaw at the Reid’s Palace in Madeira
Irish playwright George Bernhard Shaw landed on Madeira on 30 December 1924. The following February, the New York Times reported that ‘Bernard Shaw, who has been undergoing a sunshine cure in Madeira, has been taking tango lessons, according to Funchal dispatches, and is returning to England in much improved health as a result of this exercise, bathing and excursions. Shaw says, however, he has written more during his stay in Madeira than in any equal period heretofore. He completed a play which will appear shortly.’
Shaw enjoyed bathing in the sea and the lessons of Max Rinder, the dancing instructor of Reid’s Palace Hotel. Upon his departure Shaw handed Rinder an autographed photograph bearing the words: ‘To the only man who taught me anything’. Rinder must have been quite good at promoting himself; after all he made headlines in the New York Times in 1926: ‘Shaw Admits Learning the Tango at Madeira, But Has Neither Time Nor Youth for It Now: “What Mr Rinder says is literally true,” said GBS when questioned today about the statement of Michael Rinder to the effect that he taught the playwright to tango a year ago at Madeira. “He was the only man who taught me anything while I was on a holiday in that land,” Shaw continued. “While I was mastering the step I enjoyed myself tremendously but when I came home I did not carry on with my dancing lessons.
G.B. Shaw jumps into the Atlantic at Reid's Hotel in Madeira. The water has an average temepratur of approx 20°C.
“You see, I had so much to do and a man who desires to write dramatic works and even more serious things has no leisure time to go dancing up and down the country. Beside that, I am no longer so youthful as I was. Time, age, and the need for looking after my own affairs all militate against the tango so far as I am concerned. When I was at Madeira my leave proved somewhat tiresome. I felt that I must add to my accomplishments, however, and since I did not know how to tango I decided to learn it. The tango seemed to me the only modern dance that required either thought or study. You see I must know everything, else I could not write about everything.”’