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On the 6th of October in 1889, the MOULIN ROUGE opened its doors and welcomed for the first time on stage some young girls, who performed a very different dance from the others: the Quadrille. Revolutionary movements, screams, boisterous rhythms…frills and flowing skirts were lifted to show the young dancers’ legs and reveal their panties!
Most of the time, the dancers were “amateurs,” who by day were mainly washerwomen, linen maids, laundresses, and seamstresses who transformed themselves into Quadrille dancers at night. This new dance was a success and immediately attracted the crowds: middle-class people, princes, artists, writers…they all came for a little fun!
Two years later, the Quadrille was still fashionable and spread abroad to the other side of the Channel. A British subject named Charles Morton decided to change the name of the dance and call it “French Cancan” – a funny dance that makes a lot of noise and comes from France!
Many lady dancers with suggestive names became famous: Toulouse-Lautrec’s muse, la Goulue (the glutton); Nini Pattes-en-l’Air (a leg-over); Grille d’Egout (drain cover); la Môme Fromage (kid cheese)…
Today, some 120 years after its first steps were made, the French Cancan is still presented every night on the Moulin Rouge stage, and has been in every show since then. And dancing the French Cancan is not possible for everyone! This dance requires specific qualities, both artistic and physical. A training period of five weeks is necessary for every new girl, and the rehearsals are very frequent.
The Moulin Rouge’s French Cancan is famous and acclaimed worldwide. Be it for the Cannes Festival, Hollywood, or even Hong Kong, the Carnival of Rio, Sydney, the troupe of Cancan dancers never hesitates to cross frontiers to represent the Moulin Rouge and Paris. The one and only original French Cancan is, and will always be, the one performed at the Moulin Rouge.