Profile Image of Arras Guide

The Moulin Rouge in Paris

The Moulin Rouge, which means Red Windmill, is a cabaret or nightclub built in 1889 by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, who also owned the Paris Olympia. It is located on the Boulevard of Clichy, in the 18th arrondissement (18th district) near Montmartre.

The Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe.

Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist destination, offering musical dance and entertainment for adult visitors from all around the world. Much of the romance of turn-of-the-century France is still present in the club’s decor.

Notable performers at the Moulin Rouge have included Ella Fitzgerald, Liza Minelli, La Toya Jackson, Elton John, La Goulue, Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, Yvette Guilbert, Jane Avril, Mistinguett, Le Pétomane and Édith Piaf, just to name a few. The Moulin Rouge is also the subject of paintings by the post-impressionist painter Toulouse-Lautrec.

Can-can at the Moulin Rouge:

The main feature of an evening at the Moulin Rouge is the performance. The venue has become internationally famous as the home of the traditional French can-can, which is still performed there today.

The can-can existed for many years as a respectable, working-class party dance, but it was in the early days of the Moulin Rouge that courtesans first adapted the dance to entertain the male clientele. The dance was usually performed individually, with courtesans moving in an energetic and provocative way in an attempt to seduce potential clients. It was common for them to lift their skirts to reveal their legs, underwear and occasionally the genitals, and as time progressed can-cans seen at the Moulin Rouge became increasingly vulgar and overtly erotic, causing much public outrage.

Later however, with the rising popularity of music hall entertainment in Europe, courtesans were no longer required at the Moulin Rouge and it became a legitimate nightclub. The modern can-can was born as dancers (many of them failed ballet dancers with exceptional skills) were introduced to entertain the guests. The can-can that we recognize today comes directly from this period and, as the vulgarity of the dance lessened, it became renowned for its athletic and acrobatic tricks.

Dancers at the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge lost much of its former reputation as a ‘high-class brothel’ and it soon became fashionable for French society to visit and see the spectacular cabarets, which have included a can-can ever since. The dance is recognizable for the long skirts with heavily frilled undergarments that the dancers wear, high kicks, hops in a circle while holding the other leg in the air, splits, cartwheels and other acrobatic tricks, normally accompanied by squeals and shrieks. While the dance became less crude, the choregraphy has always intended to be a little provocative.

During the German occupation (World War II), the Moulin Rouge was a very appreciated place by the German soliders.

For more information about the city of Paris, click on this link:

No responses yet

Comments are closed at this time.