French Cancan

Let's travel to the Belle Époque and go to the Moulin Rouge in the last decade of the 19th century where the Cancan was the star dance, Touluse Lautrec painted and other artists sought inspiration by drinking absinthe.

The atmosphere of Montmartre, was a scandal for morality, not only Parisian, also for the end Victorian era, but it gave great artworks and artists at all levels and would elevate the Cancan for years to come.

This dance, apparently, had its origins in the quadrille, a popular dance that was performed as the end of the party in the social dances of the mid-nineteenth century and to which energetic movements and kicks began to be incorporated, first in male improvisations that some attributed to the comic Charles Mazurier, and to which women soon followed.

The debauchery of the Cancan and its high legs that revealed the feminine clothing of the working class of the time that included frilly petticoats, garters and open and "revealing" bloomers as an undergarment, were considered immoral by the strictest sectors, among them the Catholic Church, and they tried to ban the practice and even arrest performers, but not only did they not make it disappear, they also made some women consider it liberating, so the Cancan fever grew even more implicating, in their steps, people of both sexes although, in the end, the female dancers were more successful.

Some of the women lived and danced the process of the Cancan, such as Celeste Mogador, who, in turn, "cleaned up" it a bit so that it was more accepted, something that increased its popularity since the mid-19th century. Others like Louise Weber "la Goulue" (the gourmand) or Jane Avril became famous at the Moulin Rouge at the end of the 19th century thanks to the evolutioned version of the dance that made them rich and, over time, took them away from courtesan life, in the pejorative sense of the word, but that, on occasions, did not prevent them from dying in poverty despite having been great starrs of posters and paintings by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Lautrec or Jules Chéret.

The Cancan, whose name means bustle or scandal, continued to live up to its name and was still considered that, scandalous, an amorality for the "standards" of the strict Victorian society of the late nineteenth century who did not care that its evolution had led to something less "explicit" or that it became professionalized and taught by Nini Pattes en l'Air who was the first to create a school or even that music by renowned composers such as Offenbach's Orphée aux Enferns' "Galop Infernal" was used for the dance, but the Cancan came to stay and stayed.

With the new century, the Cancan was incorporated into the shows of Parisian cabarets, like the Lido that in the 20s already offered choreographed numbers of various dancers, and tours were organized to made the "French Cancan" known abroad with considerable success. The 20th century was a century in which many things happened that left behind the old-fashioned Victorian morality and made it possible for everyone to enjoy such a display of elasticity, talent and "joie de vivre".