Moulin Rouge, the 1st cabaret to produce French can-can

The cabaret’s red stylised windmill Moulin Rouge has become one of the iconic images of Montmartre.

Moulin Rouge in 1900
Moulin Rouge in 1900

Joseph Oller founded the Moulin Rouge in 1889 and enjoyed immediate success. 

Le Tout Paris indeed flocked to dance the famous quadrille that the Englishman Charles Morton soon called French Cancan.

The first strip-teasers, French Can-Can and semi nude dancers appeared on stage in 1893 and earned the Moulin Rouge its worldwide reputation.

Their legendary names are forever attached to the cabaret’s history; La Goulue, la Môme Fromage or Nini Pattes en l’air… Toulouse-Lautrec immortalised them in his many drawings and paintings.

The high-minded society of the time obviously condemned French Cancan, as they judged the dance provocative, vulgar and sometimes obscene.

However, this didn’t deter the Moulin Rouge to be one of the most popular entertainment halls of Paris throughout the decades!

The Doris Girls

That said, the shows evolved over time. 

Moulin Rouge today
Moulin Rouge today

Vulgarity has therefore given way to eroticism, a style that appeals to a wider public.

Doris Haug founded the iconic dance troupe, Doris Girls, in 1957.

The 60 dancers come from 14 different nationalities and selection is harsh.

They must all be graduates of classical dance and be at least 1.75 m.

The 20 Doris Boys, who dance with them on stage, must be at least 1.85 m.

Moulin Rouge shows

The Moulin Rouge produces also a dozen artists such as acrobats and jugglers.

Moulin Rouge today
Moulin Rouge today

Over the decades, many artists such as Mistinguett, Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, Yves Montand, Liza Minelli, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra performed on stage for gala evenings. 

La Toya Jackson even performed there briefly in the 1990s.

The Moulin Rouge today entertains 600,000 spectators per year. Half are foreigners, mainly Chinese, Russians and Americans.

The cabaret boasts a fill rate of 97% every night of the year and employs about 450 people.

The building was updated through the decades, but has retained most of its Belle Epoque decoration.

Boulevard de Clichy

The Moulin Rouge is located on Boulevard de Clichy.

In the early 1900s, Montmartre split into two districts to accommodate its ever-increasing population.

Moulin Rouge today
Moulin Rouge today

The old village, on the hill and around the Place du Tertre, retained its rusticity until WWI.

A new community settled down-hill, on Place de Clichy, Place Blanche, Place Pigalle and Boulevards de Clichy and Rochechouart. 

These squares indeed replaced the toll-gates or barrières of the Mur des Fermiers Généraux, a fiscal wall that was pulled down at the French Revolution.

Countless open-air cafes, music halls, popular ball-rooms, theatres, cabarets, inns and restaurants indeed opened in their vicinity in the late 18th century.

Place de la Barrière Blanche was renamed Place Blanche in 1864. 

This unattractive square, however, comes to life at night time, once the lights are on and the crowds start appearing on the boulevards.

A district to discover at night!

Directions: 18th district – no82 Boulevard de Clichy on Place Blanche
Metro: Blanche on Line 2
Coordinates: Lat 48.884069 – Long 2.332224

Discover more on Montmartre

Montmartre Village Place du TertrePetit Cimetiere du CalvaireSaint-Pierre-de-Montmartre ChurchSaint-Jean-de-Montmartre ChurchSacre-Coeur BasilicaMontmartre Abbey Sanctum Martyrium CryptMontmartre Montmartre Cemetery Saint-Vincent CemeteryLe Passe Muraille sculptureMur des Je t’AimeAbbesses Art Nouveau Metro station – Bateau LavoirMontmartre grape harvest festival

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: Cabaret in 1900

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