Paris - Ile De France

Moulin Rouge Cabaret Montmartre - History

This page was updated on: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at: 5:23 pm

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.

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!

Moulin Rouge in 1900

The Doris Girls

That said, the shows evolved over time. 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.

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.

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 Tertre - Petit Cimetiere du Calvaire - Saint-Pierre-de-Montmartre Church - Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre Church - Sacre-Coeur Basilica - Montmartre Abbey Sanctum Martyrium Crypt - Montmartre - Montmartre Cemetery - Saint-Vincent Cemetery - Le Passe Muraille sculpture - Mur des Je t'Aime - Abbesses Art Nouveau Metro stationBateau Lavoir - Montmartre grape harvest festival

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: Cabaret in 1900
Villa Seurat - Maison Quillet at No.8 by Lurçat

May 14 2020

Villa Seurat, a showcase of Modernist architecture

Villa Seurat, a showcase of the Roaring Twenties’ Modernist architecture and a Cité d’Artistes where Arthur Miller wrote Tropic of Cancer
Theatre de La Comedie Italienne in Rue de la Gaite

April 29 2020

Rue de la Gaite in Montparnasse

Rue de la Gaite in Montparnasse district, a street nicknamed Theater St. as it’s been essentially lined with entertainment halls since the 1780s
Pont de la Concorde seen from Rive Gauche

April 14 2020

Pont de la Concorde in Paris

The Pont de la Concorde links Place de la Concorde to the National Assembly and was built at the French Revolution with stones from the Bastille Fortress

March 27 2020

Garde Republicaine, Paris’ emblematic Gendarmerie force

Garde Republicaine, Paris’ emblematic Gendarmerie force renowned for its Calvary regiment, is in charge of the security of the city and the public

Sign up to our newsletter

Travel France Online will use the information you provide on this form to keep in touch with you and to provide updates via our newsletter. By selecting the boxes on the form you confirm your acceptance to receive our newsletter.

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by Contacting Us

We will treat your information with respect. For more information please visit our privacy policy page