Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Risqué Can-Can

When writing The Can-Can Girl and The Mysterious Woman in Pink, I knew I had to draw my readers into the amoral world of the Moulin Rouge. I needed to “paint with words” the ambiance of the dance hall—depicting not only the dancers, but the rowdy men, curious-but-tipsy women, the smell of unwashed bodies, and the musky odor of oil lamps.

The can-can was a raucous dance that reached its height of popularity during the Belle Époque, 1900 Paris. Parisian cabarets promoted it and Jane Avril and La Goulue popularized the dance in the night clubs of Montmartre. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec depicted it in his famous painting, "At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance." And, Jacques Offenbach left us with the memorable tune.  

What made the dance so tempting? Why did aristocrats and the growing French middle class make their way to the Montmartre in what must have been a steady stream of horsedrawn carriages from the center of Paris? They came to the famous cabaret district with the express purpose of witnessing the flamboyant and naughty dancers. 
Here is a scene in the novella, when the protagonist (Adrienne, a time traveler) first arrives at the Moulin Rouge. 

 'People danced all around her, in clusters. Some fell—obviously tipsy. Companions pulled them upright and began dancing again, kicking up heels and stumbling, determined to conquer the new dance.   

Instructor, Valentin the Boneless, bowed to the can-can dancer in the orange dress and bright red stockings. The end of her lesson? The young woman moved aside as he motioned to the next in line, a teenager in a bright green skirt framed by an abundance of white petticoats. 

This can’t be, Adrienne cautioned herself, staggering backwards. Impossible. She’d traveled back in time over a hundred years! 

The red-stockinged can-can dancer grabbed Adrienne’s arm. Attention,” she said. “You mustn’t upset Monsieur Toulouse-Lautrec. He’s busy sketching.” Adrienne turned around. The artist sat at a small round table just behind her.

 “Oh, my,” she said pressing her hand to her throat. “E-Excuze-moi.” 

Lautrec glanced up, mumbled something about her poor French, and returned to his drawings...'

The Can-Can Girl and the Mysterious Woman in Pink is available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback. 
You may also enjoy a YouTube depicting the bawdy life of the Moulin Rouge:

The Moulin Rouge: Life among the can-can dancers From the Novella: The Can-Can Girl and the Mysterious Woman in Pink  Blog Post by Pamela B. Eglinski



Charles Gramlich said...

I've heard of the can can before but never really knew exactly what it was. Cool.

Linda Thorne said...

Thanks for bringing up the history of Can-Can girls again. My, I haven't heard the word in ages and it was a big thing back when I was younger, and for a long period of time. As kids my sister and I (and our neighbors) tried doing the Can-Can dance. There were lots of those old black and white movies on tiny TV screens with Can-Can girls. I think we discussed this in high school history too. It might be to your advantage that you're bringing up an interesting subject and era when talk of it seems to have gone into hibernation.

Liane Spicer said...

Pleasant reminder of those can-can movies I saw years ago. What an interesting time in which to set a story!