for Red Windmill
) is a cabaret
built in 1889 (the same year as the Eiffel Tower) by Josep Oller
, who also owned the Paris Olympia
. Close to Montmartre
in the Paris red-light district
on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement
, it is marked by the facsimile of a red windmill
on its roof.
The Moulin Rouge is a tourist destination, offering musical dance entertainment for adult visitors from 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 La Goulue, Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, Yvette Guilbert, Jane Avril, Mistinguett, Le Pétomane, Édith Piaf and others. The Moulin Rouge is also the subject of paintings by post-impressionist painter Toulouse-Lautrec.
"Moulin Rouge" is the title of a book by Pierre La Mure, which was adapted as a 1952 film called Moulin Rouge, starring Jose Ferrer and Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Several other films have had the same title, including 2001's Moulin Rouge!, starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. Both the 1952 and 2001 films were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Can-can at the Moulin Rouge
The main feature of an evening at the Moulin Rouge is the performance. The Moulin Rouge is famous internationally as the 'spiritual home' of the traditional French can-can, which is still performed there today. The can-can had 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. It was usually performed individually, with the courtesan moving in an increasingly energetic and provocative way in an attempt to seduce a potential client. It was very common for them to lift their skirts and reveal their legs, underwear and occasionally the genitals. As time progressed the can-cans seen at the Moulin Rouge became more and more 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 skill – were introduced to entertain the guests. The can-can that we recognise today comes directly from this period and, as the vulgarity of the dance lessened, it became renowned for its athletic and acrobatic tricks.
The Moulin Rouge lost much of its former reputation as a 'high-class brothel' and it would soon become fashionable for French society to visit and see the spectacular cabarets, which have included a can-can ever since. The dance is recognisable for the long skirts with heavily frilled undergarments that the dancers wear, high kicks, hops in a circle whilst holding the other leg in the air, splits, cartwheels and other acrobatic tricks, normally accompanied by squeals and shrieks. As the dance became more respectable it became less and less crude, but the choreography is always intended to be a little risqué at times, somewhat provocative and 'a little naughty'.
Today the can-can performed at the Moulin Rouge has iconic status in dance throughout the world.
wrote in his 1906 letter to Alexander Blok
about the 'Tavern of Hell' at Moulin Rouge, where lackeys were dressed as devils:
- Sometimes I would venture from my sepulchre to the jazz of night Paris, where having gathered the colours, I would think them over in front of the fire. I could be seen walking through a funeral corridor of my house and descending down a black spiral of steep stairs; rushing underground to Montmartre, all impatience to see the fiery rubies of the Moulin Rouge cross. I wandered thereabouts, then bought a ticket to watch frenzied delirium of feathers, vulgar painted lips, and eyelashes of black and blue.
- Naked feet, and thighs, and arms, and breasts were being flung on me from bloody-red foam of translucent clothes. The tuxedoed goatees and crooked noses in white vests and toppers would line the hall, with their hands posed on canes. Then I found myself in a pub, where the liqueurs were served on a coffin (not a table) by the nickering devil: "Drink it, you wretched!" Having drunk, I returned under the black sky split by the flaming vanes, which the radiant needles of my eyelashes cross-hatched. In front of my nose a stream of bowler hats and black veils was still pulsing, foamy with bluish green and warm orange of feathers worn by the night beauties: to me they were all one, as I had to narrow my eyes for insupportable radiance of electric lamps, whose hectic fires would be dancing beneath my nervous eyelids for many a night to come.
The 'People's Almanac' credited the origin of striptease as we know it to an act in 1890s Paris
in which a woman slowly removed her clothes in a vain search for a flea
crawling on her body. At this time Parisian shows such as the Moulin Rouge
and Folies Bergère
pioneered semi-nude dancing and tableaux vivants
. One landmark was the appearance at the Moulin Rouge in 1907 of an actress called Germaine Aymos
who entered dressed only in three very small shells.
In film and television
On 1 July 1 1962 the Ed Sullivan Show
was taped at the Moulin Rouge and featured American singer Connie Francis
and French rock singer Johnny Hallyday
Six movies have been made with the title 'Moulin Rouge':
There has also been:
- 'A Night at the Moulin Rouge', a 1951 film (also circulated under the title 'Ding Dong!') of burlesque acts of the Moulin Rouge club in Oakland, California.
- The Moulin Rouge can be seen in the PlayStation game 'Medal of Honor: Underground'.
- The music video for Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil' Kim and Mýa's Lady Marmalade was set at the Moulin Rouge.
- In the movie Anastasia (1997 film), during the song "Paris holds the key" , the character went to the Moulin Rouge to watch a can can performance.
- In the Bollywood movie Parineeta (2005 film), the Moulin Rouge was mentioned when in a card game, if one team won then everyone would go to the Moulin Rouge. A scene was also shot in the Moulin Rouge, where Rekha does a cameo to the song Kaisi Paheli Zindgani.
- The film 'Rush Hour 3' features the Moulin Rouge, in which there is a fight scene.