The 2 most fashionable houses in Paris were the Folies Bergeres and the Moulin Rouge, respectively founded in 1869 and 1889.
The cancan is a dance in quick 2/4 time that evolved in Paris between the 1830s and 1890s. It first appeared (as 'le chahut') in the working-class ballrooms of Montparnasse; it was part of the quadrille, a participatory dance for couples, who then indulged in high kicks and other antics. It gradually became a performance dance. A few men were cancan stars in the 1840-60s, but women performers were better known. They were mostly middle-ranking courtesans, and only semiprofessional entertainers. This PC shows 'La Belle Otero,' a famous dancer and courtesan at the Folies Bergeres, dressed like a princess. Among her conquests was Albert Edward Prince of Wales; he was a regular in the Parisian red light district, and at one point rented a suite in 'Le Chabanais,' a well-known brothel in Montmartre.
The cancan at the turn of the century was practically synonymous with the Moulin Rouge; this PC (1908) shows Mariette, one of its dancers. There, in the 1890s, highly paid professionals such as 'La Goulue' (Louise Weber) till 1885, then Jane Avril, developed and perfected the various moves: the high kick or 'battement,' the 'rond de jambe' (quick rotary movement of lower leg with knee raised and skirt held up), the 'port d'armes' (turning on one leg, while grasping the other leg by the ankle and holding it almost vertical), the cartwheel, and the 'grand écart' (the flying or jump splits). In the 1920s, the cancan became (in England and the USA first) a highly choreographed line dance, that went back to Paris as the 'French Cancan.'
'Heaven' and 'Hell' in Paris are 2 adjacent cabarets, 'Le Ciel' and 'L'Enfer' on the boulevard de Clichy in Montmartre (18e). The entrance was through 2 monumental sculpted doors, the one of 'L'Enfer' being a huge open mouth. Heaven featured harp music, a priestly master of ceremonies, and an angel who sprinkled the audience with holy water; the show was a series of tableaux vivants depicting the pleasures of paradise. L'Enfer, together with the Cabaret du Neant, presented a glimpse of hell and specialized in fantasmagoria and ghost shows.
A mortuary formula was also used in the Cabaret du Neant (34 Boulevard de Clichy), founded by Dorville in 1892. This PC shows the 'intoxication room' (drinking room) with mortuary candles, skeleton chandeliers, and tables shaped like coffins.
Mephistopheles among the perfomers at the Hell cabaret.
Vive le vampire!
Bravo! Parleyvoo!" (U15.3891)
La Belle Otero (v.s.) in one of her acts as a nun. "Ho, là là! Ce pif qu'il a!" evokes singer and cabaret owner Aristide Bruant; when "bourgeois" entered his working-class cabaret, he would insult them with similar quips.
(With head back, laughs loudly, clapping himself grimacing.) Great success of laughing. Angels much prostitutes like and holy apostles big damn ruffians." (U15.3899)
(Clapping her belly sinks back on the sofa, with a shout of laughter.) An omelette on the... Ho! ho! ho! ho! ...omelette on the...
(mincingly) I love you, sir darling. Speak you englishman tongue for double entente cordiale. O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. Watercloset. (he ceases suddenly and holds up a forefinger)
(laughing) Encore! Encore!" (U15.3909)
Mark me. I dreamt of a watermelon.
Go abroad and love a foreign lady.
Across the world for a wife.
Dreams goes by contraries." (U15.3921)
(Extends his arms.) It was here. Street of harlots. In Serpentine avenue Beelzebub showed me her, a fubsy widow. Where's the red carpet spread?
(Approaching Stephen.) Look...
No, I flew. My foes beneath me. And ever shall be. World without end. (He cries.) Pater! Free!" (U15.3929)