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06.10.2019 Europe

Life's a ball as Moulin Rouge marks 130 years of razzle dazzle

Pierre René-Worms
LISTEN OCT 6, 2019
Pierre René-Worms

Paris's renowned Moulin Rouge cabaret – famous for its screeching, high-kicking cancan dancers – is celebrating 130 years of splashy costumes, nudity and jaw-dropping entertainment.

The Moulin Rouge – a venue expressly dedicated to entertainment – first opened its doors on 10 October, 1889. It was located at the bottom of a hill in the fashionable but rural Montmartre neighbourhood.

To begin with, famous dancers performed at champagne-filled parties, attracting the renowned artists of the day. Later, it underwent several transformations: from cabaret to theatre, and from cinema to music-hall.

These days, the Moulin Rouge's neon red sails have come to symbolise the more risqué side of the Belle Époque.

It's the heartbeat of Montmartre, now a bustling red-light district, hosting an impressive 600,000 people who turn out each year to watch the show and swill a quarter of a million bottles of champagne.

Each night, 1,000 ostrich-feathered, sequined and rhinestone-encrusted costumes are required – all of them made in workshops that have been supplying the Moulin Rouge for decades – and each of the 60 cabaret performers is required to make up to 15 costume changes per show.

As the years pass, and critics argue the show has fallen out of touch with modern times, people from around the world still flock to watch the topless dancers kick, twist and dance their way through the two-hour extravaganza.

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