Moulin Rouge
Red Mill

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Ever since it opened its doors as a ‘temple of music and dance’ nearly 120 years ago, Moulin Rouge has set the standard for the world’s most famous cabarets.

History of the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge, Paris
Moulin Rouge

In October 1889, Paris was all abuzz concerning the opening of a new music hall. The owners of this new establishment, Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, who had chosen the name Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) for their theatre, gave it the nickname “Le Premier Palais des Femmes” (The Premier Palace of Women) and claimed that Moulin Rouge would soon become “a temple of music and dance”.

Moulin Rouge Poster
Moulin Rouge Poster from 1891 by Toulouse-Lautrec
Moulin Rouge show today
Contemporary advertisement

Moulin Rouge quickly gained a reputation for being the place where men could view young Parisian girls whose unique and amazing dance moves were as flexible as their morals. And though the famous Can-Can dance had been present in working class ballrooms since the 1830s, the early days of the Moulin Rouge cemented its popularity, though during the first few decades that the establishment was open, it was little more than a bawdy dance performed by courtesans to entertain their male clientele. At times, it was downright vulgar, and what went on inside the Moulin Rouge caused much public outrage. During this time period, one of the music hall’s most notable patrons was artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted a number of famous Moulin Rouge scenes.

In later years, the establishment cleaned up its act (so to speak), eventually lost its reputation as a brothel, and became a fashionable music hall known for its extravagant cabaret shows, attracting a high-class clientele.

The Can-Can itself was toned down as well, though even modern patrons will tell you that this signature dance is still a bit naughty. Still, it’s the main reason patrons come to Moulin Rouge, and they always go away entertained by the dancers’ high-kicking moves, cartwheels, splits, and other amazing acrobatic tricks.

Visiting Moulin Rouge

Today, a visit to the Moulin Rouge is still very popular with adult visitors to Paris. You’ll find myriad tourists snapping photos of the huge red windmill that sits on top of the theatre and many visitors make reservations here for a nightly show.

The show features more than one hundred performers decked out in the most extravagant costumes, which include lots of feathers, rhinestones, and sequins. The sets are equally spectacular. But remember, this is adult entertainment, so those with kids should choose a different activity or find a reliable babysitter and enjoy a night out sans children.

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