Moulin Rouge Paris (“Red Windmill“) is the world’s most famous cabaret.
The place was founded by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler in 1889, to the Paris’ red lights district of Pigalle.
In Pigalle, you can find the cabaret entrance from Boulevard de Clichy…and you can’t miss it, with the building having a massive red windmill at the top.
PHOTO: View to Moulin Rouge from Boulevard de Clichy. The cabaret’s neighborhood, Pigalle, has some of the cheapest hotels in Paris…partly because of the arrondissement’s reputation as a “red lights” area.
PHOTO: Nighttime view to the Moulin Rouge entrance. As sun sets for the day, the blades of the windmill start to rotate.
PHOTO: A closeup of the neon-lit windmill on top of Moulin Rouge, as seen from the entrance to the cabaret.
As a place of entertainment, Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of modern can-can.
Originally, can-can was performed by Parisian courtesans, but with time and a new owner (Paul Flers from 1904), the Moulin Rouge can-candeveloped into a much more mainstream version.
To make the cabaret’s shows more mainstream, Flers commissioned architect Edward Niermans to convert the premises into a music hall…
…a respected place of entertainment, suitable even for operas.
Now, the new cabaret was able to accommodate larger crowds of 2,200 people…with stylish balconies and an upper floor restaurant (from where customers could watch the shows while eating).
With the more mainstream image, can can – dance developed very rapidly, and the improved reputation brought many former ballet dancers to the cabaret…
….who, in turn, developed the dance to include acrobatic tricks and high kicks, today signature items for the performances.
Soon after, can can was recognized as a respectable form of entertainment, and many Moulin Rouge -type cabarets opened their doors around Europe.
Moulin Rouge itself became very popular among the high society, losing its former reputation as a ‘high-class bordel‘.
Still, even though the Moulin Rouge can can was less crude and straightforward than what courtesans had been doing, the choreography kept some of the provocative and “risqué” origins.
Moulin Rouge Paris (together with Folies Bergèr,www.foliesbergere.com) was also a pioneer in developing…
- semi-nude dance, and
- “tableaux vivants” performance style.
One landmark in this regard was 1907, when an actress namedGermaine Aymos performed at Moulin Rouge, dressed only in three (very small) seashells.
The Moulin Rouge of today is a popular adult tourist attraction in Paris, offering authentic can can performances, in an entertaining and romantic — early 20th century — milieu.
In addition to being a place for cabaret, many famous artists have performed at Moulin Rouge, such as…
- Liza Minelli,
- Elton John,
- Frank Sinatra, and
- Édith Piaf.
The cabaret has been an artist favorite ever since post-impressionist artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec famously painted Moulin Rouge can can dancers into his artworks, in the late 19th century.
There are also now not less than six major movies about the Moulin Rouge, the most famous of which is the 2001 “Moulin Rouge!“, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
You should also look up the 1952 film version, based on Pierre La Mure’s book “Moulin Rouge“, and starring Jose Ferrer & Zsa-Zsa Gabor.
Current version of the Moulin Rouge Paris (owned since 1951 by Jacki Clérico) cabaret show is titled “Féerie” (“Fantasy“), with a total of 4 main performances and 69 songs.
To perform these shows, Moulin Rouge has a group that consists of over 100 artists, including…
- “Les Doriss Girls“,
- magicians, and
Each revue is typically performed for a period of 10-12 years, with the newest version opening soon.
According to Moulin Rouge tradition, each performance is named starting with the letter “F”. Since 1963, the show names have been:
- 1963 – 1965 : Frou-Frou
- 1965 – 1967 : Frisson
- 1967 – 1970 : Fascination
- 1970 – 1973 : Fantastic
- 1973 – 1976 : Festival
- 1976 – 1978 : Follement
- 1978 – 1983 : Frénésie
- 1983 – 1988 : Femmes, Femmes, Femmes
- 1988 – 1999 : Formidable
- 2000 – : Féerie
The best way to get to know Moulin Rouge is, naturally, attending a performance at the cabaret. To get to the place, the closest Paris metro station is “Blanche“.
- learn about the show’s details
- find out performance times,
- see the ticket prices, and
- discover other interesting information, including detailed history of the place.
If your plans for Moulin Rouge include ordering a bottle of champagne, you are not alone…as the cabaret customers are among the world’s largest consumers of the stuff, drinking more than 240,000 bottles each year.