The Roots of French Cabaret: Where it all begun



“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”- Moulin Rouge

“Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love.”- Moulin Rouge

Cabaret specifically originated from France in 1800. Cabaret is a French word which means any sort of gathering performance that provides and serves alcoholic beverages. Because France was considered to be a peaceful economic prosperity modernized location, the upper middle class (bourgeois) enjoyed Cabaret performances. This form of entertainment includes music, songs, comedy, dance, and drama. The performances occurred in restaurants or nightclubs which included, a stage for the performers and entertainers, and a dining area with tables and chairs for the audience to enjoy the food, drinks, and entertainment. 

The first cabaret was called “Cabaret Artistique” which was opened in 1881 in Montmarte, Paris. This cabaret was created by artist who had seen the transition from the third empire to the third republic. This transitional period had an effect on the performance in which was created. Not to long after it was created they renamed the performance to “Le Chat Noir”. This first cabaret became a site where many new cabaret artist were able to explore and try their new acts. 

My ultimate favorite cabaret and honestly the only one I knew before further research on cabaret is Moulin Rouge. This cabaret was created in 1889 and was famous for the red imitation windmill on the roof. It was first built in the “red light district” of Pigalle. Like many cabarets, Moulin Rouge was first introduced to society as a seductive dance. But the “can-can” portion of this cabaret transformed the stereo-type of seduction into entertainment. Today Moulin Rouge is a major attraction to tourist due to the tremendous amount of shows provided all over the world. 

In cabaret dances, specifically Moulin Rouge, the thing that caught my attention is extravagant costuming in both the men and the women. For women crazy feathers, sequins, and rhinestones were the basis of the costumes. The tops, bottoms, and hair pieces were decked out in all three of these details. The costumes were very flashy and varied in color. Usually the women wore corset tops which incorporated the rhinestones and sequins and the bottoms incorporated the multiple amounts of feathers. The men’s costuming in Moulin Rouge was similar to the women’s. Still having a flashy look, men wore black tuxedos with tails going down the back. White bow-tie’s, gloves and a top hat were involved in men costuming to make them have a classy look. The luxurious setting decked out in sparkling unique designs provided extreme abundance of royal and traditional elements which made a daring and theatrical statement. 

Over 120 years ago, ever since Moulin Rouge came to the stage the worlds most famous, extravagant cabaret’s has been born. Since then this show is still touring the world. Many new cabarets have been established but nothing can and will ever be able to compare to Moulin Rouge. Its outrageous and over the top performance will always live. 

By: Jenna Ellis‘cabaret-lecture’/


One thought on “The Roots of French Cabaret: Where it all begun

  1. Jenna,
    This is a beautiful submission, well done. I love this movie and although I posted several times on this blog, it does not want to take but I will keep trying. Tenacity always wins in the end. Cabarets are fascinating concepts to me because they imply the underground. I have always been drawn by the world of performers who are less visible than others. Good job!

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