High Kicks and Ruffles: The Vibrant History of the Can-Can Dance


The can-can dance is a high-energy, lively dance that originated in the working-class dance halls of 19th-century Paris, France. The dance is known for its high kicks, flashing of petticoats, and provocative gestures. It quickly became popular in Paris and beyond, and has since become a symbol of French cabaret culture.

The origins of the can-can are somewhat unclear, but the dance is thought to have developed in the early 19th century in the working-class neighborhoods of Paris. The dance was performed primarily by women, and was considered scandalous and provocative due to its suggestive movements and revealing costumes.

In the early days, the can-can was typically performed in dance halls and cabarets by prostitutes and other working-class women. The dance was often associated with the underworld of Paris, and was looked down upon by many members of French society.

Despite its controversial reputation, the can-can quickly gained popularity throughout Paris and beyond. By the 1840s, the dance had become a fixture in Parisian nightlife, and was being performed in theaters and music halls throughout Europe.

The music for the can-can dance is from the operetta “Orpheus in the Underworld,” which was composed by Jacques Offenbach. The can-can first appeared as a dance sequence in the second act of “Orpheus in the Underworld,” which premiered in Paris in 1858.

The lively and catchy tune that accompanies the can-can dance is known as the “Galop Infernal,” which translates to “Infernal Galop” in English. The music is characterized by its fast tempo and playful melody, and is often associated with the energy and excitement of the can-can dance.

As the can-can dance grew in popularity, it became more stylized and choreographed. The dancers began to wear elaborate costumes featuring ruffled skirts and petticoats, which accentuated the leg movements and added to the visual spectacle of the dance.

The dance itself also became more complex, with dancers performing intricate footwork and acrobatic movements. The can-can began to be performed by professional dance troupes, and soon became a popular form of entertainment in music halls and theaters across Europe.

Over time, the can-can has taken on many different forms and variations. In some cases, the dance has been adapted to suit the style and preferences of different cultures and regions. For example, the can-can dance performed in Japan is known as “Kabuki can-can,” and features a blend of traditional Japanese and French can-can dance styles.

Today, the can-can dance remains a popular and beloved form of entertainment around the world. It is often performed in cabarets and music halls, and has been featured in numerous films, television shows, and other forms of popular culture.

In conclusion, the can-can dance is a vibrant and exciting dance that has captured the imaginations of audiences around the world. Its history and evolution are a testament to the enduring power of dance and the arts, and its energy and spirit continue to inspire and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds.