The earliest evidence of the Cancan dance was found on a wall frieze in a tomb in Egypt 2500-2350 BC, showing a series of dancers kicking their legs over their heads.
Privately, Cancan was performed by courtesans to seduce a client. It was publicly danced by men who later collaborated with women to perform a provocative and vulgar routine that eventually became a highly polished and respectable dance performance dominated by women.
High kicks, wild movements and long skirts that hide lacy lingerie contributed to the furious, shocking and scandalous image of Cancan. The kicking line, the flight discs and the carriages were some of the athletic dance elements that were added to give a technically challenging and exciting performance.
Cancan is danced to music 2/4 times. Jacques Offenbach’s music from the ballet ‘Gaite Parisienne’ is the most easily identified Cancan music.
Cancan’s movements were influenced by acrobatics and especially Charles Mazurier’s performance as Jocko the Monkey in a Parisian revue. Costumes and movements were also influenced by the politics, fashion and morals of the time. Cancan is a choreographed dance that became popular entertainment when it was introduced in the late 19th century at the Moulin Rouge, a nightclub in Paris. In addition to making the Moulin Rouge famous, Cancan and became a memorable highlight in both film and stage versions of ‘Can-Can’.