U3A Monthly 26th September 2017
The Cancan: David Price
David gave a most instructive and entertaining account of the history of this dance.
He related how, in trying to find out more about it he found very little written, so decided to do the research himself, starting at the Royal Academy of Dance. His work has culminated in a book called 'The History of the Can Can'.
It seems that the Dance has its origins in lowly folk-dancing, transformed by being filtered through the medium of ballroom dancing sometime in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
However, whereas the ballroom dances were organised and choreographed, the derivations of country dance involved more individualistic movements and performances. Mostly it was the men who developed movements as it was considered indecorous for ladies to 'show off' as it were.
The two streams seem to have become interwoven with time. So, in the element of movement representing the high spirits of horses, what had been an elegant, slightly prancing movement by both partners morphed into a galloping motion. This, in the society of the time seems to have released a more energetic style yet.
In France the student movement took the active, demonstrative motif, a step further, mainly developed by the men, becoming, as students are wont to do in all times, wilder.
As the fashion spread, the women began to join in, only lifting their skirts a little, while the men would raise their legs sideways, but unbending.
Fashion being what it is, the variations became rapidly wilder, and adopted by outdoor professional entertainers. These were often professionally trained dancers and could make much more of the active elements of twirling and jumping.
Then the displays moved indoors with stage performances, and the venues became established centres for the new 'Scandal' dance (Cancan means Scandal). This was sometimes called 'Chahut' or 'Uproar/noise'. But that didn't catch on as a name. Respectable women did not attend these places.
By the third quarter of the century, individuals such as Celeste Mogador were becoming famous, but usually by gaining nicknames such as La Gouleu (The Glutton), Rigolboche (Street Urchin) and Grille d'Egout (Street Drain: so-called because her missing front teeth looked like said drain cover!)
The iconic style of flirting high skirts did not really emerge until the general advent of knickers and particularly of cheaper, machine made, frilly lace garments.
The craze spread to England early in the second half of the century, but it's presentation after WWI on the stages of the Music Halls forced a change from freestyle to the chorus-girl line up we usually associate with the dance.
These dance displays in England were performed by Dance Troupes.
Strangely, this style called 'The French CanCan' was re-imported into France and taken onto the stage of such as the Moulin Rouge, where it is still shown today. David considers modern examples too fast, with unsightly costumes. There have been recent interpretations by such as the Bolshoi and in 'The Merry Widow' but it seems as if David regards the dance as past its best.
He illustrated his talk with many pictures and photographs from various ages showing different interpretations. His favourite was a clip from a black and white film of the 1950's which he thought showed the original freestyle version better than most. But the paintings and posters of Toulouse Lautrec and Picasso were most evocative of the atmosphere.
Altogether a most thorough and revealing gallop through an aspect of European society, at once integral to its time, and yet for the most part existing outside the bounds of polite society.
Thank you David!
Ann Thomson reminded us that tickets for the Christmas lunch are now on sale. A non-refundable deposit of ten pounds is required. It will be held at Willesley Park Golf Club on 7th December at 12 noon for 12.30 pm at a cost of 24 pounds for 4 courses + coffee
|24 October||Colin Ellis||Our booked speaker has had to cancel. Colin will step in with a talk of his own.|
|28 November||Mr Young||RNLI|
|12 December||Christmas Event||Ashby Spa Singers||Entertainment|
Tea Rota, Meeters & Greeters, Reporting Groups
|Month||Tea Group||Meet & Greet||Reporting Groups|
|October||Phil, Sue & Christine||Neil Roberts||Bird Watching and Bridge|
|November||David Oakley||Calligraphy and Drawing & Painting|
|December||Committee for Christmas event||Committee||no reports this month|