Home: Popular Music: Dance Halls

The night life of Montmartre was centered on cafe-concerts, music halls, and dance halls. It was created by French businessmen who wanted to make Paris an entertainment capital for tourists.

The Moulin de la Galette was a place for families with small children. It was named after a special kind of cake, gallette, which was served there. While the children sat at tables and drank punch, their older sisters danced with enthusiastic young men.

This dance hall was located in Montmartre. It was very popular on Sunday afternoons when families residing in nearby districts came to eat and dance. Painters found they could use the place for models and not have to pay.

The Moulin Rouge opened on October 15, 1889 as a dance hall. Advertised to husbands as a place to bring their wives, it was a place for customers to forget and enjoy. There was a long gallery lined with paintings, photographs, posters, and tapestries which lead to the spacious dance hall. Dancers kicked their lace and silk clad legs gracefully to the beat of brass instruments. Acrobats and singers joined the dancers in presenting a wild display. At intermission, the customers filled the dance floor. Young women would sit in a section of the bar waiting for men to buy them drinks. The Moulin Rouge was known around Paris as a market for love.

Outside, in the garden, a full orchestra played while a French can can was performed. Tame monkeys heckled spectators as they passed from row to row. The other various entertainments included: belly dancers, clowns, fortune tellers, and a shooting gallery. Two of the popular performers, who came onto the Montmartre scene at the Moulin Rouge, were La Goulue and Jane Avril.

Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller opened the Moulin Rouge. Oller was a shrewd, rough, vulgar, and kindly theatrical boss. He had faith in the power of advertising, and his motto was bigger, brighter, and better. He commissioned Willette to design an attractive exterior, and Zidler commissioned Toulouse-Lautrec to design posters.