Dance and music are two art forms that are inextricably linked. The latter can exist without the former, but it’s pretty difficult to have it the other way around.
We humans are moved by tempo and melody — both emotionally and physically. We clap along. We get up and move our feet. We reach out to others to join in the joy of being alive.
Sometimes dances are inspired by a certain piece of music. That’s often the work of choreographers, to take existing or commissioned works and extend the reach of the notes to the movement of bodies. Other times, dances inspire music. Just think of how many waltzes exist in the classical canon.
That is true of the can-can, a raucous risque dance of high leg kicks and exposed undergarments that got its start in the working-class dance halls of Paris in the early 19th century. French authorities initially tried to suppress this explosion of female expression but ultimately proved unsuccessful. Some women performers became famous, and rich, doing the can-can.
By the early 20th century, the dance had become a cultural institution exported around the world as an example of Gallic joie de vivre. By that point, it also had an unofficial musical accompaniment — the “Galop infernal” from the French composer Jacques Offenbach’s comic opera “Orpheus in the Underworld.”
The music and the spirit behind Offenbach’s work is infectious. Even for those of us who lack the courage, training, and flexibility to attempt a can-can, we can-can’t help but at least clap along. And even if the music is associated with the steaminess of Parisian nightlife, the spirit of wild abandon is so strong that it gives all ages a reason to smile and join in the fun.
With this in mind, we are sharing a particularly energetic performance (and audience reaction) by the Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra, a youth orchestra from Slovenia.
And for those who want to see the dance performed with all its athleticism (and cheekiness), recognizing that both men and women danced it together, with splits, jumps, and those famous leg kicks, we found this performance certainly increased the heart rate:
We’re deeply thankful for the Steady community. If you aren’t already a member, please consider subscribing.
The expression "can-can" originated from the French word "canard," meaning "duck." The sight of a dancer flipping up her many petticoats while facing away from the audience reminded people of the south end of a duck facing north and bending over to bag its lunch from the pond.
I will never forget watching my daughter perform, for the first time, an individual dance in a dance competition, which she choreographed herself. It was right after I had been diagnosed with a life threatening disease, which made this performance possibly the only one I would.see of her. It brought tears of joy to my eyes at a very bleak time in our lives. I still remember ever move 30 years later. She won first place by the way.