I’ve always dreamt of seeing a cabaret performance - it’s such a unique art-form which asks for a variety of skills and talents in order to put on an intimate illusion for a hall of probably 100 people at the same time. It’s perhaps the only type of contemporary performance which bathes in that favorite glitzy Belle Époque atmosphere.
Then, of course, anybody who has contemplated witnessing a show would instantly picture the red windmill of Moulin Rouge. I myself was tempted to visit the historical venue which has epitomized the air of nonchalance, light-heartedness, “joie de vivre” since 1889. Friends pointed out, however, that the grand finale featuring the Chahuteuses (the unruly girls) performing the French Cancan was the one must-see highlight of the evening. They suggested another sparkling cabaret for it proposed a more unconventional repertoire.
Le Crazy Horse Saloon is known for its shows performed by nude (or almost) female classical dancers and for the diverse range of magic and variety “turns” between each number. It occupies former wine cellars of an impressive Haussmanian building at 12 Avenue George V. Alain Bernardin opened it in 1951 and personally operated it for decades until his death. The enterprise remained a family business, in the hands of Bernardin's 3 children, until 2005. By this time, the name "Le Crazy Horse de Paris" was being used for the original venue, and “Crazy Horse Paris” - for one in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand.
The Crazy Horse has also been a popular venue for many guest artists, including magicians, jugglers, and mimes. Bernardin once explained that he loved magic as it corresponded with his vision: "[Magic] is a dream. There is no show that is more dreamlike than a magic show. And what we do with the girls is magic, too, because they aren't as beautiful as you see them onstage. It's the magic of lights and costumes. These are my dreams and fascinations that I put onstage.”
Under new management since 2005, the cabaret started featuring famous artists stripping for a limited number of shows, including Dita Von Teese, Carmen Electra, Aria Cascaval, Arielle Dombasle or Pamela Anderson. The cabaret’s gift shop, in fact, features a poster from Von Teese’s highly anticipated visit.
As you walk through the entrance, you pass by several stewards pointing you towards reception where you’re able to collect your tickets. One lesser known fact is the Crazy Young program - between June and August, anybody aged under 26 is eligible to purchase a ticket for €35 (including a glass of champagne).
You would walk down a staircase - by this point, all hallways have been dimly lit, golden shades bouncing off the red velvet walls. In case you ever wanted to purchase mugs, champagne sets, stockings or whips carrying the cabaret’s logo - turn the corner to explore the crowded gift shop. You would then enter the theatre - more shades of red grace the interior, including the tables and cushioned chairs. Art-deco gilded statues of nude women enclose the edges of the stage.
Arrival of 30 minutes before the show’s start is advised - the host of the show performs various cabaret songs in sultry French and English while walking in between the audience, her feathered, perfumed negligée brushing over a gentleman’s shoulder, or lounging on a sparkling chaise longue in between breathy saxophone sighs.
Needless to say, the show was unforgettable, each number being entirely unique. It all looked rather like a moving painting made of coloured light, the performance remaining delightfully suggestive and artfully provocative.
Make sure to read more about the show and have a sneak peek into the numbers on the cabaret’s website.