Song of the Week: Cancan

Song of the Week

The Cancan - for kids

Alright, friends - gather ‘round and do some stretching, it’s time for the cancan! Close your eyes for a second (not while stretching unless you have an incredible sense of balance) and think about the cancan. What do you see? What do you hear? Some facts about the cancan might surprise you! Take a look!

1. The cancan is technically a specific style of dance, not a specific style of music. Several famous pieces of music were written for cancan dancing, including “The Galop Infernal.” What you were hearing in your head when you closed your eyes and thought cancan…. That’s “The Galop Infernal.” This melody has become almost ubiquitously associated with the cancan dance today and is what our Music Class version from The Giraffe Collection is based on. French composer Jacques Offenbach wrote this piece in 1858 for his operetta “Orpheus in the Underworld.” The operetta (meaning a short opera) was a satire about Greek mythology, and “The Galop Infernal” is one of the final scenes of the play where the gods are having a wild party and galloping around the stage! 

2. The cancan was considered incredibly scandalous when it first became popular in Paris in the 1830s. (OK, not surprising.) There were attempts to suppress it and occasionally dancers were even arrested! The scandal of the cancan was made into a smash-hit musical in 1960 called…. Can-Can! It featured Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine and of course some incredible dancing. The scene below features cancan dancing to a different piece of music composed by Cole Porter and called… “Can-Can.”

3. Miriam Webster defines the cancan as “a woman's dance of French origin characterized by high kicking usually while holding up the front of a full ruffled skirt.” But did you know it was originally danced by both men and women? It’s speculated that the cancan evolved from a couple’s dance called the Quadrille, and there were many famous male cancan dancers before the all-female chorus line became the standard. You can catch some of the amazing acrobatics of male cancan dancers in the clip below!

4. The cancan dance coupled with “The Galop Infernal” music has become one of the most well-known and recognizable dances around the world. Let's pay tribute to this by taking a look at one of the best movie scenes featuring the cancan... and yes of course by best I mean The Little Mermaid.

YAY! I hope you enjoyed all of these facts and clips as much as I did, including the fact that the word “cancan” is written on this page exactly 20 times. The 20th time is that sentence. Now stop stretching and go dance!

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