A Tale Of Two Cabarets

I hope you aren't too full of baguettes, cheese and wine after taking a virtual trip with me yesterday in the first of FIVE blogs about skating history in France I'll be sharing this week... because today we'll be getting right back into the swing (roll) of things!

In 1730, a French nobleman by the name of Armand de Vignerot erected a "follie" (decorative structure) to entertain friends, influential friends and to romance his mistresses. In other words, to show off a little. The space, which was used for entertaining as kind of a social club, became "Folie-Richelieu" in 1779 when bought by Baron d'Ogny. From 1810 to 1812, the space housed Tivoli amusement park.

Then in 1851, the Folie-Richelieu was torn down to erect a church called Eglise de La Trinity (Church of the Holy Trinity) but in no time, the church was torn down to be replaced by a - you guessed it - skating rink under the direction of another new owner, the Baron Haussmann. According to Cabaret Ville Magazine "the edifices of the new establishment occupied almost all the lots, blocks and corners starting from rue (street) de Clichy and ending at rue (street) Blanche! It was a financial jackpot, an instant success." The operational name of the rink/club was Deuxième Tivoli and it operated both an ice and roller rink and was quite a popular spot to skate and be seen in its heyday.

Maximillien De Lafayette's "History and Anthology Of French Song and Cabaret from 1780 to the Present": "In 1880, Le Casino de Paris went through a series of very important renovations. The unusual ice-skating rink became the Palace Theatre, the milestone of the future Le Casino de Paris. French cabaret historians consider the Palace Theatre as the origin of the casino. The new lobby was majestic and sublime in its interior architecture and layout." After that, the remainder of the rink, near the present rue Blanche, was demolished to make way for the Nouveau-Théâtre.

In 1914, the space was purchased by Raphael Beretta and ultimately turned into a Cinema Music-Hall (a half music theater/half music-hall) but within two years Beretta transformed the space into its former splendour with the help of Leon Volterra, Gaby Deslys and Harry Pilcer. Le Casino de Paris closed in 1918 but reopened after World War I with shows by Parisian singers, dancers and burlesque performers. In fact, headliners Maurice Chevalier and Mistinguett kept twenty four productions going over a twelve year period. De Lafayette's book explains that ultimately "what we see today at the Casino de Paris is a faithful continuation of the 1946's shows and spectacles and to a certain extent, a replica of the concept developed in 1941." Although skating's role in the Casino de Paris' history is brief, it's certain an important historical footnote in skating history worth sharing.

In contrast, skating at another French cabaret, the Lido, has been a much more long standing tradition and not just a fabulous flash in the pan. Beginning in 1952 when the cabaret had tank ice installed for a figure skating segment choreographed by Donn Arden and Ron Fletcher in its lavish production "Gala", skating has been a consistent element in the productions in the Paris hot spot for decades. Among the choreographers who brought skating to life on the Lido stage over the years was Bob Turk of Ice Capades and The Ice Palace fame and the Lido shows have always been known for their very glitzy, showy skating and costumes. An article from the December 26, 1962 issue of The Milwaukee Journal describes the glamour that made the Lido shows so unique: "There are cascading waters, fireworks and an ice skating cowboy and his girlfriend; there are jugglers, acrobats and a dog act, and a stage filled with dancing girls... Some might think it is odd to see a cowboy ice skate, but in Lido shows ice skating cowboys are rather normal; reality is, understandably, only a scant consideration." With shows still being held there today, the Lido forged upon the unique tradition that started at another French cabaret and brought it into the twentieth century.

I don't know about you... but this journey through French skating history is reminding me of one American in Paris who shared the same passion for cooking as I do for studying skating history...

I don't think there's any passion going anywhere anytime soon, Julia. Stay tuned on Wednesday for part three in our French skating history journey and get ready to choctaw and chasse - it's going to be all about ice dancing!

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