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A day in the life of Mathilde Tutiaux, cancan dancer at the Moulin Rouge


Mathilde Tutiaux, 29, is a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. She lives in Paris’ 10th arrondissement with her partner

My alarm goes off…

At 11am as I never get to bed before 2.30am. I’ll have a breakfast of fruit, cereal and yoghurt, then do cross-training or boxing at the gym until 2pm. I have the rest of the afternoon to myself so I’ll see friends and family or go shopping. I eat dinner at 6pm – usually salad – then head to work at 7.15pm.

I’m responsible for…

Entertaining people who have come from all over the world to visit the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. I dance as part of a troupe of 60 dancers, both male and female, from 14 different countries and I dance two performances of the ‘Féerie’ show every night, which includes the world-famous French cancan. It’s a physically demanding dance, so it’s written into my contract that I can’t gain or lose more than 2kg of weight. It doesn’t bother me – I work with my body so it seems only natural that this would be included. Keeping the weight on can be challenging as I’m doing so much exercise.

I got the job…

After a four-hour audition. It was made up of sections, including a cancan where I had to do cartwheels in both directions, as well as the splits. I was over the moon when I found out I’d been selected, as only around one in every 100 girls who audition get in. After I’d been accepted in 2009, it took a month of training five hours a day, before I could perform.

The world famous Moulin Rouge near Montmartre

The world famous Moulin Rouge near Montmartre

My typical day…

Starts at 7.30pm. Each show is broken down into four different tableaux. The last section is where we perform the cancan – I love this part because it’s such a challenge, physically demanding and technical. Moulin Rouge dancers have been performing the exact same steps for hundreds of years. People often mistakenly think it’s a sexy dance, but there’s nothing erotic about it. The steps were actually born during the French Revolution in 1848 to mock the establishment.

I do perform some dances topless as it’s cabaret, but it’s not vulgar. I’m always partially covered by jewels, feathers and sequins – in fact, I feel more naked in a bikini. My grandparents have even come to watch me and loved it. I change costume 12 times and my favourite is made up of rose-coloured feathers that light up. The last show finishes at 1.15am. I’ll then stretch before leaving at around 2am.

My most memorable work moment…

Was performing the cancan in Times Square, New York for the Best of France event last September. The French president was in the audience. We also made appearances at the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, which we got to visit at sunrise before it opened. It was a once-in- a-lifetime experience.

The worst part of my job…

Is having to smile and perform twice a night even if I’m ill.

There are 12 costume changes every night

There are 12 costume changes every night

The best part of my job…

Is being able to live my passion. I started dancing aged 10, so this has always been my dream. And there really is nowhere else that compares to the Moulin Rouge.

After work…

I sometimes go for a drink or on to a club with the other dancers if I have the next day off, but usually I just head home. I aim to be in bed by 2.30am.

My Plan B: Marketing

I have a master’s degree in marketing, so if I wasn’t dancing I’d probably be working in an agency, either doing PR or communications. In fact, I think that’s what I’ll do when I eventually retire from dancing [dancers usually retire around the age of 38].


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