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Paris's Moulin Rouge to high-kick its way back on stage in September

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The Moulin Rouge in Paris will be high-kicking its way back on stage in September, it announced with a flourish on Monday, after the longest shut down in more than a century.

The first cancan of the post-pandemic era is due to take place on September 10 under the iconic windmill in Montmartre.

Twelve dancers, in matching masks and feathers, braved the morning chill outside the Moulin Rouge on Monday to reveal the opening date stitched into their dresses, much to the surprise of passing motorists on the Boulevard de Clichy.

"I'm extremely happy," said 32-year-old dancer Mathilde Tutiaux.

"It feels so good to finally have a date. We are desperate to see our audiences again. The first cancan of the restart will be something else. It's a very technical number and after a break of more than a year, we will have to rehearse very hard this summer."

Like the other 60 members of the cast, Tutiaux was forced to train alone at home during the shutdown, using her kitchen work surface to stretch.

The Moulin Rouge has been shut since March 12, 2020 -- the longest closure since the theatre was destroyed by fire in 1915.

'Planets are aligning'

"Today, the planets are aligning. We are pleased to be working on this restart," said Jean-Victor Clerico, director general of the Moulin Rouge.

"If everything goes well, there won't be any distancing even inside. There are still some unknown factors. If one-metre (three feet) distancing is still needed, we will have to reduce capacity to 50 percent."

The other renowned centres of Parisian "nude chic" will reopen around the same time: Crazy Horse on September 9 and Le Lido on September 16.

With infection rates falling and vaccine rates rising, France is set to reopen many cultural sites on Wednesday after a six-month shutdown that began during the second wave of the pandemic in late October only to be extended through the spring as a third wave hit the country.

The Moulin Rouge at the foot of Montmartre opened at the height of Belle Epoque Paris in 1889, quickly associated with the wild cancan dance and immortalised in the paintings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

It has lived many lives, rebuilt after the fire, surviving through World War II, its boards graced by legends from Edith Piaf to Charles Aznavour, and then getting another global boost with the release of the 2001 eponymous film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

Today, it remains a favourite with tourists, who account for half its business in normal times.

(AFP)