2020 Can Can Line
Sponsored by Air North
Originating for the French word ‘scandal’, Can Can has become integral to both our history and our future. The Can Can dance can be traced back to the early Egyptians and the Triori from South Brittany where women danced alone and kicked their legs high above their heads and lifted their skirts.
Unlike today’s dancers, their predecessors during the Klondike Gold Rush, were paid very well for their dances, songs and favors. The very first “girls” of Dawson had come over the Chilkoot Pass, packing their own gear, with the first Gold Rushers. Later the girls came in via St. Michael’s as the journey was not so hazardous.
The town of Dawson sprang up overnight in a valley where the Yukon and Klondike Rivers Meet. The living conditions were terrible- just tents and shacks. The saloons sprang up all over and so the dance-hall girls came to make their fortunes. The early day wear was what was available as not much could be brought in on their trek to Dawson. The usual costume was long floor length black skirts usually made of wool, a white blouse with a high neck and mutton sleeves, for head gear, a small straw boater hat. If the blouses were not available men’s long shirts were used. Under the skirts at least a half dozen petticoats were worn with long black stockings and bloomers. Footwear was usually high button shoes. This was the garb of the ladies of the night, so different from our version of them. Red was not a colour to be worn by the “nice” ladies of Dawson and this dates back to the early English Kings who used to dress their concubines in red. The “ladies” of Louse Town and other notorious districts decorated themselves as well as their abodes with red. These girls of the red-light areas did a lot to open our northland up with their courage and generosity in grubstaking the miners and nursing them when they were ill.
In a swirl of ruffles and feathers amidst a chorus of cheers and whistles, the high-kicking Can Can dancers are integral to the Sourdough Rendezvous just as this legendary group of women were to the Klondike’s history. The Can Can in its original form was not the dance we know today. It started as a rowdy social dance of Paris origin, which came into vogue in 1830, the main feature of which was high kicks by the dancers. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized the Can Can with his series of paintings and drawings of the dancers at the Moulin Rouge. They were also recently paid tribute to in the 2001 movie of the same title by Buz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. A lively and disreputable dance in those days, the Can Can’s high kicks exposed petticoat and leg. Since then the dance has been somewhat tamed and less bawdy. It still however manages to captivate the attention of all those witness to it.
One of the most popular entertainers during the festival is the Can Can Dancers with their scanty costumes and beautiful feathers. The first documentation is in 1966 with the Drama Club Can Can Girls who made the rounds of the bars presenting mimes and Rendezvous songs and generally adding to the excitement during Rendezvous. In 1967 there was the addition of the Klondettes singing chorus line. As in the very beginning, these dancers are all usually local talent and are all volunteers.
The dancers’ dedication and enthusiasm is well appreciated by Yukoners and visitors alike during this special event, and throughout the entire year.