PARIS (AP) — This is the end of an era for the famous Lido cabaret on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.
Amid financial difficulties and changing times, the venue’s new corporate owners are abandoning much of the Lido staff and its high-kick, high-glam dance performances that date back decades and Inspired copycats from Las Vegas to Beirut – in favor of softer musical reviews.
Dancers dressed in black staged a protest on the wide sidewalk in front of the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Saturday – before performing a dance among the cheering crowd, kicking their long legs high and singing a A traditional song and dance performance.
They handed out flyers to passers-by on the Champs-Elysees, and passersby lamented the fate of the Lido and applauded enthusiastically. Dancers from the Moulin Rouge came to support the Lido staff, especially its historic Hyacinth Girls Dance Company.
Dancer Hillary Van Moorleghem called the protest an expression of the staff’s sadness and disappointment, and described the cabaret as part of France’s cultural heritage.
“I’m American, and I really got to know French culture through dance,” she said.
With waterfalls, ice rinks and swimming pools on stage, the Lido began to wow audiences before World War II and became a Parisian nightlife venue. It has attracted performers from Josephine Baker to Marlene Dietrich to Elton John to Laurel and Hardy, as well as famous audiences.
The club’s assistant ballet master, Jeremy Bauchet, lamented his fears about “the demise of cabaret in Paris as a place and a genre”.
“The Lido is the most elegant, prestigious and fun place to be in the Parisian cabaret. A fascinating interlude in the wizarding world,” he told The Associated Press.
French hotel giant Accor, which recently bought the club, said it planned to lay off 157 of its 184 long-term employees. Artists and technicians will be the most affected. Accor said it wanted to get rid of expensive dinner shows and satires because they “no longer appeal to the public”. The team aimed to “redesign” the show and planned restoration work on the building.
“The Lido will keep its name, but the cabaret will lose its soul. With the end of the satire and 85% of staff layoffs, the Lido will be the basic place people rent,” Frank Raffi of the National Federation of Arts Events Frank Lafitte said.
Along with the Moulin Rouge, Crazy Horse and Latin Paradise, the Lido was one of the last Parisian cabaret shows. So far, it offers two shows every night, seven days a week, including dancers, singers and the Hyacinth Girls, a troupe founded by Irish dancer Margaret Kelly in 1932. Kelly, known as Miss Bluebell, toured the world with her troupe and helped inspire the Las Vegas Lido franchise.
More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition to save the Hyacinth Girls burlesque.
“When Lido reopened after World War II, people wanted to have fun. The Clerico brothers who bought the place wanted to make it a high-end venue. They invented the concept of dinner shows, which inspired other venues,” a book about Lido said Sonia Rachline, author of Du’s book.
“The shows are very French and Parisian because of the sophistication of the costumes and the precision of the dance moves, but it also has this musical-inspired American madness,” adds Rachline.
But despite the Moulin Rouge’s renewed interest in the wake of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, the Cosmopolitan has been grappling with declining attendance and economic problems compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.
To some, these shows seem increasingly outdated. In 2015, Lido tried to reinvent itself with a new comedy from the director of Cirque du Soleil, but it wasn’t quite as successful.
Cabaret has lost 80 million euros ($85.6 million) over the past decade, according to Accor. Lido employees are expected to lose their jobs this summer.
People who have worked at the Lido – from dancers to tailors, locker room staff and backstage technicians – have an unusually personal attachment to the venue.
“No other venue has waterfalls, ice rinks and swimming pools,” retired Lido set designer Yves Valente told The Associated Press. “The Lido has incredibly fast mechanics and special effects.”
Saturday’s protests were particularly poignant for 68-year-old former Lido dancer Danielle Duchert-Broussier, who joined young dancers in a fight to keep her job.
The Lido “is my whole life,” she said. “The best days of my life were there.”
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