Folies Bergere

The Folies Bergere Paris burlesque shows were one of the most influential in burlesque history. Find out why and who they made into stars.

Folies Bergère Paris Burlesque Shows

The Folies Bergère is a cabaret venue in Paris which opened its doors in 1869. It remains a landmark of the city’s cultural history today. It was during La Belle Époque (1890s) to the twenties when its notoriety was at its peak.

The venue was known for nearly nude performers, revelry and developing its unique music hall style. Here’s just some of the women who were pioneers of the stage and stars of the Folies Bergère.

Loie Fuller

In 1892 famed American dancer and innovator, Loie Fuller travelled to Europe to share her craft. Her stint at the Folies Bergère was the pinnacle of her success.

She became the toast of the town and known as the embodiment of the Art Nouveau movement. Her stage show focused on lighting and increasing amounts of fabric which created the dramatic movements in her performance.

Her Fire Dance and Serpentine Dance attracted many admirers and Loie Fuller was befriended by many of the artistic movers and shakers of the time. It also attracted immitators which led to a failed attempt to patent the latter dance.

Loie Fuller, however, did hold many patents for her stage lighting, proving her shows were like nothing before. She was a pioneer of modern dance and her influence can still be felt today.

Loie Fuller

(Images from Cultural Encounters.)


In the heyday of the Folies Bergère, one of the greatest French showgirls to ever live, Mistinguett, made her name and fame there. Beginning her career at the Casino de Paris in 1985 she later became the highest paid female-entertainer in the world.

Mistinguett was also a regular of the Moulin Rouge music hall known for enlisting, likewise long-legged, cancan dancers. Needless to say, her popularity was in no small part due to her risqué routines.

La Belle Époque was named in retrospect as the pre-World War period of prosperity and growth in Europe. Like Loie Fuller, Mistinguett was and continues to be a symbol of that golden age.

Josephine Baker

It was in the jazz era of the 1920s, however, a darling of burlesque made the Folies Bergère shows infamous. Another American dancer was set to own that spotlight and go down a storm.

The late, great, Josephine Baker took to the stage and elevated the art form in every performance. She’s arguably the best known black burlesque dancer of all time and many a homage has been created in her honour.

Josephine Baker had been attracted to New York during the Harlem Renaissance but on joining La Revue Nègre in Paris she decided to make the move permanent. When the show closed, it was then that she was hired by the Folies Bergère.

It was Josephine Baker’s exotic, erotic and humorous stage presence which won over audiences (with a focus on the ‘exotic’). Not to mention her story of rags to riches.

This marriage saw her star swiftly rise and it was only for a short period that she returned to New York once more. There Josephine Baker briefly joined the Ziegfeld Follies, which were inspired by their Parisian counterpart. Unfortunately, her new-found success attracted much racism and she returned to France.

It was the longest running owner of the Paris music hall, Paul Derval who had originally enlisted Josephine Baker. In 1936 he invited her back for a grand re-launch of the venue.

The En Super Folies revue set the tone for the future of the Folies Bergère that continues today. With those names on the bill and the show’s longevity, it is imprinted on burlesque history forever.

(Main image from Wikipedia.)

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