In our production of My Paris, Tiffany Mann plays clown Cha-U-Kao. Cha-U-Kao was the name of a French entertainer who performed at the Moulin Rouge and the Nouveau Cirque in the 1890s. Her stage name came from the “chahut-chaos”, a dance derived from the cancan. She was depicted in a series of paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Cha-U-Kao soon became one of his favorite models. The artist was fascinated by this woman who dared to choose the classic male profession of clowning and was not afraid to openly declare that she was a lesbian.
May Milton, an English music hall refugee who was engaged by the Moulin Rouge for a single season, is played by Anne Horak in My Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster captures her off-kilter attractions: pale skin, red hair, a double-jointed leg wrenched out from under the skirt of a little girl’s white dress, revealing a glimpse of a red-patterned lining. Unlike the artist’s posters for other performers, which were advertisements for Parisian nightspots, May Milton’s was created to promote an upcoming tour of the United States that may have never taken place. According to critics, the English dancer May Milton was short on talent and physical beauty. After just one winter on the Paris stage, she reportedly departed for New York, never to be heard from again. Her enduring fame rests on the poster by Toulouse-Lautrec designed for her American tour, which, apparently, never materialized.
Valentin the Boneless
Valentin the Boneless (1843 – 1907), portrayed by Timothy Hughes in My Paris, was the stage name of Jacques Renaudin, a French Cancan dancer and partner of La Goulue. He was the brother of a notary from Sceaux. Not much is known about his early childhood but it is believed that he was a wine merchant by day who was dancing at night in his free time at the Moulin Rouge, where he met Louise Weber, also known as La Goulue. Le désossé and Weber danced the ‘chahut’, an early form of Can-can. He was tall and slender. His name derived from the elasticity of his articulations. He could perform difficult contortions with grace, almost as if he were boneless. He would move from position to position with astonishing beauty. Le désossé was never paid for dancing because he loved to do it and refused pay. He retired in 1895 and what he did after the Moulin Rouge is not well known.