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January 31, 2022

Queen of Montmartre: 18 Amazing Portraits of Louise Weber, aka La Goulue, From the Late 19th Century

The Moulin Rouge in Paris was a dance hall, brothel, and theater full of pleasurable extravagancy. It was a place where people of all different backgrounds came together to experience the revolutions of society. The morals and boundaries of everyday society were blatantly ignored, as an undeniable elasticity ruled the dance floor. At the Moulin Rouge, youthful dancers moved across the floor with an aura of seduction and inspiration. These dancers came to life among the can-can rhythms and revealing high-kicks. They came to life in the rapidly transformative atmosphere. And one of these dancers was the famous, shameless “Queen of Montmartre,” La Goulue.

Louise Weber (July 12, 1866 – January 29, 1929), aka La Goulue, was one of the most celebrated dancers at the Moulin Rouge. She had an outrageous spirit that was daring and outspoken. She had a personality that was captivating in its promiscuous charm. She had a strong passion for dance. Starting at a young age, Weber worked in a laundry with her mother, cleaning the garments of those more fortunate. However, Weber did not allow her laundress occupation stop her from dancing and fantasizing a life for herself in the dance halls of no rules, of transforming roles in society. Behind her mother’s back, Weber borrowed the garments left at the laundry by customers and went at night to the world where she truly belonged, the world of movement and dance. Dancing on tables in small clubs around Paris, flipping off mens hats with her toes, charming audiences with her fearless power and stance, lifting her skirts to reveal a heart embroidered on her underwear, gaining the attractions of the painter Auguste Renoir, and downing the contents of nearby customers drinks, Louise Weber became “the Glutton,” La Goulue.

When the Moulin Rouge first opened, La Goulue was there with her dance partner Jacques Renaudin, otherwise known as the very flexible “Valentin le Desosse,” ready to shine under the flashy dance floor. Performing the “chahut,” an early form of the can-can, La Goulue became a permanent headliner of the dance hall. She became a seductive sensation, a wild woman of fame. She was the highest paid entertainer of her day, gaining her earnings based on her captivating audaciousness and exciting movement. She was a dancer of much interest, becoming one of the favorites of Toulouse-Lautrec, the artist, who immortalized La Goulue in his many works of her.


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