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Title: Cabaret  
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Subject: Moulin Rouge, Erich Mühsam, Impalement arts, Claire Waldoff, Pustra/Vile-een's Vaudeville
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1896 advertisement for a tour of the first French cabaret show, Le Chat Noir.

Cabaret is a form of entertainment featuring music, song, dance, recitation or drama. It is mainly distinguished by the performance venue, such as in a restaurant, pub or nightclub with a stage for performances. The audience, often dining or drinking, does not typically dance but usually sits at tables. Performances are usually introduced by a master of ceremonies or MC (sometimes spelled emcee in the U.S.). The entertainment, as done by an ensemble of actors and according to its genuine European origins, is often (but not always) oriented towards adult audiences and of a clearly underground nature. In the United States striptease, burlesque, drag shows or a solo vocalist with a pianist, as well as the venues which house such events, are often advertized as cabarets.[1]

Cabaret also sometimes refers to a Mediterranean-style brothel – a bar with tables and women who mingle with and entertain the clientele. Traditionally these establishments can also feature some form of stage entertainment, often singers and dancers or burlesque entertainers.


The word cabaret was first used in 1655.[2] It is derived from tavern probably from M.Du. cambret. The word cabaret came to mean "a restaurant or night club" by 1912.[3]

By country

French cabaret (from 1881)

"Bohemians of the Latin Quarter inspired the first modern cabaret in Paris that emerged in the new bohemian quarter after the Paris Commune-Montmartre. Rodolphe Salis, an entrepreneurial entertainment agent, created the Chat Noir in 1881" (Haine 8).Haine, W.Scott (2013). The Thinking Space: The Café as a Cultural Institution in Paris, Italy and Vienna. Ashgate. p. 8.   It became a locale in which up-and-coming cabaret artists could try their new acts.

The Moulin Rouge, built in 1889 in the red-light district of Pigalle, near Montmartre, is famous for the large red imitation windmill on its roof. It was a key venue in the careers of La Goulue, Édith Piaf and Toulouse-Lautrec.

The Folies Bergère continued to attract a large number of people even though it was more expensive than other cabarets. People felt comfortable at the cabaret: They did not have to take off their hat, could talk, eat, and smoke when they wanted to, etc. They did not have to stick to the usual rules of society.

At the Folies Bergère, as in many cafés-concerts, there were a variety of acts: singers, dancers, jugglers, and clowns.

Le Lido, on the Champs-Élysées has been a venue of the finest shows with the most famous names since 1946 including Édith Piaf, Laurel & Hardy, Shirley MacLaine, Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevalier, and Noël Coward among them.

Dutch cabaret (from 1885)

In the Netherlands, cabaret or kleinkunst (literally: "small art") is a popular form of entertainment, usually performed in theatres. The birth date of Dutch cabaret is usually set at August 19, 1895.[4] In Amsterdam, there is the Kleinkunstacademie (English: Cabaret Academy). It is often a mixture of (stand-up) comedy, theatre, and music and often includes social themes and political satire. In the twentieth century, "the big three" were Wim Sonneveld, Wim Kan, and Toon Hermans. Nowadays, many cabaret shows of popular "cabaretiers" (performers of cabaret) are being broadcast on national television, especially on New Year's Eve, when you can choose from several special cabaret shows in which the cabaretier usually reflects on large events of the past year.[5]

German cabaret (from 1901)

German Kabarett developed from 1901, with the creation of the Überbrettl (Superstage) venue, and by the Weimar era in the mid-1920s, the Kabarett performances were characterized by political satire and gallows humor.[6] It shared the characteristic atmosphere of intimacy with the French cabaret from which it was imported, but the gallows humor was a distinct German aspect.[6]

Polish cabaret (from 1905)

The Polish kabaret is a popular form of live (often televised) entertainment involving a comedy troupe, and consisting mostly of comedy sketches, monologues, stand up comedy, songs and political satire (often hidden behind double entendre to fool censors).
It traces its origins to Zielony Balonik, a famous literary cabaret founded in Kraków by local poets, writers and artists during the final years of the Partitions of Poland.[7][8]
In post-war Poland it is almost always associated with the troupe (often on tour), not the venue; pre-war revue shows (with female dancers) were long gone.

American cabaret (from 1911)

Cast of an American cabaret A Little Tribute Westward with Helena Mattsson and Patrik Hont do "Havana for a Night" at the Blue Moon Bar in Stockholm in 2003.

American cabaret was imported from French cabaret by Jesse Louis Lasky in 1911.[9][10][11] In the United States, cabaret diverged into several different styles of performance mostly due to the influence of jazz music. Chicago cabaret focused intensely on the larger band ensembles and reached its peak during Roaring Twenties, under the Prohibition Era, where it was featured in the speakeasies and steakhouses.

New York cabaret never developed to feature a great deal of social commentary. When New York cabarets featured jazz, they tended to focus on famous vocalists like Nina Simone, Bette Midler, Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee, and Hildegarde rather than instrumental musicians.

Cabaret in the United States began to decline in the 1960s, due to the rising popularity of rock concert shows, television variety shows, and general comedy theaters. However, it remained in some Las Vegas style dinner shows, such as the Tropicana, with fewer comedy segments. The art form still survives in various musical formats, as well as in the stand-up comedy format, and in popular drag show performances.

Cabaret is currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts in the United States, particularly in New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia, Orlando, Tulsa, Asheville, North Carolina and Kansas City, Missouri, as new generations of performers reinterpret the old forms in both music and theatre. Many contemporary cabaret groups in the United States and elsewhere feature a combination of original music, burlesque and political satire, as can be found in such groups as Cabaret Red Light and Leviathan: Political Cabaret. In New York City, since 1985, successful, enduring or innovative cabaret acts have been honored by the annual Bistro Awards.[12]

The Ani Mru Mru Polish cabaret group performing in Edinburgh in 2007

British cabaret (from 1912)

The Cabaret Theatre Club, later known as The Cave of the Golden Calf, was opened by Frida Strindberg (modelled on the Kaberett Fledermaus in Strindberg's native Vienna) in a basement at 9 Heddon Street, London, in 1912. She intended her club to be an avant-garde meeting place for bohemian writers and artists, with decorations by Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill and Wyndham Lewis; but it rapidly came to be seen as an amusing place for high society, and went bankrupt in 1914. The Cave was nevertheless an influential venture, which introduced the concept of cabaret to London. It provided a model for the generation of nightclubs that came after it[13]

"The clubs that started the present vogue for dance clubs were the Cabaret Club in Heddon Street . . . . The Cabaret Club was the first club where members were expected to appear in evening clothes. . . . The Cabaret Club began a system of vouchers which friends of members could use to obtain admission to the club. . . . the question of the legality of these vouchers led to a famous visitation of the police. That was the night a certain Duke was got out by way of the kitchen lift . . . The visitation was a well-mannered affair'[14]

Malabar Cabaret (from 1960s)

The Cabaret Theater in Southern India (pronounced Kabarey), is a distinctively diversified form of conventional Cabaret Entertainment. In Kerala, Cabaret pertains to a popular subaltern art form, where the artists are middle aged, scantily clad and outwardly promiscuous. The intrinsic satire at the core of this contextualised entertainment form, revolves on conventional and orthodox sexual ideas that are centered around the denial of sexual urges. Cabaret, popularly performed in night-clubs and disco-bars, abstracts ideas from Hindu Mythology. Stories that pertain to female protagonists such as Sita and Draupadi are caricaturised through the performances that are characterised by flamboyance, voyeurism and explicit promiscuity. In this regard, the Cabaret art form is a pioneering movement in the Indian feminist discourse.

Swedish cabaret (from 1970s)

Saint Bongita substitutes for Saint Lucy in an underground Xmas romp at the Poor House in 1974.

In Stockholm, an underground show called Fattighuskabarén (Poor House Cabaret) opened in 1974 and ran for 10 years.[15] Performers of later celebrity and fame (in Sweden) such as Ted Åström, Örjan Ramberg and Agneta Lindén began their careers there. In a somewhat successful attempt to compete, high brow Alexandra's discothèque in the trendiest part of the city opened AlexCab in 1975 and Wild Side Story in 1976. The venue had far from an off-beat ambiance but an underground atmosphere was created there anyway by director Lars Jacob. AlexCab also toured to Gothenburg. The shows' decadance featuring American Steve Vigil shocked some journalists and regulars, thus attracting attention that provided stepping stones for subsequent development of the more mainstream After Dark revues which were still active in 2013. Underground shows produced by CabarEng returned to Stockholm in 2009 and ran regularly on the South Side and in the Old Town until 2013.

Famous cabarets

See also


  1. ^ Genre description by CabarEng on Facebook
  2. ^ "Cabaret". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  3. ^ "Cabaret". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  4. ^ Willem Frijhoff, Marijke Spies (2004) Dutch Culture in a European Perspective: 1900, the age of bourgeois culture, p.507
  5. ^ Oudejaarsconference
  6. ^ a b (1997) The new encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 2, p.702 quote:
  7. ^ The Little Green Balloon (Zielony Balonik). Akademia Pełni Życia, Kraków. (English) (Polish)
  8. ^ Zielony Balonik. 2011 Instytut Książki, Poland.
  9. ^ Vogel, Shane (2009) The scene of Harlem cabaret: race, sexuality, performance, ch.1, p.39
  10. ^ Erenberg, Lewis A. (1984) Steppin' out: New York nightlife and the transformation of American culture, 1890-1930 pp.75-76
  11. ^ Malnig, Julie (1992) Dancing till dawn: a century of exhibition ballroom dance, p.95
  12. ^ Hall, Kevin Scott. "@ the 2010 Bistro Awards". Edge magazine, April 15, 2010
  13. ^ 'Exploring 20th Century London'
  14. ^ 'A Round of the Night Clubs' G H Fosdyke Nichols p 945 in 'Wonderful London' ed. St. John Adcock 1927
  15. ^ CabarEng

External links

  • "The Cabaret", 1921 painting by Alexander Deyneka
  • "The last remaining true cabaret club in America
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