Definition of cancan in English:



  • A lively, high-kicking stage dance originating in 19th-century Parisian music halls and performed by women in long skirts and petticoats.

    ‘people were dancing the cancan’
    as modifier ‘cancan dancers’
    • ‘The big numbers included, of course, the cancan, but also a Viennese waltz scene with the dancers in flowing ballroom gowns and a big, big finale, with ostrich-plume headwear and sequinned costumes.’
    • ‘Another historic reference is made in Act III where the Neapolitan Dance becomes a cancan.’
    • ‘Entertainment includes cancan dancers and the music of Jerry Atwood and Sharon Montgomery.’
    • ‘For example, when straightening your legs in cancan or crisscross, imagine reaching your toes as far away from you as you can, as if to touch an imaginary wall.’
    • ‘Opening June 1 nationwide and slated to kick off next month's Cannes Film Festival, Moulin Rouge stars Nicole Kidman and depicts the cancan and cabaret world of Paris in 1899.’
    • ‘No expense is spared in an elaborate opening cancan number that makes an anachronistic use of today's popular music.’
    • ‘From the riot of colour of the cancan dancers' skirts, to the outrageous gear worn by Toulouse-Lautrec, costume creates visual excitement.’
    • ‘Founded in 1932, the Bluebell Girls are one of the last remaining companies to dance the traditional cancan, with its flying kicks and punishing splits.’
    • ‘Red Picotee, a scarlet variety with a white fringe, makes me think of the cancan, all high spirits and to hell with good taste.’
    • ‘Women have been condemned for dancing the cancan and the waltz.’
    • ‘I mean, who knew that the French cancan had revolutionary roots, and the dance is coded, physically coded?’
    • ‘But his most impactful display here must surely have been the unofficial exhibition that took place in the London streets when his cheeky posters for touring troupes of French cancan dancers were pasted up.’
    • ‘The cancan, that high kicking, exuberant dance of showgirls, originated in Le Moulin Rouge during the 1890s.’
    • ‘Assuming center stage like a troupe of cancan dancers, they expose enormous legs beneath vibrant, Pucci-patterned miniskirts that recall Nixon-era fashions.’
    • ‘The colours on her paintbrushes merged into her cancan dress, giving it a tie-dye appearance.’
    • ‘Ben Nicolodi, the male solo dancer in the cancan, was an acrobat when he first entered the club.’
    • ‘The author juxtaposes the earthy unbound cancan dancer of the Folies Bergére and Moulin Rouge to the Romantic Era ideal of the pale tightly corseted woman of ‘normal ‘society.’’
    • ‘The Bluebell Girls - one of the last remaining companies to dance the traditional cancan - still perform at the Lido, on the Champs-Elysees.’


Mid 19th century: from French, child's word for canard ‘duck’, from Old French caner ‘to quack’.