A Can-can too Far

David Price on the links between the can-can of the 1890s and 1990s lap dancing.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1895Lap-dancing or table dancing, a form of striptease in which a client pays for a one-to-one performance by the girl of his choice, is currently extraordinarily popular in the United States and it threatens to take off in Britain too – if local authorities can be persuaded to grant licences. The American film Showgirls dealt with the phenomenon and seems destined for cult status, having been panned by the critics. Lap-dancing seems a far cry from the first striptease shows that were appearing in Paris a hundred years ago, but perhaps it has more similarities as a reflection of Zeitgeist with another form of erotic entertainment then prevalent in the French capital, the can-can.

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