"The Cancan is a Dance of Opposition..."

Mahalin, Paul. Les Mémoires du Bal Mabille.

Paris, chez tous les Libraires, 1864.

12mo (135 x 85 mm). (2) ff. comprising title and half-title, 124 pp. Bound in original printed wrappers with vignette of a ballerina on front cover and publisher’s catalogue of related titles on rear cover; wrappers rather chipped and dusty, now housed in protective paper jacket.


Very rare sole edition of this charming account of the heyday of the Parisian dancing scene. Both the Polka and the Cancan were said to have been introduced at the Bal Mabille, a gas-lit lawn in Faubourg Saint-Honoré which became the focal point of Parisian dansomanie during the Second Empire.

Mahalin’s anecdotes revolve around the polkas, cancans and quadrilles for which the Bal Mabille was famous; his chapters cover the various ‘queens’ of the dances (Céleste Mogador, Reine Pomaré, Pritchard and Clara Fontaine) as well as the ‘queens of the second order’: Rigolette, Rose-Pompon, Amélie Panache, and Rigolboche. In Chapter VI he muses on the qualities of a good dancer, and famously declares the cancan to be “une danse d’opposition [...] une protestation sautée” (p. 101).

The present work, authored anonymously and printed in a charmingly delicate format, is much rarer in census than Mahalin’s other works including "Les jolies Actrices de Paris" (1868) and "Au Bal masqué" (1868). OCLC shows just 1 US copy, at Pepperdine University (CA). Some copies seem to bear a sort of ‘home-made’ frontispiece, i.e. an albumen photograph of a favorite actress, mounted on a leaf facing the title-page; this is absent in our otherwise very unsophisticated copy.

Barbier, Les supercheries littéraires dévoilées III, 214.

Stock Code: BN#54439 Tags: ,