Friday, 31 August 2012


It was the writer John Fowles who first drew my attention to the changing face of beauty. Published in 1969, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”, is set in the late nineteenth century. In one of his many discourses, throughout the novel, John Fowles remarks on the face of Ernestina Freeman’s serving maid. I can’t remember the character’s name, but John Fowles remarks that the serving maid’s face, is not of the style of beauty appropriate to the time in which she is living. He gives an image to the reader, a face that would have been fashionable at the time he is writing; the late nineteen sixties. He likens the face to a popular film star of that time. I wonder whom he is talking about?

Samantha Eggar, pictured above perhaps? She coincidently starred in the 1965 film of John Fowles novel, “The Collector”. Or maybe The American Actress, Ali Macgraw. Both women were born in the same year, 1939,  their styles differ completely, yet both are of that time frame.

Yes, beauty is subjective, in the eye of the beholder, but the essence of what is beauty changes.

Elizabeth Taylor in the 1958 film, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.

Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film “Niagara”

Grace Kelly, in the 1954 film “Rear Window”.

In just a decade, the face of beauty has changed.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’ Hara, in the 1939 film “Gone With The Wind”.

Or the dancer and film star of the same era, Rita Hayworth.

The 1930’s brought “the Talkies” and gave us Marlene Dietrich  and Greta Garbo

Then those faces of the 1920’s the “Silent picture” decade; Lillian Gish and  Clara Bow.

Lillian and Clara

But before the era of film we still have records of what was considered beautiful and the look that women would aspire to. Funny, I don’t consider any of these women beautiful -- but then I am viewing the images from a twenty first century perspective. You can view more of these photo's here.

1890’s PICS from Wall to Watch. And thanks to David Price for suggesting this post, and for giving me the link for Wall to Watch.

Friday, 24 August 2012


I am exceedingly jealous of Jan Vander Laenen. Not only does Jan speak better English than  I do, he writes better English too. His prose, cool, and  silky smooth, slides and slips over your skin. At another time, the silken threads catch, perhaps on a sore patch, or an old wound, and you flinch. Jan packs his prose with a poignant, emotional intensity, that isn’t at first obvious -- it is only after you have finished reading one of Jan’s tales that you realise that you have tears in your eyes. Or that your belly muscles are aching with the need to laugh out loud. Jan’s tales are strange, but they are slices of life. He tells me that stories from the newspapers stay with him -- often the seemingly ridiculous will grow into a tale. Jan’s tales are like compelling modern fables -- his characters are a variety of ordinary, working men. You may meet such a man in the pub, in a coffee shop, pass him by on the street and you would never guess his secret.

In the first tale, “The Centrefold”, the tale that gives the collection its name, Jan gives us a police officer, Officer Feyaerts who is caught in the act of theft -- and not just any theft, the theft of a Gay, porno magazine. Some weeks later, Jan tells us that he received a puzzling email from a man signing himself as Marcello. As Marcello’s story unfolds, it slowly dawns on the reader, that this could be Officer Feyaerts, the police officer embarrassed by his faux pas. The tale that Marcello tells is strange, and lends itself to a Freudian reading. Marcello writes that previously, he has spied on  his son, watching him  masturbate. Fathers and sons -- yes it is incestuous,  Marcello realises it, yet he lingers and watches his son’s orgasm explode, with pride; “that I was the procreator of such beauty…” And then there is the ludicrous, clumsy theft of the porno mag. It is as if he were asking to be caught. Marcello’s wife thinks that he is going through a mid-life crisis. Perhaps he is -- he gazes on the seductive image of the centrefold, and then he meets Tito…

In “A Refuse Collector With A Porn Magazine, Jan ponders on the nature of sexual attraction. The attributes of the male body that he finds sexually attractive. He is obsessed by the male buttocks. The shape, the size, the texture and; “Ah, that buttock cleavage.”  And Jan teaches me a new word. “Pygomaniac”. It’s the scientific term for someone obsessed by buttocks. The little tale is written in the first person. This makes it personal -- is Jan telling me about his own fetish -- or has he crafted a character; allowing the character to explore such a fetish; one who speaks from his own point of view? I just don’t know.
The tale of “The Fire at the Chelsea Hotel” tells of a love growing stale. Jan and his lover, the Italian, Giulio, have been together for fourteen years. As they make love, Jan fantasises about other men, perhaps an Arab Prince, or a “husky fire fighter, that would have put his life on the line to save a kitten from a sea of fire.” The two are in New York, drinking coffee in the Café Palermo, when Dino comes in, a man of compelling, exceptional beauty. A romantic figure, vivacious, virile; all eyes, including those of Jan and Guilio are on Dino. They guess at his occupation; a fire fighter, Jan suggests. Later, a brisk knock at the door of their hotel room; smoke seeps stealthily in, beneath the door…

Then there is “The Lost Pubic Hair”. Jan’s mellifluous voice drifts through time and space. He thinks of other locations that influence his memory patterns. He tells us that this is a true story; but is it? Jan bumps into a friend, Kathy. While they lunch together, Jan daydreams of days that take unexpected turns. He thinks about his colourful, cosmopolitan city of Brussels. Bright market flowers, juicy fruits of summer and crisp, green, yellow and red vegetables. A variety of nationalities living, working and above all, having sex together. He recalls a one time erotic encounter, then he remembers another. Each erotic encounter, is punctuated by the inevitable cigarette.

The stories in this collection from Jan Vander Laenen, are captivating. He writes refreshingly about sex and erotic encounters in a manner that is quite blasé. He savours bodily fluids, their taste, scent and texture, like a connoisseur of the finest wine. Are the tales true? Possibly. Or are they a clever blend of truth and lies? It doesn’t matter. Great writers alter our perspective, make us see things differently. Jan turns the everyday into an epic; the ordinary into something bizarre. There is merriment here too; Jan doesn’t take himself too seriously, neither should we.

A few people don’t like Jan Vander Laenen’s tales. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Perhaps they are looking for a hidden joke against them, or even some sort of sinister resistance to the powerful status quo. It is not for me to tell those lofty idealists what they should, or should not read. But if we don’t challenge ourselves, open ourselves up to new ideas, we do not grow. It is a shame, I think, when people stifle their imagination and sense of fun, just to fit in to some idealistic ethos. Or perhaps those people had no sense of fun, or imagination to begin with.

Life is often farcical and Jan Vander Laenen celebrates life with an artist’s eye. This is a collection that will delight, entertain and amuse; the collection may also make you think about your own life. How different your day, even your life could have turned out, had you left home ten minutes earlier. Taken the bus instead of the train. A theme from that great film, “Siding Doors”. These are tales that will stay with you, long after you have read the final sentence.

English is not Jan’s first language. The tales were originally written in Dutch and then translated into English.

The Centrefold is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Monday, 20 August 2012


So it’s around 9.15 in the morning, on a Thursday. I’ve just settled down in my sitting room, a little bit shaky, and take my first tentative sips of my triple espresso. The television is switched on and my morning panel show, “The Wright Stuff” -- theme tune blaring, blasts and shudders onto the TV screen.

Matthew Wright, the journalist and host of the show, introduces his guests, Fatima Whitbread, the Olympian athlete, somebody whose name I can’t remember and Jeremy Edwards. No, not THAT Jeremy Edwards, not OUR Jeremy Edwards, beloved, irrepressible rascal, owner of a vast,  soon to be opened to the public, exotic menagerie and talented writer of erotica! The guy on my TV screen is the English actor, Jeremy Edwards.

The bitter brew  bites. I wince and sip some more. I ponder on the notion of how it would be much more fun it would be, if it were OUR Jeremy Edwards. And as if in psychic response, Matthew Wright holds up the cover of OUR Jeremy Edwards’ book, “Rock My Socks Off” and asks the English Jeremy about his clandestine career as an erotic writer. English Jeremy laughingly dissembles for a few seconds, then reveals that it is not he who writes erotica, it’s the other Jeremy. Jeremy Edwards in the US.

But this is fantastic! One of my favourite erotic writers getting some free air time on British TV!

I send Jeremy Edwards in the U.S. a message via Facebook.
“There is a TV actor here -- also Jeremy Edwards! I saw him on a chat show last week -- he was asked about his erotic books! They showed a cover of "Rock My Socks Off"! The British Jeremy laughed, and cleared up the confusion! But your book got 5 minutes of free Brit TV air time!”

Jeremy’s response.
“Holy cow!! Yes, I've known about him for some time (though my use of this name dates all the way back to 1995, long before I had any idea there was or would be a celeb by the same name). But, wow, I never thought there'd be confusion--let alone on television! Thanks for letting me know!”

We talk a bit about how Jeremy can get to see it -- it appears that it’s not possible. The video clip of the show has been uploaded to Youtube, but Youtube has invoked Technology and set up an impenetrable force field around the vid. It is called the “Not in Your Country” block. Youtube often does this for no other reason than spite, and because it can. Youtube has invoked the spell of Technology and in the face of Technology we will always lose. Technology smirks at us -- how can we hope to defeat such powers?

Jeremy asks plaintively; “And if any of you UKians have the time, technology, and talent to--well, you know…”

And again. “Hello, wizardly UK friends! Oh, how I wish there were a magic way for me to see the part of this television program (whose videos are not viewable in the U.S.) in which the celebrity Jeremy Edwards is teased about "his" erotic-writing career, and the cover of my first novel is displayed…”

Jeremy is obviously distraught, upset and agitated! But what to do? I don’t have the technological know how to sort this out! And Jeremy obviously doesn’t either. Jeremy is crying now, really crying, great big sobs -- he rushes from the room and kicks the door.

Technology giggles childishly.

But, hang on a minute. Who is  this? Verily, she rides with ease a jet black stallion, taming him as he rears and plunges. The stallion wears a silver bridle, his long mane and tail stream in the wind. His eyes are wild and red, smoke streams from his flared nostrils. His name is “Undaunted” and lo, his rider is Kristina Lloyd, “She Who Must Be Obeyed”. Behold her, clad in black leather garments and jangling silver chains as without fear she urges the beast onwards, brandishing the mighty sword “Avenger,” which only she can wield. (Avenger was actually cast in the same secret furnace as King Arthur’s sword “Excaliber”, and was given to Kristina, in another tale, by the Lady of the Lake.) With her hair loose and wild, Kristina is Joan d’Arc on amphetamine. And behold, Technology pales, cowers and crumbles before her. With her magic powers, her sword and enchanted WM Converter, Kristina dissolves the force field around the Youtube “Not in your Country” nonsense. And hurrah! Jeremy gets to see the video clip!

Kristina Lloyd says on Facebook. “I downloaded a clip with some free software called WM Converter. It was a breeze once I'd found that. Sadly the vid has already been removed from YouTube but Jeremy has the file. So glad we caught it in time!”

And the last word must go to Jeremy.
“I will probably look back on this as the high point of my literary career, media-exposure-wise. Which is a little sad, but mostly funny—and appealingly quirky and random. And, as they say (and as I say, with increasing frequency)... I'll take it! (:v>”

And you can still watch the vid -- just go to Jeremy Edwards’ Facebook page and scroll down! Enjoy!

Jeremy Edwards is the author of the erotocomedic novel Rock My Socks Off (Xcite Books), the erotic story collection Spark My Moment (Xcite Books), and most recently The Pleasure Dial: An Erotocomedic Novel of Old-Time Radio (OC Press). His quirky, sensuous short stories have appeared in over fifty anthologies, including recent volumes in the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica series. Jeremy’s work explores sex in its sunniest form, celebrating joyful sensuality, libidinous urgency, offbeat romanticism, and the pleasures of language and laughter—with the focus on cerebral, sexually self-aware women and the men and women who adore them. His greatest goal in life is to be sexy and witty at the same moment—ideally in lighting that flatters his profile. Readers can drop in on him unannounced (and thereby catch him in his underwear) at .

Some recent publications:

“Cast Party” and “Laplanders,” in 69 [Harlequin Spice; ed. Alison Tyler]

“Curated,” at FeatherLit

“System,” in Girl Fever [Cleis Press; ed. Sacchi Green]

“Ambiguity,” at FeatherLit

“Bubble Dance,” in Going Down [Cleis Press; ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel]

“Reconnect,” in Stretched [Racy Pages; ed. Tinder James]

Private Fountains: Wet Erotica by Jeremy Edwards, vols. 1-4

Coming soon:

The print edition of The Pleasure Dial: An Erotocomedic Novel of Old-Time Radio, by Jeremy Edwards (OC Press)

"Boston. Breasts. Bohemian," in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, vol. 11 (Constable & Robinson; ed. Maxim Jakubowski)

"Elevenses," in Morning, Noon and Night: Erotica for Couples [Cleis Press; ed. Alison Tyler]

"The Nude, Stripped Naked," in Only You: Erotic Romance for Couples [Cleis Press; ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel]

Friday, 17 August 2012


It is all womens’ fault. All of it.  Everything -- ever since the world began. We are used to blaming Eve, for her disobedience to God‘s holy decree. But we are wrong to do so. The fault of womankind and consequently every bad thing that ever, ever happened, is actually the fault of Lilith -- Adam’s first wife.

There are many stories about Lilith in ancient Hebrew, and Assyrian texts. The stories tell that God created Adam and Lilith at the same time, and out of the same dust. It seems that conflict arose between Adam and Lilith, because Adam insisted that Lilith should lie beneath him during sexual intercourse. Lilith was furious and refused; she was Adam’s equal. She spoke the sacred and ineffable name of God and vanished in a rage, flying off into the air.

Adam was understandably angry and insisted that she return to him. Adam asked God to help him, so God sent three angels, Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof, to find her.

She was eventually found in the Red Sea. The angels threatened her. If she did not return to Adam, her husband, one hundred of her sons would die every day. Lilith countered their threat by telling them to do their worst, retorting that she was created to harm new born children and that is what she would do. But she made an oath that she would not harm a child wearing an amulet with the images of the three angels inscribed on it.

Lilith’s first appearance is probably in ancient Sumer texts; she also is mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. She is older than Judaism and is the most important of a small collection of named female demons in Hebrew legend.

As far as I am able to ascertain, there is only one Biblical reference to Lilith -- in Isaiah 34:14

“Wildcats shall meet with hyenas,
     goat-demons shall call to each other;
there too Lilith shall repose,
     and find a place to rest.
There shall the owl nest
     and lay and hatch and brood in its shadow.”

The passage associates Lilith with the night and with repulsive, unclean creatures. I get a sense of her plotting, scheming and finding ways to do harm. She is clearly linked with the demonic world. As stories around her develop, Lilith becomes associated with endangering pregnancy and childbirth -- if she can make things go wrong, she will.

Lilith is also a succubus -- men fear her coming to them in the night, stealing their seed, copulating with them, as they slumber helplessly. She personifies licentiousness and lust.

Even holy men feared Lilith. In the Middle Ages, celibate monks kept Lilith’s night time visits away by sleeping with their hands crossed over their genitals and holding a crucifix.

 Kabbalah has a clear view of Lilith.

“Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof (no end) and the mortal and finite universe (his creation). While it is heavily used by some denominations, it is not a religious denomination in itself. Inside Judaism, it forms the foundations of mystical religious interpretation. Outside Judaism, its scriptures are read outside the traditional canons of organised religion. Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to thereby attain spiritual realisation.”


Through the teachings of  Kabbalah, Lilith maintains a status fixed in Hebrew demonology. She leaves a trail of tragic tales wherever she appears. She strangles children in their cribs and she seduces any man she fixes her gaze upon. She is the partner of Samael (Satan) and with him, she rules the forces of evil. She visits her earthly husband, Adam, as the succubus, stealing his seed, and she copulates with Satan. Lilith gives birth to one hundred children a day and is held responsible for populating the world with evil.

Men and babies have no protection against a sexually powerful entity such as Lilith. She personifies female sexuality and her mythology perceives her sexuality as a terrible threat, disruptive and destructive, going against the natural order of things. Lilith disturbs identity, system, order. She has no respect for borders, positions or rules.

These days, her name is unspoken -- either because we don’t know about her, or because we live in the enlightened decades of the twenty first century. We no longer believe in evil entities.  But Lilith still lurks as a sinister entity in the minds of biblical commentators and in the teachings of Kabbalah.

“She provides thereby a necessary sexual dimension, which is otherwise lacking, to the Genesis story which, when read in literal terms, portrays Eve not as some wicked femme fatale but as a naive and largely sexless fool.”

Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe “Eve and the Identity of Women”

This blog post was put together using sources from the Web, including Wikipedia, Christopher Whitcombe’s essay and Encyclopedia Mythica. Also ideas from Marina Warner and Julia Kristeva.

Friday, 10 August 2012


““Lark Rise to Candleford,” is a trilogy  of books about the countryside of north-east Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, England, at the end of the 19th century. They were written by Flora Thompson and first published together in 1945. The stories were previously published separately as Lark Rise in 1939, Over to Candleford in 1941 and Candleford Green in 1943.

The stories relate to three communities: the hamlet of Juniper Hill (“Lark Rise”), where Flora grew up; Buckingham (“Candleford”), the nearest town, and the nearby village of Fringford (“Candleford Green”), where Flora got her first job in the Post Office.”

Lark Rise to Candleford is an important historical source for the social historian. Flora Thompson actually lived through the period about which she writes. Her books are nostalgic, a yearning for a more evenly paced way of life; a time when life was governed by the rhythm of the seasons. Flora Thompson draws a picture of a close knit community and peaceful rural culture. And she does not shy away from telling of the harshness of that old way of living. The lives she describes in Lark Rise, are tough and gritty; she tells of the grinding poverty of the lower orders of rural life, the harshness of those cold, bitter, biting winters, the reality of starvation and sickness, the long walks to get to school and the very real possibility of  physical and sexual assault from older children.

Through the character of Laura, we see  the dark grey, looming face of industrialisation. From her work at the post office, in Candleford Green,  Laura can see the benefits that agricultural mechanisation, better communications and urban expansion will bring, but she regrets the passing of a way of life, that will be forever lost.

And then there is the  television series! No one, absolutely no one, does costume drama like the BBC. Getting my weekly fix of “Lark Rise to Candleford”, I felt it was a long way from Flora Thompson’s book. But somehow it didn’t matter. It is the changing times that drive the book. The TV series is more character driven.

We see a young country girl Laura Timmins leaving her friends and family in the hamlet of Lark Rise to start her first job at the post office in nearby town Candleford. Postmistress Dorcas Lane gives Laura a warm welcome but other residents of Candleford aren't so generous. When Lark Rise residents challenge the post office's 'eight mile rule' that forces them to pay for delivery of telegrams, Laura finds herself torn between communities.

The TV series is idealised and romanticised -- but it didn’t seem to matter as week after week, we were treated to an artist’s wash of colour; a dreamy inspiration of blues, greens, reds and that beautiful image of golden wheat fields, ripening in the warm sunshine, swaying in a gentle breeze that heralded the beginning of each episode.

“Setting the ambitious townsfolk of Candleford against the dwellers of nearby farming hamlet Lark Rise at the turn of the century, the series features a collection of splendidly unremarkable characters. A God-fearing postman and his timid wife, a pair of spinster seamstresses, yearning for romance. A stone mason and his wife, always lusty for each other. Their large family somehow generated enough narrative tension to keep a nation gripped – testimony to the delicate skill of writer Bill Gallagher. Struggling to sustain traditional ways in the face of progress and technological change, the characters of Lark Rise may not have the shadow of war to throw their actions into dramatic relief, but exist as every bit as extreme a social watershed, their economic and social balance more genuinely precarious than any of Downton’s dukes and duchesses.”

 Alexandra Coghlan, writing in “The Arts’ Desk,” comparing and contrasting the BBC series of “Lark Rise to Candleford, with Julian Fellow’s costume drama of “Downton Abbey,” commissioned by ITV.

The rural, English landscape has changed since Flora Thompson’s day. She would not recognise the  vast prairies of wheat, barley,  and oat fields that heralded the beginning of each new TV episode. Flora Thompson would have gazed out onto little fields, a pretty patchwork of changing colour -- the legacy of the Enclosures’ Act of the early eighteenth century.

The prairies that we see today in the English countryside are the result of intensive farming in the nineteen seventies. Greedy farmers, eager to grab whatever grant was available from the European Community. The pretty patchwork of Flora Thompson’s day, was no longer there for the BBC cameras to film.

My quibble doesn’t really matter now. But I remember those little fields with fondness. Only a few miles from where I live, a group of beautiful, ancient Oak trees in the middle of a field, stopped the farmer from being able to sow the land evenly. The trees were chopped down -- once the axe has felled a tree, it is too late. Ancient hedgerows were ripped out too -- boundaries that had been there for generations. Ditches and ponds were filled in. We realise now, the catastrophic effect that all of this had on wildlife.

But I digress. The BBC series presented the rural landscape as we see it today; the countryside is still lovely -- even intensive farming could not spoil it. But now the landscape is different.

In making the TV series character driven we were drawn into those rural, and urban  lives. The producer, director, writer and cast showed us that the lives of ordinary folk, are every bit as important, as those of the higher echelons of society. The people had to change forever, as did the land that they farmed.

I had hoped to show a short video from the TV series -- but the BBC won't let me!

Monday, 6 August 2012


"Memoirs of a Sex Slave" shocked and disturbed me. What is a good piece of writing, telling an excellent story, is spoilt by the perversions that the woman, not only endures, but enjoys. The writer, whom I am sure is a woman, is not doing women any favours here. It is apparent that Elektra can walk away from this insane relationship anytime she likes - yet she chooses to not only embrace perversion and humiliation, inflicted on her by men, she is actually turned on by it. The ending does not vindicate the book - this is not erotica, I think it is pornography. some people might like it but it is definitely not my cup of tea.

Friday, 3 August 2012


It’s exotic, primal, outrageously erotic; it’s the cancan! Combined with Offenbach’s witty, raucous music, the dancers raise the spirits to giddy heights. The cancan seems out of control with it swirling, whirling, shrieking dancers, like a scream from a priestess of Artemis long, long ago. And yet  the dance is a perfectly choreographed performance. The cancan isn’t a dance like a waltz, with all of its refind sensuality, or a tango, with its erotic contrivance; it is not a dance that permits participation. The dancers dance alone, yet together. The cancan is about spectacle, it is absolutely for the spectator, yet you can’t help but feel that the wild, exuberant dance would continue, even if there were no one there to watch.

And the music! Rossini called Offenbach 'The Mozart of the Champs Elysées,’ for a very good reason. Offenbach’s music is sexy, funny and subversive.

“A lot of people think Offenbach invented the cancan. Also some "clever" people think the music was just used for the cancan, and he didn't intend it for that purpose, but that's not true. He wrote the music for a dance that already existed.
He was writing a pop tune for a popular dance, deliberately so he could sell lots of sheet music”.

Placing popular music with products; it is something that these days we see all the time. But aggressive marketing was alive and kicking in the nineteenth century.

“One other thing I should mention is that the women didn't lift up their skirts to show off their underwear and black stockings until towards the century - when underwear became more interesting and erotic, and black stockings became fashionable. Until then, it was all about the movements - although the fact that the women kicked their legs up did mean that you could see a lot more than a "respectable" woman would allow. The cancan came to prominence in the very loose-living Second Empire, the 1850s and 60s in France.”

“A lot of people are very confused by the history of the cancan, and when they hear that it first appeared in the 1830s, they imagine that something like the all-female, chorus-line style existed then, when it didn't.”

“Drawing by Winslow Homer of cancan dancers in Paris in 1867. The cancan was at this time a high-kicking dance for both men and women on a dance floor. These particular dancers are putting on a display for the customers at the Bal Mabille.”

But what of negative responses to the cancan? The dance was seen as a site of desire, centering on the shocking sight of seemingly uncontrollable female bodies.

“There were disapproving voices, particularly in the early years - but these were similar to the criticism of the waltz, which you included in your blog. The cancan involved even more bodily contact between the sexes, and also resulted in the women being out of breath and thus out of control, which was considered quite improper. But actually many of the comments in the press celebrated the liberated nature of the cancan and the excitement of the performance. The dancers tended to be written about much like today's celebrities. The cancan probably avoided too much disapproval because it came to the fore in a period of looser moral standards: the Second Empire.”

“The cancan, the can-can, the French cancan - whatever you want to call it  – first appeared in Paris in the 1830s. But the original cancan bore little resemblance to the choreographed, chorus-line stage dance that we know today. In fact, the original cancan dancers were men. And even when women joined in, in those early days they didn't lift up their skirts in the way we are familiar with today.”

“I'm David Price, a writer, editor, and lecturer, who back in the 1990s completed a book on this dance that has such a colourful history. This original book was actually published in 1998, and is now out of print, but I have revised it with new sections and lots more illustrations. This website is designed to give a flavour of what the revised book is like, and to present some of the fantastic photos that I collected for it. See some photos from the book here.

The first cancan was in fact a ballroom dance, based on a popular dance of the time, the galop. When I say "ballroom", I don't mean the kind you find in a stately home or in a country house. I'm talking about the sort of dancehall frequented by the working classes and farm labourers. A number of these could be found on the outskirts of Paris in the 1830s, and one of them – the Grande Chaumière, was where the cancan was born.

It went through a number of phases in its development, and the chorus-line style of cancan as performed by a group of young women, carefully choreographed to leave the impression of a degree of spontaneity, only really appeared in the 1920s. Throughout the 19th century, the dance was mainly a vehicle for individual stars, each of whom had her own trademark. These cancan stars continued to perform on a dance floor, as if enjoying a fun night out, but their male partners were very much in a secondary role, acting as a foil.

There are numerous myths associated with this one dance, for example: that the composer Offenbach invented it for his operetta Orpheus in the Underworld; that it was created at the Moulin Rouge; that the dancers were all prostitutes; that it was frequently danced without knickers; or that it was officially banned by the authorities in France, Britain or the U.S.A. None of these is absolutely true, but, as with most myths, there is some truth in all of them, even if only a grain”.
. From the introduction to David Price’s book; “Cancan!”

Passages in quotes from an online dialogue with author, David Price