Dancers celebrate Scotland’s connection with the famous Moulin Rouge

There’s a treat in store for Hogmanay thanks to a vibrant new documentary on BBC ALBA which follows three Scottish dancers as they high kick their way through the Moulin Rouge’s 130th anniversary year.

Scottish dancers Lucy Monaghan, Sarah Tandy and Michaela Rondelli feature in the BBC ALBA documentary about the Moulin Rouges 130th anniversary.
Scottish dancers Lucy Monaghan, Sarah Tandy and Michaela Rondelli feature in the BBC ALBA documentary about the Moulin Rouges 130th anniversary.

The world-famous dance cabaret ‘Moulin Rouge’ opened its doors on October 6, 1889, at 8pm, the same year as the Eiffel Tower.

In 2019 on the same day, October 6, and at the same time, 8pm, this Parisian dance palace celebrated with a massive 130th birthday bash performance of the French Can-Can on the street outside the venue, in front of the world’s media.

And BBC ALBA was front and centre capturing all the glitz and glamour of this auspicious event to make the UK’s only documentary about the Moulin Rouge’s anniversary.

For the first time ever, the Moulin Rouge cast now boasts three Scottish dancers – Sarah Tandy (37), Lucy Monaghan (28) and Michaela Rondelli (26), and broadcaster Cathy Macdonald follows them in this documentary as they form a part of the illustrious history of this world-famous cabaret in Paris.

They are living out their dreams of dancing at such a prestigious venue, presenting the best of France, two shows a night, 365 days a year. Feathers, sequins, and make-up – this show has it all and Cathy is right at the heart of it.

Solus Productions, who produced the show for BBC ALBA, reveal privileged backstage access to the Moulin Rouge as the dancers prepare for two shows a night with only one day off a week. The Moulin has a 97 per cent occupancy with audiences attending from every corner of the globe.

Viewers will follow the Moulin’s Scottish dancers at home in their Parisian apartments. The trio of Scots also make a rare flying visit back to Scotland to take part in a charity event outside Edinburgh, showcasing the historic costumes of the Moulin Rouge.

During their short visit back home, two of the dancers re-visited their old Scottish dance schools for the first time, imparting advice to aspiring young dancers.

Sarah Tandy (37) has been dancing at the Moulin for nearly 13 years. She has been married to fellow Moulin Rouge dancer, Australian born David Tandy, for five years.

They met at the Moulin and get the opportunity to dance together in several numbers on stage every night.

Together they have a two-year-old son. After the two shows each night, the dancers don’t get home until 2am. With a toddler running around a long lie isn’t an option.

The documentary reveals just how Sarah and David juggle their vocation on stage with domesticity at home.

Sarah said: “Joining the Moulin has given me everything – a well-paid job, a husband and a family.

“I started my career at Moulin and that’s where I hope to retire. I guess it’s true what they say – once a Moulin show girl, always a Moulin show girl.”

Lucy Monaghan (28) has been dancing at the Moulin for seven years.

Lucy is a former pupil of the prestigious Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood Academy in Glasgow.

She was 11 years old when she announced to her parents that she wanted to be a dancer.

Lucy went on to study Ballet at London’s Central School of Ballet. In her third year she went through the gruelling audition process for the Moulin and was accepted straight away.

“You can’t beat having the opportunity to perform every single night,” she said.

“The theatre holds 1000 people and there’s never a spare seat. The atmosphere is electric and being part of something so huge, so famous and historic is an honour.”

Michaela Rondelli (26) has been dancing the can-can with the Moulin for three and a half years.

Michaela is a former champion Highland Dancer. She says her background in Highland Dancing has really helped her with the French can-can.

She told her mum Jackie when she was six that she wanted to be a professional dancer.

Michaela auditioned for the Moulin Rouge on a Friday afternoon three years ago and the following Monday she was in Paris, high kicking on the cabaret’s famous stage.

“It is my dream job, it’s the best job in the dance world,” she said.

“I do get so excited when I hear Scottish accents in the audience. I want to speak to them, but the audience think I’m French!”

Michaela added: “We may live and work in Paris, but we’ll always be Scots girls at heart.”

The audition process for entry into the Moulin is one of the toughest in the world.

Ballet mistress Janet Pharaoh travels the globe in search of the correct dancers. In the BBC ALBA documentary she tells Cathy Macdonald: “I take time over my auditions, I travel the world looking for the perfect type of dancer.

“They have to be tall, they have to look good in the costumes, they have to have personality, but most of all they have to have perfect dance technique, for those that make it and get in, this is the best dance job in the world.”

• Moulin Rouge Ecosse is on BBC ALBA at 9pm on Tuesday, December 31.