WITH an entrance beaming with sparkling lights, and an enviable location on the beautiful Champs-Élysées, the LIDO de Paris is certainly an occasion worth dressing up for. The world-renowned cabaret theatre has been offering the most glamorous of nights out since 1946, hosting spectacular shows that have boasted world-famous performers including Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker.
At the heart of the Lido is the Bluebell Girls, a legendary dance troupe that this winter celebrates seven decades of performing at the theatre. With dancers selected from all across the globe, the mainly female ensemble has become known for their glamorous burlesque routines and statuesque appearance, with sassiness and empowerment always taking centre stage.
The Bluebell Girls at LIDO de Paris. Photography: Pascaline Labarerre
Through time, they have come to embody a type of cabaret performance that can only be found in Paris, and, out of the the handful of remaining grand cabarets that continue to exist in the French capital, the Lido is still uniquely modern in its outlook. The theatre has been a leading trendsetter over the decades and the Bluebell Girls have continued to represent the best of what Parisian cabaret has to offer.
The Bluebell Girls performing at LIDO de Paris. Photography: Gregory Mairet
The Bluebell Girls were the brainchild of Margaret Kelly, who at the age of 22 decided to create her own band of elite dancers in Paris. The Girls first performed in 1948, debuting at the LIDO de Paris with a show called Confetti. Kelly, who was born in Dublin and, after being abandoned, raised in Liverpool, had already established herself as a top-class dancer by this time, making a name for herself in Paris and Berlin. The troupe’s catchy name arised from Kelly being affectionately called Miss Bluebell, given her striking hyacinth-coloured eyes.
A formidable and strong woman, who carefully carved out her career, Kelly had a clear vision. The Bluebell Girl would possess a graceful figure and a striking height, be trained in classical ballet, and have a wonderful personality. Following her own retirement from dancing, Kelly continued to lead her Bluebells at the Lido for nearly 40 years in her role as Ballet Mistress. More than 10,000 Bluebell Girls had been guided by Kelly at the time of her death in 2004.
Stunning costumes at LIDO de Paris. Photography: Pascaline Labarrere
Today, Kelly’s vision has been kept in tact, going from strength to strength. The Bluebell Girls are now directed by Jane Sansby, who has been artistic leader for the past 15 years. British-born Sansby was herself trained as a Bluebell Girl, first joining the Lido in 1993. Speaking to current dancers in the troupe, there is a genuine admiration and respect for what the Bluebell Girl embodies, especially in relation to images of the 21st century woman. Diversity forms the foundation of the troupe’s ethos, as does a bold and unapologetic attitude that champions female strength. Each dancer’s dedication to their art form, as well as to their fellow performers, is also evident, signalling the supportive and creative environment at the Lido for each dancer to express themselves.
The Fontaines scene. Photography: Gregory Mairet
As for the show itself, you are in for a ride! Since 2015, the Bluebell Girls have been performing Paris Merveilles, a dazzling production by Franco Dragone. The feted Belgian director is famed for his work with Cirque du Soleil as well as various Las Vegas shows, including Celine Dion’s concert, A New Day. Dragone’s transformative production for the Lido is an exercise in stunning visuals, technological wizardry and elegant scene transitions. The show is, in its premise, a tribute to Paris, and the allure of the “city of light” is certainly showed off most memorably.
Look out for the stunning robotic-style dancing of B -Boy Mansour (Mansour Abdessadok) as well as the incredible ice skating scene, featuring Solene Bachelet and Maxime Combés, which is most certainly the stand-out of the show – it is breathtaking. Another killer routine is performed by the exquisite performer Masha Terentieva, who rotates mid-air with amazing grace and energy. Her skills are magnetic and awe-inspiring.
Paris Merveilles is a testament to some truly talented performers and a sign that the magic of the LIDO de Paris will continue to live on for decades to come through its iconic Bluebell Girls.
by Derby Jones
LIDO de Paris
116 bis Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris
Tel: +33 (0) 1 40 76 56 10
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