From the cancan to the courtroom

From the cancan to the courtroom

Irish principal dancer at the Moulin Rouge hangs up her tutu and feathers to follow a legal career

LAST CANCAN IN PARIS  Claudine van den Bergh Cooke's last night on the Moulin Rouge stage (image © Philippe Wojazer - courtesy of Moulin Rouge, Paris)

After 11 years on the Moulin Rouge stage, the principal dancer Claudine Van Den Bergh Cooke (31) from Dublin is putting her dancing career to rest to pursue a career as a solicitor.

Claudine and her sister Isabella are the only two Irish people in the famous cast of dancers in the seminal Paris show.

After first joining the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, Paris in 2012, Claudine became one of the stars of the show in 2017 and was appointed Principal Dancer — the first Irish person ever to ascend to the position.

While performing 6 days a week on the show Féerie, also started to study law. She completed her law degree this year and she will now take solicitors ‘qualifying exams next year before moving into legal practice.

On June 18 she donned her feathered and embroidered costumes for one last time and give her finale salute on the Moulin Rouge stage.

Per tradition, she received flowers on stage, then the cast lined up for her as she made her way backstage for the last time.

“I am lucky to have called the Moulin Rouge Paris home and to be a part of this rich legacy for the eleven years I have spent here,” she said. “But I look forward to seeing what the future brings.”

Claudine van den Bergh Cooke and her sister Isabelle (image Philippe Wojazer / Moulin Rouge)

Created in 1889, the Moulin Rouge is celebrating this year its 134th anniversary.

"Féerie" is a 1 hour 45 minute long show with 1000 costumes of feathers, rhinestones and sequins, and of course the famous dance, the French can-can. The dance was invented at the Moulin Rouge.

More than 600.000 spectators from all around the world see the show every year.

Claudine and Isabella are the daughters of a classical ballet teacher in Dublin. Claudine completed her dance education in London, at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

As she is tall — the Moulin Rouge has a minimum height requirement of 5ft 9ins — she undertook a very exacting audition at the Paris venue.

Claudine told BBC News NI: "We're just very lucky to be here living our dream - and we hope that many more Irish dancers audition in the future," she told BBC News NI.

"I've enjoyed every minute working with her - I have my own dressing room, and she's in the dressing room I used to sit into before I got my promotion to a principal dancer.