Claudine Van Den Bergh can’t believe she’s living her dream as one of the main dancers at the most famous cabaret in the world, the Moulin Rouge.
The 30-year-old, from Sutton, Dublin, comes from a talented family as her sister, Isabelle (25), is also a dancer in the famous Paris venue.
But the coveted jobs did not come easily for them – they have dedicated their lives to dance, with Claudine starting lessons not long after she began to walk.
“As a child, I was just constantly moving and dancing. It has always been my passion,” she said.
“I got into dancing when I was two-and-a-half, and I started in classical ballet.
“I went on to study professionally at the age of 15 in Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London and I auditioned for Moulin Rouge when I was 20.
“The audition process was pretty intense – it was four-and-a-half hours and they tested all types of different dance styles, from classical to jazz.”
Claudine has been dancing with the Moulin Rouge for 10 years and has worked her way up from the can-can line to being one of three principal dancers.
She is five-foot-10 – to audition for the show, female dancers must be at least five-foot-nine with a “slim, graceful figure” while men have to be a minimum of six-foot-one with a “well-proportioned, muscled body”.
“Everyone starts on the can-can line and then there are opportunities to get promotions, so I did replacement soloist roles and then I auditioned for principal roles and that’s my current role,” Claudine said.
“I auditioned for that and I was a replacement for a few years and then when a position became available I was lucky enough to be selected as the person to fill it in my own capacity.
“So I’ve been lead of the show for the past five years. I didn’t know if that dream would ever become a reality and I always say there was a bit of Irish luck.
“I was lucky to get it, but I worked hard and I devoted myself to it from a young age, so that work has paid off.”
As Claudine does two shows a night, six days a week on top of rehearsals, she says she did not really get homesick because she is so busy, but she does miss Ireland.
Asked whether she might come home in the future, she said: “For now, I’m really enjoying this and I’m living in this moment. The focus is Paris and staying around and I’m really enjoying my role so that’s what keeps me here.
“My parents miss me and my sister, but they’re really proud, and I think that after all the years of hard work and dedication that has been given to dance, they’re just really proud. Our mother is our biggest fan.”
Claudine said that after 18 months of the Moulin Rouge being closed because of the pandemic, performing in front of the first live audience again was an emotional experience.
“The excitement for reopening was amazing – a lot of emotion went into it,” she said.
“I was quite nervous. I’m nervous before every show, but for that one it had been a long time – it was re-learning how to hold yourself in the costumes and working with dance partners on stage. “We do big lifts, so it was getting back used to that.
“In terms of feeling, it was really just a wonderful feeling of fulfilment to be back on stage.
“I’m passionate about performing, it’s what I do and I love it.
“We did rehearsals throughout the summer, but with the live audience you
get that energy and it feeds you.
“We had a standing ovation, which was wonderful – it was incredible, it was an incredible opening.”
For the first time ever, the ‘secret room’ in the windmill of the Moulin Rouge will be opening its doors for three lucky people and their guests for an overnight stay.
Three individual one-night stays for two guests will be available on June 13, 20 and 27 for €1 on Airbnb.
Claudine will be opening the doors for those who manage to nab the deals.
They will also get a meet-and-greet with the lead dancer, enjoy a private tour of the venue and sit in the best seats for the Moulin Rouge show, Feerie.