A Moulin Rouge dancer shares the health and fitness routine she follows for dancing, 2 shows a night, 6 days a week

The said that the Moulin Rouge, a theater situated beneath its historic windmill of the same name, might conjure up images of a redheaded Nicole Kidman and a young Ewan McGregor in a Baz Luhrmann film. But after seeing the real At the Moulin Rouge show, shortly after moving to Paris, I was surprised by something I didn’t expect: the performance is a spectacle of strength, resistance, balance and flexibility.

Yes, it’s a glittering, enchanting cabaret, filled with topless feathered costumes (1,000 costumes, to be specific), cancan dancing, and a champagne-soaked audience. But it’s also a very athletic performance.

There are four main dance acts, each with their own, Wait, they actually did that?! moments (including an underwater dance performance) and talent performances in between. A pair of skaters made me scream in admiration, while two men used the strength of their necks?!?

The cast of 60 artists performs six nights a week, two shows per night. With a grueling schedule like this, what does a dancer do to keep their body in a state of peak performance and health?

That’s exactly what I asked one of the main dancers, 23-year-old Allie Goodbun from Toronto, Canada. With a degree in kinesiology from the University of Toronto, plus 16 previous years of dance experience, Goodbun has a unique insight into what your body needs and how to keep it as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

A day in the life of a Moulin Rouge dancer

Goodbun moved to Paris at the end of 2021 to begin her work as a full-time dancer at the iconic venue. Since then, she’s adopted a new routine that looks a little different from the one she had at home.

12pm to 12:30pm: Wake up

Goodbun is born around noon, the biggest change from his pre-Moulin regime. With shows at 9pm and 11pm every night, she doesn’t finish work until after 1am, so she sleeps in to make up for it. I don’t have a morning routine [anymore]; my routine now is how quickly can I leave the house so I can see as much of Paris as I can?!

But first she has a quick breakfast at home. Something like a bowl of granola, egg on toast, substantial avocado and tomato sandwich [enough] to tide me over until lunch, she says.

1pm: Walk or bike to a cafe, explore Paris

On this occasion, the Moulin Rouge has a mandatory dance rehearsal, from 1pm to 4:30pm. Otherwise, Goodbun will venture out of his apartment in Montmartre, near the theater, to visit the city. I probably go to five different districts every day, she says. I go by bike wherever I want; I think I’ll go to a different cafe every day. Goodbun loves that his nighttime work schedule allows him to see Paris during the day and has shared some of his favorite cafe finds on his TikTok. There’s something about the convenience of a fresh pastry from a boulangerie that just isn’t a thing at home.

5pm: Eat and get ready for the show

Around 5 or 5:30 p.m., Goodbun will prepare a meal to fuel his body for that night’s shows. She points out that this is in a dead zone where many French restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner, so she often ends up eating at home, cooking herself what she calls American classics, like a combination of meat, potatoes and vegetables, sautéed chicken or tacos. So let’s go to the theater.

7:30 pm: Warm-up at the Moulin Rouge

Goodbun’s pre-show warm-up isn’t very intense, she shares. I’ve been active and been cycling and walking all day and I want to save energy for shows – it’s a balance between staying active and not getting tired so you’re not tired when you get to work. She does a specific warm-up for the dance, stretching and activating the muscles she will use in the show, then prepares her hair and makeup for the 9pm show.

9pm and 11pm: Consecutive performances

With a resume that includes Disney TV shows, modeling and competitive dancing, being on stage is nothing new for Goodbun. Although she is the main dancer for many shows throughout the week, she also rotates (and knows every part of the dancers!) and can play a different role depending on the night.

1:15 am: Wrap up and go home

Goodbun takes advantage of her final moments in the theater to take off her makeup, take a shower, put away her costumes and change into something comfortable. When I go home I’m ready for bed! she says.

2pm: dinner time

Goodbun eats dinner for a second time when he gets home, usually something quick that will replenish his body without taking a lot of time to prepare, like a sandwich and a protein shake. I basically never go out to dinner, since I work those hours. On the one night off I have a week, sometimes, if I have plans, I’ll eat out, but most of the food I eat out of the house is coffee and croissants.

3am: Relax

With the six-hour time difference compared to Toronto and the night time, Goodbun ends up having a similar schedule to his parents and partner in Canada. I go to bed and wake up at the same time as them, she says. She uses this window at the end of the workday to FaceTime before falling asleep.

3:30am to 4am: Bedtime

As some Parisians get up to start their day, Goodbun finally turns off the lights for the night.

How she stays strong and energized

Rest, rest, REST!

Rest has been the number one priority since moving here, she says. If I’m tired, it’s game over for me. I know I need to sleep as much as I can, for as long as I need, and I purposely don’t plan anything ever before 2pm. This is an unspoken rule among all dancers, she tells me. I knew before [moving here and starting this job] that I would need a lot of rest, but not as much as I know now.

She says this change in circadian rhythm and sleep schedule was the biggest adjustment in her previous life; prioritizing the quality of her sleep and recovery was equivalent to her success on the program (and it paid off—she was promoted to director in about 18 months). And quickly leaving the apartment to sunbathe is her way of staying regulated for this change in sleep schedule.

In addition to sleeping, Goodbun decompresses by doing daily movements, in a very French style. small plaisir she likes to have coffee and croissant every afternoon. I gave my coffee machine, she said. [Going out for] coffee became my mental and social outlet; a way to get out of the house, meet a friend, explore the city.

A Frenchized exercise routine

Of course, her main exercise is the at least 30 hours of dancing she does a week; six days later, a day out of a schedule she became accustomed to as a teenager. As for how she trains? This has evolved a lot.

For Goodbun, Paris is his gym. I haven’t spent a day indoors since I moved here,” she says. I have an active daily schedule in place of cross training; this has been the best for my physical and mental health.

In this way, she adopted a very French approach to a healthy lifestyle. Goodbun virtually lived in sports and Lululemon she even worked at the front desk at SoulCycle.

I was a big girl in Torontospin, HIIT, CrossFit, Pilates classes; always thinking Which gyms will I go to? she says. Then I arrived in Paris, went straight to rehearsals and tried to sign up for a gym to go to in the morning, before dance rehearsals at Moulin Rouge. On the fourth day, that was a big NO. I had no energy. I have to be careful not to overdo it. I need to listen to my body and not just my habits that I had in Canada.

Fitness is a little more advanced and more current in North America, she says. Because there, what it’s your way of feeling good, doing your morning routine, putting on your workout clothes, working out.

In France, the fitness craze and obsession with well-being have not yet caught on. Here, productivity is about enjoying your peaceful morning, making sure your house is clean, putting on nice clothes and going to the boulangerie – it’s a different mindset.

She notes that many of the dancers do in fact go to a gym, but in business they don’t necessarily go out on the town like she does. I prefer my active lifestyle for longer periods of the day, walking or cycling, and then warming up as needed for dancing.

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