Cradle of French Cancan hit by fire

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The 18th-century music hall in Paris where the leggy, high-kicking French dance called cancan first graced a stage was severely damaged by fire early Tuesday, municipal officials said.

The Elysee Montmartre, in the shadow of Sacre Coeur, has been a fixture of glamorous Paris nightlife since it was built 200 ago.

Police said faulty wiring was likely to blame for the fire, which destroyed part of the theater's roof and interior before more than 70 firemen were able to put out the blaze.

Besides being the cradle of the cancan -- later adopted by another notorious hotspot, the Moulin Rouge -- the Elysee Montmartre also showcased works by writer Emile Zola and painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

A famous short story by Guy de Maupassant, The Mask, opens with a description of a lavish masquerade ball inside the theater.

The 19th century French engineer Gustave Eiffel -- creator of the Eiffel Tower -- later added a metal framework to the building, which is now classified as a historical monument.

No one was injured in the fire, local officials said.

© 2011 AFP

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