The Can Can

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Writing about literature - an essay
By Huy Phát
A popular provocative dance move in the Broadway shows in 1950s has been chosen as the title for this short story “The Can-can” of Vivante about a man having a love affair while his thought was wandering around “somebody doing the can-can”- his wife back home. The can-can therefore does more than just being the title, its repeated recurrence in the story recognizes itself as a noteworthy symbol and also contributes greatly in the interpretation of the story’s theme. The can-can emerges as a compelling symbol. In fact, one doesn’t need to read the story to link the can-can dance movements with eroticism; however, the can-can with all of its sensual potential also plays the role of the chemical binding up or probing up this precarious marriage. The can-can dance move originated in France and became popular in the 19th century. Can-can dancers were usually women with long legs covered in black stockings, kicking playfully and seductively in a bunch of dressing robes. When it was transferred to the Broadway shows and later on in dance-slap clubs, with all the robes “simplified” and shortened up and an excess of erotic and provocative movements (e.g. the bent-down so low that dancers’ bottoms are almost (un)intentionally shown to the audience), can-can has become a symbol of eroticism that is obsessed by men, and therefore, loathed by their wives. The can-can performed in the short story by the wife is no exception. Explicitly, the wife did the dance to please her daughter, but the way she did this, “she held up her skirt and did the can-can, kicking her legs up high in his [the husband] direction.”, was full of implication. She did not want her husband to leave, and conveyed that message implicitly through a sexual dance move. As most men are enchanted by sexuality, the husband got that message. In his perception, these were what he saw: “she had no stockings on, no shoes,...
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