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A Moulin Rouge Dancer Shares Her Health and Fitness Routine

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The storied Moulin Rouge, a theater tucked under its historic namesake windmill, might conjure up images of a redheaded Nicole Kidman and young Ewan McGregor in a Baz Luhrmann flick. But after seeing the actual Moulin Rouge show shortly after moving to Paris, I was taken aback by something I didn’t expect: The performance is a spectacle of strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility.

Yes, it’s a glittering, enchanting cabaret replete with topless feathered costumes (1,000 costumes, to be specific), cancan dancing, and a champagne-imbibed audience. But it’s quite the athletic performance as well.

There are four main dancing acts, each with their own, Wait did they really just do that?! moments (including an underwater dance performance), and talent performances in between. A roller skating duo had me borderline screaming in awe, while two men used the strength of their necks—?!?—to support each other’s full body weight.

The cast of 60 artists performs six nights a week, two shows a night. With a grueling schedule like that, 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 principal dancers, 23-year-old Allie Goodbun from Toronto, Canada. With a degree in kinesiology from the University of Toronto—plus 16 prior years of dance experience—Goodbun has a unique insight into what her 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 in late 2021 to begin her job as a full-time dancer at the emblematic venue. Since then, she’s adopted a new routine that looks quite a bit different from the one she had back at home.

12 to 12:30 pm: Wake up

Goodbun rises around midday—the biggest change from her pre-Moulin regimen. With shows at 9 pm and 11 pm each night, she doesn’t finish work until after 1 am, so she sleeps in to make up for it. “I don’t have a morning routine [anymore]; my routine now is ‘how fast can I get out of the house so I can see as much of Paris as I can?!’”

But first she eats a quick breakfast at home. “Something like a granola bowl, egg on toast, avocado tomato sandwich—substantial [enough] to get me through until ‘lunch,’” she says.

1 pm: Walk or bike to a coffee spot, explore Paris

On occasion, the Moulin Rouge has a mandatory dance rehearsal from 1 to 4:30 pm. Otherwise, Goodbun will venture out of her Montmartre apartment by the theater to hit the town. “I probably go to five different arrondissements every day,” she says. “I’ll go on my bike wherever I feel like hanging out; I think I go to a different coffee spot every day.” Goodbun loves that her nighttime working hours allow her to see Paris in the daytime, and has shared some of her favorite café discoveries on her TikTok. “There’s something about the convenience of a fresh pastry from a boulangerie… that’s just not a thing back home.”

5 pm: Eat and prepare for the show

Around 5 or 5:30, Goodbun will make herself a meal to fuel her body for that night’s shows. She points out that this is during a “dead zone” in which many French restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner services, so she usually ends up eating at home, cooking herself what she calls “North American classics,” like a meat-potato-vegetable combo, chicken stir fry, or tacos. Then it’s off to the theater.

7:30 pm: Warm up at the Moulin Rouge

Goodbun’s pre-show warmup isn’t too intensive, she shares. “I’ve been active and out on my bike and walking all day, and I want to save my energy for the shows—it’s a balance between staying active and not exhausting yourself, so you’re not tired when you come into work.” She’ll do a dance-specific warmup, stretching out and activating the muscles she’ll be using in the show, then she gets her hair and makeup ready for 9 pm showtime.

9 pm and 11 pm: Back-to-back performances

With a resumé that includes Disney TV shows, modeling, and competitive dance, being on stage is nothing new for Goodbun. Though she is the principal dancer for many of the shows during the week, she also rotates (and knows every single dancer’s part!) and may play a different role depending on the night.

1:15 am: Wrap up and go home

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

2 am: Dinnertime

Goodbun eats her “second dinner” when she gets home, usually something quick that will refuel her body without taking much time to prep, like a sandwich and protein shake. “I basically never go out for dinner since I work those hours. The one night off I have per week, sometimes if I have plans I will eat out, but the majority of my food that I eat outside of my home is that coffee and croissant.”

3 am: Wind down

With the six-hour time difference from Toronto and the night owl schedule, Goodbun ends up being on a similar schedule to her parents and partner back in Canada. “I’m going to bed and waking up at the same time as them,” she says. She uses this window at the end of her work day to FaceTime before falling asleep.

3:30 am to 4 am: Bedtime

While some Parisians are getting up to start their day, Goodbun is finally lights out 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, as long as I need to, and I purposefully don’t plan anything ever before 2 pm.” That’s an unspoken rule among all the dancers, she tells me. “I knew before [moving here and starting this job] that I’d need a lot of rest, but not to the extent that I know now.”

She says that this change to her circadian rhythm and sleep schedule has been the biggest adjustment from her former life; prioritizing the quality of her sleep and recovery has been tantamount to her success in the show (and it’s paying off—she was promoted to principal in about 18 months). And getting out of the apartment quickly to get some sunlight is her way of keeping herself regulated for this shifted sleep schedule.

In addition to sleep, Goodbun decompresses by getting in daily movement, and a very French petit plaisir she enjoys every afternoon—a coffee and croissant. “I gave away my coffee machine,” she said. “[Going out for] coffee has become my mental and social outlet; a way to leave the house, meet a friend, explore the city.”

A Frenchified fitness routine

Of course, her primary exercise is the at least 30 hours of dancing she does per week; six days on, one day off—a schedule that she grew accustomed to in her teenage years. As for how she cross-trains? That has evolved quite a bit.

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

In this way, she’s adopted a very French approach to a healthy lifestyle. Goodbun used to virtually live in athleisure and Lululemon—she even worked at the SoulCycle front desk.

“I was a big class girlie in Toronto—spin, HIIT, CrossFit, Pilates classes; always thinking ‘What gyms am I gonna go to?’” she says. “Then I got to Paris, went right into rehearsals, and tried to sign up at a gym to go in the morning before my dance rehearsals at Moulin Rouge. Come the fourth day, that was a big NO. I had no energy. I have to be cautious of not overdoing it. I need to listen to my body and not just my habits that I had in Canada.

“Fitness is a bit more advanced, more current in North America,” she says. “Because there, that is your way of feeling put together—by doing your morning routine, wearing your workout clothes, working out.”

In France, the boutique fitness craze and wellness obsession has yet to catch on. “Here, productivity is enjoying your slow morning, making sure your house is clean, putting on a really nice outfit, and going to the boulangerie—it’s a different mindset.”

She does note that many of the dancers do in fact go to a gym, but in trade they don’t necessarily get out into the city the way she does. “I prefer my active lifestyle for longer periods of the day, on foot or on my bike, and then warming up how I need to for dance.”

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