Fan dancing at the Windmill Theatre, London
Mid 20th century
Black and white photograph
Museum no. TM/K.B.B/12
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Windmill was famous as the only theatre in London where nudity was permitted. Even there it was only allowed if the girls didn't move. This gave rise to the saying, 'If it moves, it's rude'. The only nudes who did move were the fan dancers, and the skill of their dance was to keep themselves covered by manipulation of the huge ostrich feather fans as they danced. It was all very restrained by today's standards and fathers would often take their teenage sons to the shows as an introduction to sex. Not all the girls were showgirls or nudes. Between the nude scenes there were small ballets, sketches and stand-up comedians. Few comics lasted more than a few weeks as audiences were only interested in the girls. Between the shows, there was an unseemly scramble over the seats as audiences in the back rows tried to get the coveted front seats as quickly as possible.