Too tall for classical ballet, yet with the skill, determination and beauty to become one of the world’s most glamourous dancers, Megan Wilding is living the dream.
The 18-year-old is currently the youngest cast member at the legendary Moulin Rouge cabaret club in Paris, having trained ‘all her life’ for the job, once she realised she was too tall for most jobs in the dance world.
Her dream of becoming a Moulin Rouge showgirl has now come true, although sadly her dad Tony died three years ago, missing out on seeing her secure the prestigious contract.
“He would be over the moon,” she said. “He loved Paris and would probably have come out here to live too.
“He would have been the happiest man alive - and he still is, as he will be watching down.”
Megan, from Poulton, started dancing at Barbara Jackson’s Theatre Arts Centre aged two, but went off to Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham as a border from 11 to 14, before moving to board at The Hammond School in Chester until earlier this year - with full scholarships each step of the way.
A family friend told Megan’s mum about an audition call for the Moulin Rouge –knowing that dancing there had been a dream of Megan’s since she realised she was too tall for most dance companies.
“I wanted to do something where my height would be appreciated,” she said, with the Moulin Rouge showgirls’ minimum height being 5ft 9ins.
“I love the movie, of course, and the costumes, and I saw the show last summer and fell in love.”
Although The Hammond doesn’t officially allow or encourage its college students to audition until their third year, Megan took her chances just half way through her second year to apply, and after an eight-hour audition in January, she was asked if she could start at the famous 129-year-old club in April.
Despite her choosing feathers, rhinestones and high heels over continuing her dance studies and dropping out from The Hammond, the college was supportive of Megan’s decision and she’s grateful for all their support throughout her training.
After a month of gruelling rehearsals, she stepped out on the historic nightclub stage for the first time in May.
“That first night was amazing, I couldn’t keep still and kept saying ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe it’,” she said. “We watched it a couple of times during rehearsals, and watched backstage too, and the idea I’d soon be up there myself was unreal.
“An absolute dream come true.”
Performing two shows a night, six nights a week, Megan steps out as one of 14 girls in the ‘dance line’, with each performance also featuring a ‘nude line’, eight boys, two soloists and three singers.
And although contracted for her first year as a dancer, performing the venue’s famous French can-can among other routines, Megan says she’d be willing to be one of the nudes, and hopes after two years to secure a coveted permanent contract.
“It’s hard work, but I don’t struggle until it comes to the can-can which is non-stop,” she said. “It can easily look lazy if you get even a little bit half hearted, so you have to give it everything - but it’s so much fun to do.
“A lot of the girls come from Australia, plus a few English, two from Norway and only actually five French girls.
“I love the life, it’s fitted in perfectly. I’ve got my own appartment about five minutes from Moulin Rouge, and it’s a lovely, lively area where I can walk to work without worrying about getting the Metro or a taxi.
“I did French GCSE, and I’ve already picked up a lot more. The tech guys and the dressers at work have helped.
“It’s one massive family, and amazing fun on and off stage.”
When she’s not rehearsing, Megan takes the chance to attend extra dance classes to ‘make myself better as a dancer’, and she’s had friends and family travel to see the show.
Growing up in a family of eight, with four older brothers, one younger brother and two younger sisters - as well as three long-term foster children in the family home, Megan’s parents have always supported her dreams of becoming a professional dancer and her mum kept her focused after her dad’s death.
“When we didn’t have him around, mum didn’t drop like she could have, she said ‘Life’s too short, you have to get everything you want’,” Megan said. “My mum is the most amazing woman, she’s one in a million.
“And my older brothers too, if mum couldn’t take me somewhere, they have always been there too.”
While the glamour of the showgirl’s lifestyle may lure many young dancers, Megan’s under no illusion of the work needed to maintain her position in one of the most coveted ensembles in the world.
“Every night I’m working to try and get better and better still,” she said. “I do my exercises and am stretching all the time.
“I want to make everyone along the whole way to get here so proud, I want them to think ‘We’ve got a good one here’.
“What’s the point in having the wrong attitude?
“I’ve trained so many years taking up mum and dad’s time with them helping me chase my dream it would be selfish to ruin that.”