Hopatcong woman can-cans at Wild West City


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  • Samantha Schuman rides into Wild West City




  • The Can-Can girls at Wild West City. From left, Maria Cunneely, Paige Ewer, Katie Benson, Samantha Schuman, Taylor Wheeler and Kate O’Brien.




— Samantha Schuman of Hopatcong really knows how to kick up a storm at Wild West City. Well, maybe not a storm, but certainly some high kickin' dance steps.

Schuman, a 2018 graduate of Lenape Valley High School, is one of several young ladies who are part of Wild West City's daily Can-Can Girl show. The Can-Can Girls do their thing on a stage on the western theme park's main street every afternoon.

"You do need to be flexible because you do have to kick really high," said Schuman. Schuman's background as a dancer, gymnast and as a cheerleader for Lenape Valley (and in the fall where she'll cheer at George Mason University in Virginia) makes her physical agility a perfect complement to her being a Can-Can Girl.

While history may have been exaggerated somewhat when it comes to Can-Can Girls in western TV shows and movies, where saloon scenes often feature cowboys swigging drinks, tables filled with card players, and a piano player whipping up a lively tune as Can-Can girls perform.

Schuman enjoys playing the part of Can-Can Girl, as well as her other "acting roles" in a few other skits during the day.

The recently crowned Miss Hopatcong and an entrant in the contest for Queen of the NJ State Fair has been working at Wild West City for three straight summers.

"I love it," she said. "It's a really fun job and everybody here are best friends."

At George Mason, Schuman is enrolling in the 5-year Social Work Masters program with an eye at working with children after graduation.

In the meantime, she's enjoy "life" as a Can-Can Girl.

"Can-Can girls were very popular in their time," Schuman said.

Interestingly the history of Can-Can girls dates back to France in the 1840s where men also originally performed the dance with females. It became a staple in the United States in the late 1860s, particularly in the west. By then, only women were Can-Can girls. Performing as a Can-Can is athletic. Done traditionally, it is a high-energy, physically demanding dance that oftentimes features high kicks, splits and cartwheels.

The dance was considered scandalous in its day, and for a while, there were attempts to repress it. This may have been partly because in the 19th century, women wore pantalettes, and a high kick could be unintentionally revealing. Occasionally, people dancing the Can-Can were arrested, but there is no actual record of it being banned, as some accounts have claimed.

Can-Can performances at Wild West City are one of many historical aspects to the old west that can be seen there, with re-creations of notable events a big part of a typical day, along with stage coach rides, museum artifacts, live entertainment at the Golden Nugget Saloon, and special guest attractions every weekend.

For more about Wild West City, go to www.wildwestcity.com or call 973-347-8900.



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