A Parisian Perspective

I must preface with information. I am in Paris, as briefly mentioned in the last blog, on a residency through the Australia Council of the Arts ‘til June. I am in Marais, which is considered the arts sector, around the corner from the famous Notre Dame cathedral and approximately 10 minutes stroll away from the Louvre. I am on the right bank, and if I strain my neck a little I have a view of the Seine river, which our buildings overlook. Coincidentally there is a government subsidised Dance Centre (Micadanse) on the opposite side of the street. So I literally cross the road to morning class. I laid out the princely sum of 60 Euros ($73.80) approximately for a pass that lasts 6 months and professional classes are free from then onwards.

The studio is average. No, maybe a bit on the small side, and I stretch on a piece of polished wooden flooring that diminishes by the second, as it slowly fills to capacity. There will be 40 of us, crammed in like freckles on a triangle of fairy-bread, before the teacher announces the class is to begin

The two studios I have danced in, contemporary at Micadanse and African at Danse du Marais aren’t covered in tarkett and unfortunately my visit to the prestigious CND (Centre National de la Dance) in Pantin, on the outskirts of the inner city, didn’t include a class or rehearsal there – yet. I secretly love this fact as it brings back memories of the old NAISDA building and current Ausdance classes held in the basketball court under the Broadway shopping mall in Glebe. It gives the impression that dance could happen anywhere there is enough space.

Contemporary dance is the same the world over, right? Wrong.

In New York all those years ago (1990-96 at least) I remember the same space issues, but the New Yorkers had a different temperament. Bold. That’s how 90’s New York felt. Bold, as if bodies had written in very large font, cutting the space with decisive strokes using indelible markers.

Here, I realise, as down on the street, I stand out and maybe not for the right reasons. I have no hope of deciphering the language, spoken at break neck speed with my rudimentary skills, so I say ça va and oui with everyone else, all the while smiling playing every bit the village idiot.

 I also have a tendency to take people out. By now (my third week in) people tend to allow me added space because I have a reputation for clearing a non-discriminate pathway, clipping backs of heads, backsides, shoulders and feet at every turn. I can’t help myself. A cheer or squeal escapes my mouth, before I have time to check it, in congratulations of a moment that has duly inspired us all, when the rest merely nod. I feel every bit the colonial convict; rowdy and misbehaved.

As I contemplate the Parisian contemporary dance archetype from first impressions, what I initially mistook for caution, is the carefully considered. In turn, I am learning the importance of restraint and that bigger is not always more. Effectively I am considering how to imbue more meaning into other aspects of dance; my relationship to the ongoing composition of space as the part of a fluid group in comparison to the individual performance.

Like its many galleries, the Parisians have perfected the assembly. I still have much to learn and must now be more perceptive to the nuance.  I am forced to read the dance and the gesture of preparation in lieu of spoken language.

(Stay tuned as I report on performances here and in the upcoming months I will be going to Dublin for the Dublin Dance Festival. Thanks to the World Wide Web I will also be canvassing closer to home)