So, André and I are now becoming an official part of the Besancon folk dance scene. That’s right, we are traditional Folk Dance groupies – and loving every minute of it. I have blogged about it once before, but here I go again.
We recently attended 2 more dances. The first, held in early March was in the Grande Salle at Kursaal. This is the same place we went over a year ago to the “Welcome to Besancon” party. This led to our very first brush with French fame. It is a very large and gorgeous hall and we went early, with the kids, to have some lessons.
Then, we went home, dropped off the kids with Augustin and went out to dinner. I had a Croque Madame. Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame are traditional French foods commonly served at lunch. Croque Monsieur is a grilled cheese sandwich with ham and a Croque Madame is a grilled cheese sandwich with ham and a fried egg on top. Of course, I always go for the Madame. I love eggs!
We then headed back to Kursaal for the rest of the dance. There were over 80 musicians playing together – which was a sight to see. We invited Alexandre and Joelle (Zander’s old teacher and her husband) to come as well. They had a good time and even saw some friends and co-workers at the dance.
I really had a great time at this dance because, with 3 prior soirees under my belt, I am starting to have some of the dances memorized, and perhaps more importantly, recognize some faces of the ‘regulars’. One of them even approached me and said he liked my blog. Wow – my first local fan! The venue was great as well and, even though there were probably over 100 dancers, it didn’t feel too crowded.
We took a video from the balcony above the dance floor. We don’t know the names of most of the dances, so don’t ask me what I videoed! Also, please note that this is not our favorite dance, we may never tape that one since we always want to dance in it. To read more about some of the dances at a folk bal see wikipedia (of course). Our favorite involves switching couples, spinning around, clapping and marching forwards and backwards. It seems hard, but it really isn’t. I think that is why we like it so much. It looks really complex and fancy and beautiful to watch – but has a fairly short learning curve. As wiki notes: “Dances of bal folk are generally based on simple traditional choreographies and have an easy base so everyone can easily start with it. Refined movements are not the main concern.” That is for sure! It is great because you can still participate if you have no clue since there are enough people who know the dance it doesn’t matter much. The other great thing is that people don’t mind if you mess up, there is a lot of laughter and good-heartedness.
Then, for Carnival, we went to another folk bal. This one was specifically geared towards children and asked for people to dress up in costume. Griffin was a road, Callie was a queen (NOT a princess) and Zander was a prince who was in China for a visit (that explains the robe). As for André and I, we usually try to do something that goes together. Recently we have been yin and yang (he is all white with a black dot, I am all black with a white dot and we stand next to each other) but we wanted something new. So, since we had some paint splattered clothes, he became a painter and I was a wall. Griffin’s costume was the biggest hit at the ball but no one commented about mine – which was a bummer. I thought I was being so clever and original! I even spent an afternoon sewing- all for naught.
We arrived at the ball on time and hung around for a bit, since they weren’t quite ready. I love the photo (right) of Queen Callie surveying her subjects from her throne. Lots and lots of kids and families began to arrive including the same boy Zander had played with on New Years Eve (he was thrilled) and Julia, a friend from school. It is interesting to note the differences between US Halloween and France Carnivale costume choices. First off, you get lots more homemade costumes in France – at least 2/3rds are not store bought. Of course, homemade is always the best. Then you have the choice of costumes. The only costume that is equally popular on both sides of the ocean, in my opinion, is the princess. There were many little girls dressed in gowns etc.. (although much fewer Disney princesses). I think it’s interesting, though, that, besides the classic princess, we had an international variety of princesses, primarily either Chinese or gypsies. For the boys, the superheroes were not common. They were mostly musketeers, pirates, knights and clowns. I would say more than two thirds of the adults attending dressed up as well – which was great. I remember when we had a groovy 70’s party in the US and only about 3 couples (besides us) got dressed up! As for adult costume choice, it varied wildly: Hippies, flappers, musketeers, vikings, asian dresses etc… There are quite a lot of cross dressers at a French costume party – are they more comfortable in their sexuality over here? The kids had their own ball upstairs with their own musicians and teacher. André and I danced as well, of course! It was boiling hot up there, but everyone still had a great time. Here is a video of the kids dancing. A bit long, but super cute and shows the dance.
They were either cats, dogs, or crocodiles and had to dance in the middle for part of the time. We stayed for the real (i.e. adult) ball for only about an hour since the kids were exhausted. We plan on returning again, of course, and maybe we will even learn the names of some of the dances….. baby steps people, always baby steps.
Of course, the dedicated attendees to these balls are not typical. In fact, since we have been attending, I have mentioned it to probably 30 to 40 French people and none of them have ever participated in this type of dance. What is it? It happens around here? Where do you find out about these things? Maybe this is why, out of all the videos I have ever uploaded (about three dozen by now) the most popular, by far, is the French folk dance from my last blog on this topic. I hope all you fans enjoy the new trio.
I’ll tell you, sometimes I think I am more French than the French…….