Tag Archives: Dance

Friday in Five: Ageless City of Arts

9 Sep

I’m hanging onto my Paris vacation as long as I can! Can you blame me?


Tuning the harpsichord pre-concert in Sainte-Chapelle.

Let’s talk about the arts.

Privileged to attend the opening night of American Ballet Theatre’s The Sleeping Beauty at Opera Bastille as well as concerts in Notre Dame and La Madeleine and Sainte-Chapelle, I was equally privileged to hear a busking violinist on the metro whose skill as he plied his bow all the way from Concorde to Bastille matched that of the (tremendously impressive) ensemble players in those more acoustically-conducive venues.

I’m not saying the arts offerings in Paris are necessarily better than the arts offerings in any other great city.

I’ve seen some amazing theatre and dance in New York. Attended a spine-chilling requiem performance in London. Am even now trying to work out how I can afford to travel to Sydney half a dozen times next year for the STC subscription program, and can’t wait to browse the Indigenous Art exhibition in Melbourne in a few weeks’ time.


The neck-cricking ceiling in one Louvre sculpture gallery.

But there’s something about consuming the arts in Paris that feels different for me. I can’t be ambivalent or arms-length. I can’t be detached. Somehow I experience music and dance, fine art and literature, even graffiti, differently there, my emotions and sensory sensitivity closer to the surface. I walk around Paris soaking up its arts and am almost constantly on the verge of tears.

Perhaps it’s the physical environments. I spend as much time in the Louvre wonderstruck at the building itself as I do the magnificent art collection it houses.


And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as hearing medieval church music soar into the nave of the cathedral for which it was written. Unless it’s the magic of Mozart or Vivaldi or Haydn floating above the fountains at Versailles.


Versailles’ fountains are somehow more ebullient when they’re synched with Vivaldi, Mozart or Haydn.


Palais Garnier: rich, lush, exotic.

It might be the insouciance with which Parisians will wear jeans to performances in the gilded splendour of Palais Garnier, and turn up in vintage couture to the austere and fiercely-modern Opera Bastille. They seem at once innately aware of the statement they make through their clothing choice, and entirely indifferent to how anyone else interprets that statement. And why not? It’s not about the fashion, after all. I don’t know why I spent so long agonising about whether my sandals were suitably appropriate footwear for a ballet premiere.



Opera Bastille: its sleek interiors are almost spartan.

It’s surely in the care Parisians take to decorate their metro stations, below and above the ground:

art-deco-metroand the way they embrace emerging art forms as passionately as they preserve the tapestries and sculptures and ballet notations and musical instruments of generations past. It’s in the way the Seine bouquinistes and street names and corner plaques still venerate the writers – Hugo and Balzac, Zola and Voltaire and Beauvoir and Camus – in the face of weekly incursions of English-language poetry slam.

jesuischarlie-jpgWhile news of a foiled terror attack near Notre Dame yesterday made sudden sense of the occasions when the police presence around the cathedral seemed much heavier than usual (and it was always heavy), it reminded me too that in Paris, freedom of expression through the arts has survived attacks and atrocities through millennia.

This ageless city has always emerged bright and sparkling and vivid and confident. May it ever be so.

‘Til next Friday,

Gracie x

Friday in Five: Time to fly

2 Sep

Oh, Paris, it gets harder and harder to leave you – but tomorrow I’m headed home to my own beautiful place, with fresh memories to tide me over.

I’ll always have my old favourites, like dinner at Polidor, where Ernest Hemingway’s napkin still resides, and the elegant and gracious Place des Vosges, my “go-to” for reflecting, people-watching and writing. And I have to be out at least one night on the hour, to watch Madame Eiffel dispense her sparkly love over the city:


But this week, I was on the hunt for new discoveries and, as always, Paris didn’t disappoint!


Who knew? I packed one in my handbag mostly just because I found it while looking for my passport and decided I should try and get some use out of it. Then I arrived in Paris and found that fans are as “right now” as they’ve ever been. At the opera, in the cathedral, on the metro. Painted, tasselled, ruffled. Featuring Mona Lisa, Montparnasse and Monet.

FanMy cheapie, picked up in Hong Kong a decade ago, got a serious workout and started to fray, so I’ve updated it with this lace beauty, handmade by the artisans of Bruges. Elegant, effective, lightweight – and not just for Paris, I’ve decided!







Let’s dance!

Wander along the Seine on any summer evening and you’ll have to pick your way between all the picnickers enjoying a balmy twilight with their baguettes and vin rouge. But on certain nights in certain spots you might stumble upon a more romantic way to see in the sunset!

And still on the dance theme…

In a little boutique near Palais Garnier I found this gorgeous window full of used pointe shoes, with brief messages from their former owners. Such a simple display; so many dreams realised and, perhaps, broken. Ballet, mBallet shoesusic, storytelling – these were things I’d forgotten mattered, from my youngest years.







Tucked away in the Marais…

Wandering through almost any arrondissement in Paris you’ll find alleys and courtyards and passages – and doors! So many beautiful doors! I could dedicate a whole blogpost to the mysterious and magical doors of Paris.

PassageI’d seen plenty of ornate passages in previous visits, but tucked away in the Marais I found this beautiful, open, airy passage filled with wonderful stores. What I loved most, though, was the trailing vines which, with the soaring glass walls and ceilings, suggested a tropical haven in the middle of this most chic of cities.






And magnificent Magnum!

Finally, emerging from the back of the Marais and its little streets of synagogues and historical libraries of ancient artifacts and quiet, shady rose gardens, I saw the temptation to end all temptations: Paris’s divine Magnum store. My photo does it no justice, so I’ve included this link so you can view the magnificence yourself.Magnum

To be honest, with all the sequins and glitter and precious metals paraded in the shopfront windows, I was too intimidated to go in (and anyway, I was running a little late for a concert, which is a much more acceptable excuse for my gutlessness!).

I’m not a huge fan of ice-cream, and particularly not ice cream that comes in a packet on a stick, but the window displays were drool-worthy in their own right.




And so: some new favourites from Paris, off my usual beaten and beloved tracks. But that’s one of the things I love about this city – there are surprises and delights literally on every street, and it makes me somehow bigger and braver when I return to my Real Life.

And that’s what I’ll do tomorrow… but now I’m off to Opera Bastille for opening night of the American Ballet Theatre’s The Sleeping Beauty – and I’ll report back on that next week, if only to keep my Paris summer magic alive a little longer!

Au revoir,

Gracie x

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