Tuesday, February 9, 2010

French Folk Dancing

I have finally found spots to learn French folk dancing! I've been passively looking for four months now, hoping that I would just stumble upon it, and that's just what happened. The director of one of my schools is a musician for a folk dancing group, and he asked me to teach his class of 2nd graders some dances. As you saw in previous posts, I taught them Sellenger's Round and Sir Roger de Coverly. He then took it upon himself to call his friend so that I could get introduced at the next country dance. I went and had a blast. It wasn't exactly as I had expected. We danced a country line dance and Swiss, Canadian, and Scottish folk dances. I met someone who lives close to me and was willing to give me a ride home (don't I always) and she even insisted that I go to the French folk dance session with her the following night. All of this took place January 27th and 28th. I haven't updated about this yet because I hadn't taken any pictures, but now that problem is solved. So the French night was fun, too. A group came from the Poitou region and taught us their dances involving a lot of jumping and stomping. They have a very interesting music, where the leader of the circle calls out a phrase and then everyone repeats it and that's it, no instruments. It's very driving. Most of the dances were in circles and we had to swing our hands to the beat.
Claude, the woman giving me a ride, then took me to a Bal Folk as it's known in French. At the ball (casual attire), we danced a lot of Breton dances (from Brittany) which are all in circles, super simple, and either you link pinkies or your whole forearm. We also danced waltz, polka, and schottische (spelled and pronounced "scottish" in France), which are all considered folk dances. Dance floors are crowded, so their dances tend to stay in place. Their mazurka is odd. It moves back and forth in a 180° arc, also not travelling. To be honest, I am very surprised that they dance polka, schottische, and mazurka, but I imagine they're even more surprised to see an American who can do these. I might even add that I was complimented many a time on my dance ability, even described as a "virtuoso." When asked how do I do it, I say that the secret is this: when I say "right," it's my right foot that moves. I've been writing the dances down, and I'll be asking for copies of sheet music so that I can bring these back home! I even got Nicole to come to a ball this past Saturday. She wasn't thrilled about it, but she was able to dance the waltzes and a couple of folk dances that weren't too difficult.
My impressions of French folk dancing so far are these: it's much simpler and less demanding than Scottish folk dancing; it focuses more on getting everyone involved than doing a figure perfectly; it's a living dance form, not resurrected or regularized but passed on by oral tradition, danced to songs also passed down by oral tradition, so it feels much more real and authentic than Scottish dancing.
Also in the realm of dancing, I've been teaching a dance class at an International apartment complex. We did a swing night, and I believe there's a post about that. This last Wednesday, I taught Scottish dancing (kind of), in French! It was my first time teaching Scottish dancing, so there's definitely a lot of kinks that need to be worked out, but we all had a lot of fun. We didn't quite have enough people for a set, so instead, I focused on circle dances found on a ceilidh website sent by Avril. Next time, I think we'll be doing country western dancing, taught by someone else.

In other news, February 2nd is a holiday in France known as Chandleur. No, no groundhogs are involved. Instead, everyone eats crepes. No one has been able to say why. Some attribute the holiday to a pagan festival, others to the waking of bears from their hibernation. It apparently translates to the ancient Christian holiday of Candlemass, which no one has heard of unless they've read a few Arthurian stories, celebrating the Virgin Mary. Following suit, we made a special trip to the supermarket where we bought premade crepes and had a fun little feast, preceded by a trip to the theater where we listened to a symphony of the King Arthur opera by Purcell, how a propos. The best part of that event was the choir acting drunk to sing a song that sounded oddly like "horny men," carrousing with the musicians and throwing articles of clothing this way and that. Here's a photo of me eating a crepe:

And no blog update would be complete without at least a little morsel of the scrumptious food we eat. Here's a picture of a recipe Nicole dredged up from her past: Tiger Butter (i.e. white chocolate, peanut butter, and dark chocolate).

And a photo of a nice day we had recently. Why not.


  1. The dancing sounds like so much fun! The French folk dancing sounds interesting. Where did you learn schottische and mazurka? Gaskell Ball? And by any chance have you gone dancing in Paris? I hear Paris is the one place in the world where they dance cross-step waltz that isn't a result of Richard Powers and/or his students bringing it there. I'd be curious to see what they do with it.


  3. Lisa, I learned schottische and mazurka at Gaskells and FNW. Haven't gone dancing in Paris yet as I don't know venues, it's costly to get there, and the last train back to my place is at 11pm, kinda early so a good chance of getting stuck. Haven't seen cross-step here yet, and the waltzes are too fast for it.

  4. Sandi:

    melt together in a double boiler
    1 lb white chocolate
    3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

    pour into cookie sheet lined with wax paper or tin foil

    drizzle melted dark chocolate over it in stripes, swirl with knife to create pattern

    chill in fridge until solidified