- 18, Jun 2020
- All things Paris
- Sam Asher
One thing we love about Paris is the integrality. If you have been to the City of Light, one thing you will note is how easy it is to get around; nothing seems too far away whether you’re taking the metro or huffing it on foot. The Paris city limits have not changed since the 1860s when a law created by politician Jules Riché expanded the neighbourhoods of Paris from 12 to 20. A century and a half later, Paris still measures up to this 105.4 kilometres squared - but its population has doubled from that of the 19th century, counting two million inhabitants. In comparison to other major art cities, such as Berlin (891km2 per 3.7million people) or London (1572km2 for 8.9 million people), Paris feels dense.
What does this mean? A denser population means a higher demand for artistic expression. In a city that is so physically close together such as Paris, we have noted a plethora of almost-hidden artistic establishments, sometimes only known to the true Parisians. These avenues for the arts hidden between the Haussmannian architecture have cultivated a culture that thrives on creative expression for all. One of the most prominent? Dance culture in Paris. Here, we have found that there is accessibility to professional dance for all levels – an interesting quality that doesn’t really exist in other major cities. We’ll take you through some of our favourite and secret spots to watch, experience and practice dance in Paris.
A Little Jive Outside
Many people may not know that some of the best dance in Paris is actually free. In Paris, there are many opportunities for dancers to get together outside, and during this period of deconfinement these are the first spots that dancers have come to reconvene.
One the most lively and uplifting spots is the Quai Saint-Bernard – otherwise named the “quai du salsa.” This side of the Seine features several tiny stages in “arena-style,” with rows of seating around the dance floor. For the dancers, it has become their own personal guinguette (popular establishments in the 18th century that were areas for drinking, getting together and dancing). Take a stroll along the Seine during a summer night and you will find that the Quai Saint-Bernard has transformed itself into a proper dance hall. An informal reunion of dance expression lasting for the whole summer and sometimes the rest of the year if the weather permits; hundreds of people show up to dance and enjoy the music. The arena-style-stages feature different vibes, from tango to DJ to college kids hanging out and enjoying the music. There, you can sometimes even find salsa dance classes – all levels are welcome. One thing that’s great about this place? It’s a perfect spot for a pre or post show picnic, near two of our favorite theatres: the Paradis Latin and La Nouvelle Seine.
Another spot off the beaten path is the Bibliotheque National de France: François Mitterrand, or « La BNF » as local dancers call it. Named after former president Francois Mitterrand, this library was a project aimed at being “one of the largest and most modern libraries in the world.” So how is a library significant to Parisian dance? It’s all in the design. La BNF is a physically huge establishment with a playful architecture: there are many spaces to climb up and around on. One quality of this building is that it's covered in reflective glass, making it very attractive for all levels of dancers. Dancers can come to use this space which provides them with a mirror and a large outside space to practice without having to rent a studio. Passing by the Bibliotheque National de France, you will find dancers trying out their stuff, from beginners practising new choreography they have learned in class to professionals going all the way. Of course, if you are feeling inspired to dance in Paris but cannot find a studio this is the perfect place to go! But how does one get involved in the dance scene in the City of Light?
Why France Must Dance and How You Can Too
France has not only kept its old dance traditions but evolved and diversified its realm to keep up with newer and modern artforms. Behind the USA, France has grown to become the largest market in the world to consume and produce hip-hop. What follows is the culture behind this, notably dance culture. There’s even consideration of including breakdancing in the 2024 Paris Olympics. A high demand for modern dance culture is followed by the creation of multiple dance studios to teach those who are interested.
Something that strikes us about Paris is that fact that professional studios in the city are quite accessible to anyone interested in dance. Here, many studios offer classes from well known and established choreographers with no experience necessary on the part of the student. The idea is that if you want to dance, you can dance: if you come to class and struggle, the choreographers will understand that it is all part of the process. Classes available at Studio Harmonic or the even more famous LAX Studio in the 11eme and 20eme offer classes that are reasonably priced (usually starting at 10 euro) and feature choreographers such as Delphine LeMaitre (Masked Singer France, Just Dance), or Andy DeLeVega (France’s Got Talent, Aya Nakumura). Many of these choreographers offer classes from beginner to advanced (warning: advanced is for the Beyonce’s of the world), and all of them have sparkling and infectious personalities. Taking a dance class in Paris is an amazing way to get a workout and practise your French!
The dance culture in Paris is so huge that it may seem like a different world. The different vocabulary, statuses and places that come with these cultures may make someone feel like they have discovered Paris for a second time. One dance culture that is particularly rich and well-documented is Cabaret Culture in Paris. When such a culture appears and begins to write its own history, a community begins to form. Within these dance communities there exists subcultures that range from different fashion styles, ways of moving or even entire vernaculars that may not be recognizable to those outside of these dance circles.
A peek inside for a non-dancer could be either very intimidating or bedazzling. Such is the case for the Lido Cabaret, a famous cabaret dating back to the 1940s. Its spectacular show may be most prominent for the featuring of its famous “Bluebell Girls,” which are the larger than life dancers originating from its co-creator the late Margaret Kelly. The Lido cabaret has a company of dancers featured in several different positions – from midline to principle line to sublime soloists and more. We discovered a peak into this magnificent world of dance from this Mother’s Day interview posted by the Lido de Paris. It features a mother-daughter duo – Corina Burgess and Savanna Haenel. Savanna is currently on stage at the Lido and her mother Corina had a career at the Lido in the 80s when she was 17 – almost the same age as her daughter was when she started. As they speak throughout the interview they make reference to positions such as bluebell girls, musette couplings and more, giving us great insight to how it actually might be to be one of these professional dancers in a highly noted and prestigious Parisian dance company.
Paris has shown that many diverse avenues of dance exist within its arguably small city limits. Outside spaces give dancers a breath of fresh air as bystanders pass by and appreciate the spontaneity of their craft. Studios around Paris elevate dancers from every level, encouraging beginners to push further and advanced students to refine their passions. Established dance companies around the city allow audiences to sit back and enjoy dancers presenting their craft which they have worked tirelessly to perfect. Whether its outside, in class, at a cabaret or ballet, we encourage you to explore what Paris has to offer in the ways of dance!