One of the things you learn very quickly about living in France is that if you do any form of dance or exercise class sometime during the year you’re going to have to perform in public at a spectacle, whether it’s a proper affair with tickets in the Salle de Fêtes or freebies for the Telethon, the Fête de La Musique, your village’s fête or whatever. This is one of the reasons I do Yoga, no-one has yet come up with a means of turning relaxation sessions into a spectator sport.
When the girls started doing ballet we were told iat the first lesson in October when the date of the end of year spectacle was. One of the mothers said there was a family wedding on that date and her daughter wouldn’t be able to perform and she was told that in that case her child couldn’t come to the classes. She had a lucky escape, that year was our first introduction to the French Spectacle and set the pattern for most of the ones that followed; they are like French meetings, they start late and they go on for ages… Admittedly this one hit a particularly low note, the teachers were obviously afraid that the standard of their young pupils wasn’t going to be sufficiently high so in between each set performed by the children the teachers did a dance too. The result was that the show, held on a stiflingly hot July afternoon, went on for four and a half hours. And then as a finale the head of the dance school summoned all her young pupils on the stage and before the curtain call announced, with no warning whatsoever, that she was retiring and there’d be no more ballet. Exit left loads of little girls in floods of tears.
School kermesses (a sort of school fête with playlets, dance shows, exhibitions and usually a meal) can be particularly tricky; there was the one organised by the pupils where we had to sit through two hours of 11 and 12 year olds miming to hit records – rap was particularly in that year – and another in collége where a modern dance show following the repas. One of the girls was dancing so we had to stay. It started an hour and a half late but by that time my husband and I were well into the second bottle of cheap Spanish pink they were selling to go with the paella so we were beyond caring. I’d had a frozen shoulder for about three months, it never bothered me again though it took the whole of the next day to get rid of my headache.
The Fête de la Musique can be quite good, largely, I think, because it’s for fun and no-one seems to stay on stage for too long. The Telethon however is a different matter. Being ‘in a good cause’ seems to give every group a burning desire to get up on that stage, even when it would be kinder to everyone, especially the audience, to stay at home. I once saw the local step class gave a demonstation of what they did – for twenty minutes. To be fair, it wasn’t all step, they did arm exercises too.
This year my daughter’s Indian Dance group was performing for the Telethon in a large espace culturel in Langon. It was due to start at three, actual kick off was at quarter to four with the Line Dancing troop who gave us three different line dances – apparently. I found it hard to distinguish one from the other. They were followed by the children’s Indian Dancing, the under six Break Dancing, the junior Modern Dance, the Line Dancers came back for a bit of Rock (done at Line Dance speed), my daughter came on stage for all of one minute and was in the back row. By now two hours had passed and she had two more dances to do.
Claiming there were dogs to walk and feed I meanly snuck out leaving my other daughter to enjoy the performance. When she returned home at eight o clock she reported that the children’s Improvised Break Dancing had been quite something.
Being gluttons for punishment we went to see the dancing daughter with her African Dancing troop last weekend. It started only five minutes late, the children’s class was on stage for just two dances, the other acts (four different groups performing together) had been properly rehearsed and no one was allowed to hog the stage. It lasted for 45 minutes and was a revelation.
The organisers of the village Telethon shows, take note please.