Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2014

Local view: Square dancing in France

October 23, 2014

I’m sure we’re all aware of globalization. It’s all around us: a Japanese company buys a position in Sprint; international conglomerates produce everything from the clothes on our backs to the gas in our tanks to the food on our tables.

A recent trip to France (the holiday of a lifetime, thank you for asking) bore this out. Within a few minutes of when we got off the airplane, I noticed the ads on the walls in the hallway that led to the baggage claim and customs were the same ones you might see in a glossy magazine or in the toney shops on the Country Club Plaza.

The streets of Paris are awash with brand names we find everywhere at hand: McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, etc.

So, okay, I get it. We live in a global world. I hadn’t been to Paris for many years, but it wasn’t unexpected.

Still, there are some manifestations that one is just not prepared for.

A few days into our tour, we decided to play hooky from the planned itinerary. Instead, we went to church a few blocks from our hotel, then walked over a bit to a charming little street that was chock-a-block with restaurants, bakeries and the like. We decided to have a picnic, so we picked up sandwiches and dessert pastries and a half-bottle of wine and then set out for a nearby park.

Paris parks tend to be a bit crowded on Sundays, but we didn’t have to go too far before we found an empty bench and sat down to enjoy our repast. We opened the wine and began our lunch.

After a few minutes I heard a band start up nearby, behind a screen of trees. After a few bars it became apparent the singer was speaking English. Even this isn’t too unusual. Popular music, of course, is as globalized as anything.

We didn’t pay much attention, concentrating on our lunch. (The sandwiches were excellent, by the way, and the desserts – ooh, la, la. But I digress.)

But then I gradually became aware that the English speaker wasn’t just singing. He was calling a square dance.

Once we finished our lunch we went to investigate. There, spread out in the Parc du Champs du Mars, sort of at the feet of the Eiffel Tower, a crowd of about a hundred or so do-si-do’ed and swung their partners.

It was quite a sight. Many of the men sported Western shirts with piping on the seams and many of the women wore stiff petticoats that swirled as they twirled.

Subsequent research on the Internet revealed about 16 or more square dance clubs in France with names such as the Leaping Frogs or the Circling Snails.

We watched for several minutes, and were almost tempted to join in. Several years ago, when we lived in another city, we were members of a square dance club. I remembered a little, but it’s nothing like riding a bicycle and so I was content just to watch.

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