Street Performers In Paris

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Paris’ constant flow of new eyes (and wallets) makes the streets a popular, promising performance venue.  Paris has lots of great street performers.  Even the less great ones were entertaining.   I had lots of fun taking pictures.  Amusez-vous bien!DSC_0544_2 DSC_0545_2 DSC_0547_2 DSC_0032_2 DSC_0033_2 DSC_0034_2 DSC_0039_2 DSC_0311_3 DSC_0337_3

 

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Nice, France Is Better Than Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo

I have a huge fascination with breakdancing (also known as b-boying or breaking).  Each time we see people dancing somewhere, I can’t help but stop and watch.  I love the sheer athleticism of it.  It evolved from almost every dance, acrobatic and martial arts style including: tap, jazz, capoeira, Balkan, ballroom, folk, shaolin kung-fu, circus and swing.

Breakdancing is popular in France.  When we were in Nice, we strolled the Pedestrain Zone of the Place Masséna.  It’s essentially the main square of Nice and center of all the action.  We encountered some break dancers (videos are all over YouTube) on checkerboard pavement and stopped to check them out.

Each time I watch break dancers, I am struck by the communal spirit that surrounds them.  It makes you want to learn how to do it.  Forget ballroom dancing, we’ll be taking this dance class instead.  It looks like a pretty good workout.

Being a former gymnast, I loved the power moves because they are particularly acrobatic.  It requires momentum, speed, endurance, strength, and control (like the flare, windmillswipe, and head spin).

Downrock (also known as footwork or floorwork) describes any movement on the floor where the hands supporting the dancer as much as the feet.  Common downrock moves include: the foundational 6-step, and its variants such as the 3-step.  Basic downrock is done entirely on hands and feet.  It didn’t take long for their moves to get way more complex and too fast  for the settings on my camera.

Freezes are stylish poses, and the more difficult require the breaker to suspend  himself or herself off the ground using upper body strength in poses.  How can you not love these creative displays of agility and physical strength set to music?

Well done gentlemen.

Camels And Falcons And Henna, Oh My!

Okay, okay, I know it is cheesy and a bit hokey, but I couldn’t help but enjoy myself at the “Arabian campsite” on my desert excursion.  I wish I’d been able to stay the night out in the desert, but settled for a sunset dinner.

Even with those sweet eyelashes and innocent eyes, I was glad that he had his muzzle on so he didn’t spit on me.

There were camels to ride outside the site and I immediately did it.  I couldn’t pass up my first (and perhaps only) opportunity to ride a camel.  Someone had warned me to hold on tight as the camel got up so it was surprisingly easy.

Falconry is popular in the region and we were treated to a falconry demonstration.  It was impressive.  After learning about raptors at the Carolina Raptor Center, I find them interesting, impressive animals.

The falconer takes off the mask, releases the bird, and swings the meat around on a string for the hawk grab.  Falcons come back for food.

Some people took advantage of the henna painters.  Others enjoyed smoking sheesha pipes.  A traditional pastime in Dubai, sheesha (also known as narghile in Turkey and hookah in India and Pakistan) is a long-stemmed smoking pipe packed with flavored tobacco.  I didn’t partake in that either, but I heard that Strawberry is the most popular favor.

I love middle-eastern food more than just about any other cuisine and was super excited for the spread.  In fact, I was so busy scarfing it down that I didn’t get a picture.  Sorry.

Luckily I was done eating by the time the belly-dancing started.  I love belly-dancing and the belly dancer was much better than I expected.  She performed in the heat for over a half an hour and had people mesmirised.  It is easy to see why.

Nursery Rhyme Time – Le Pont d’Avignon

Every child in France knows of Avignon.  It isn’t because it is a decent-sized town.  It isn’t because it has a bunch of history or housed the papacy.  It isn’t because the bridge stops in the middle of the Rhone River (it was washed away by floods and not rebuilt).  It is because of a nursery rhyme.

Just like “Ring Around the Rosie” or “London Bridge is Falling Down” it has a dance that goes with it.

The refrain goes:

Sur le pont d’Avignon (On the bridge of Avignon)

l’on y danse, l’on y danse  (we all dance there, we all dance there)

Sur le pont d’Avignon (On the bridge of Avignon)

l’on y danse tout en rond. (we all dance there in a circle)

1st Verse – Les beaux messieurs font comme ci 
et pui encore comme ca…. (The handsome young gentlemen do like this (bow)
 and then like that)

2nd Verse – Les belles dam’s font comme ci . . .
 (The beautiful young ladies do like this …(curtsying))

3rd Verse – Et les soldats font comme ci . . .
 (The brave soldiers do like this (salute)
)

4th Verse – Les cordonniers font comme ci . . .
 (The musicians do like this (play violin))

There are many more verses, but you get the idea.  Everyone is doing something with an accompanying gesture.  Someone who is a better scribe than I put them all down with instructions if you want to give it a go.

By the way, song was actually “Sous le Pont d’Avignon” (Under the Bridge of Avignon).  In medieval times, it was a happening place with cafés with dancing and other pleasure activities under the bridge’s arches of the bridge.  “Sur” means on and sounds a bit similar…

 

What Makes Basel’s Carnival Different?

Basel has the only Protestant Carnival celebration in this part of the world.  As a result, they do things a bit differently.  Don’t worry, it is still tons of fun.  Here are some of the ways in which Basel’s carnival is unique:

  • The instruments in Basel are mainly fifes/piccolos/flutes and drums.  This makes the music reminiscent of military tattoos.
  Most of the songs sound like they were composed to march to.  I even recognized a couple (Dixie and Battle Hymn of the Republic).

  • Some carnival celebrations are an orgy of drunkenness, license and excess.  Basel’s Protestant character and general Swissness means that obnoxious behavior, lewdness and inappropriately revealing attire are unwelcome.  Unlike more fleshy and raucous celebrations, imagination, satire, wonder and magic are the order of the day.

  • The Reformation made efforts to suppress the carnival.  During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Catholic church also tried to end it because of its subversive aspects.  During this time, celebrations continued in the form of a “feast day”.  For this reason, Basel’s carnival is not called Carnival, but instead Fastnacht (which refers to the fast after the feast).  Military guilds were involved in these celebrations and influenced today’s celebrations.  Doubtless, the marching by numberous organized groups, the fife and drum music and the tattoo-like parading were all influenced by them.

  • German immigrants brought carnival traditions with them.  You see their influence in the lanterns, elaborate parades, floats and marchers displaying large caricature heads (that often lampoon public figures and politicians).

  • Enormous float-size lanterns satirically depict current topics and public figures.  Many of this year’s floats addressed the financial crisis.

  • Poets and songwriters compose humorous commentary on current affairs, much of which lampoons politicians. They recite them in pubs and play the songs in the street.  These are written in the Basel dialect, so that only locals can understand the airing of the city’s dirty laundry.

 

The Circus

I can’t remember the last time I went to the circus. Elementary school?  First grade? While I was in Belgium last week, I went. It is definitely better to go with a kid and see it through their eyes.
She hit the target shooting with her feet.
My favorite part was the acrobats. I may want to be an acrobat when I grow up.
There were horses, but they weren’t as big a hit with the kids as the lions. They also had dogs, miniture poodles. They were are too small in the pictures.
 
“Carnies. Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Smell like cabbage. Small hands.”  – Austin Powers.  Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Again.