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Tracy Danison, Paris correspondent

Paris: Waiting on (May &) June Events [by our Paris correspondent]

PU-WLDN01 © Patrick Berger“People United”, Joanne Leighton. Photo: Patrick Berger 2021

Children, behave!/That’s what they say when we’re together!/ And watch how you play!/They don’t understand/ And so we’re runnin’ just as fast as we can/ holdin’ on to one another’s hand,/ tryin’ to get away into the night,/and then you put your arms around me and we tumble to the gound/and then you say, ‘I think we’re alone now!”/The beating of our hearts is the only sound…

Tommy James and the Shondells, 1967

Paris’ performance spaces are set to open on 19 May. After three lovely days of six performances at the Atelier de Paris’s audience limited and socially-distanced “platforme professionnel”, I want that. I really want it. I long for it.

I am not the only one longing, either. Since late March, like Robert P. Tristram Coffin’s Maine Auntie tying to wish up the telephone to call a quack on the mainland, my pal Huang has been willing the Avignon festival into renewed existence. However, the general tone is on-verra-bien, of battle-weary poilus. Everybody’s sick of everything, whether of the know-nothing yahoos on the right, woe-is-my-purse business types or the jumpy government, afraid things will bugger all at the last minute.

Tempted by tastes of pleasure like Atelier de Paris’ lovely plateforme professionel and longing just to get on with it, I still just don’t know if an opening really should happen this coming Wednesday.

My doubt is part partial observation, part gloomy signs and portents, part finicky rationality, part home truth. Some years back, it seems I inherited that little bird who used to shamelessly tittle-tattle my lies and evasions to my mom. This damnable volatile witters on in a voice pitched between feu-mon doux frère gasping his last prophecy and Cardi-B cheerfully praising her own twat.

Trace,” croons the bird, “Six weeks on and this so-called world’s-second-greatest-market and super-power-in-its-own-right has vaccinated you once… Not the best of vaccine choices, neither. … And, this R -.75 notwithstanding, the overall data’s no thrill – look at those clusters on the cloud graph … Trace,” sneers my little bird, “Tracy. Is it any wonder that Avignon – then, as now, a dense honeycomb of tiny, airless rooms sweltering inside a stone labyrinth of narrow, humid passages – is most famous for a truly legendary losing bout with the Black Death? … And. Tracy,” the bird pauses for effect, “Listen… When all is said and done, doesn’t contemporary France, private and public, plexiglass, steel and concrete France, conserve, preserve and just still stink with a cheek-by-buttocks social architecture and social organization worthy of medieval Avignon? ”….

I’ve got my doubts indeed. But, finally, the Atelier de Paris’ excellence has shown me a better way. In fact, I’ve already said yes to the opening of the Printemps Arab festival on the day. Damn the torpedoes! And all that.

What made the Atelier so persuasive?

Programmers usually try to capture what’s in the air, what’s good, what’s hip. But, at least this time, the Atelier tried to do only sensibilities. The program was a dance that moves movement, a dance that carries the force of feeling, a dance that just dances, a performance that performs irony, a dance that calls up worlds, a performance that shows philosophy: Liz Santoro’s Mutual Information; Joanne Leighton’s People United; Françoise Tartinville’s Collage, Jeanne Brouaye’s Ce qu’il reste à faire et la où nous en sommes (“What we still need to do and where we’re at”?), Aina Alegre’s R-A-U-X-A , Madeleine Fournier’s La Chaleur (“Rut”?). Exploding math, meta-politics, dancing to dance, irony as truth, world creation, parody is as philosophy. All that beats my cobweb hands down.   

These performances were not just sparklers, either. One of them, at least, Joanne Leighton’s People United, came off as a dance performance, a nearly a perfect ballet, a nearly a perfect happening. Remmember, Mary Poppins, my spiritual auntie, says “nearly” does for “perfect” as we know it in the Vale of tears, here below.

Like Valentine Nagata-Ramos’, BE.GIRLS – also premiered for professionals, at Micadances earlier in the year –  People United, in its near perfection, seemed to me to mark a last milestone on the road to the paradigm shift, O! Devoutly wished. Both groundbreaking. Both gorgeous. Both, absorbing.

So. Not only was not a single one of the Atelier’s chosen plateforme professionnel premiers in any sense a disappointment. Each performance absolutely sparkled with conceptual refinement carried by writerly discipline, materialized by sober scenarists and done by well-practiced performers. I emphasize well-practiced now, in the light of Covidzeitefahrungen, because the besetting sin of France’s (live) performing arts is sloppy execution, which I too often forget to notice. So maybe the Covid emergency has done some good all around.

Keep the Atelier de Paris in mind when you’re next in Paris – the time is not far off.

At least, let’s hope it isn’t. 

April 25, 2021

December 05, 2020

October 15, 2020

September 20, 2020

September 06, 2020

July 14, 2020

June 22, 2020

April 03, 2020

April 02, 2020

February 19, 2020

February 09, 2020

January 19, 2020

December 26, 2019

December 20, 2019

December 15, 2019

November 21, 2019

November 04, 2019

October 24, 2019

October 20, 2019

October 10, 2019

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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