Friday, September 12, 2014

Danse Classique in Paris

41 Rue Temple, 4th Paris, France
Since we decided to accept the transfer to France months ago, there’s one thing I was really looking forward to – taking dance class in France. I was excited beyond belief -who wouldn’t be? France is the birthplace of ballet and to take class where it all began would be absolutely amazing!

And after all the stress of goodbyes and moving and getting set up in the first three and a half weeks we’ve lived here - plus all the researching into Le Centre de Danse du Marais, metro schedules, buying the 5-class trial pass online, and doing a re-con mission to make sure I could find the place - I finally made that one thing happen. 

I took a dance class in Paris, France!

Specifically, it was a ballet class, which is called Danse Classique in France.

Simply put, it was one of the best days ever!

Multi-lingual dance studio!
Before the Débutant/Moyen (Beginner/Intermediate) class on Thursday, I carefully put my hair up in a bun, tucked my ballet shoes into my purse, filled my water-bottle and headed to the metro. Two trains later, I got off at L’Hôtel de Ville and walked to Le Centre de Danse du Marais, at 41 Rue Temple.

The first time I went there on my re-con mission, I walked right past it since it’s tucked away at the end of a cobblestone courtyard. The building itself is really beautiful, with studios all the way around the courtyard and a lovely café directly opposite the main doors. My class was on the second floor and soon I found myself in a sunny waiting room, stretching and warming up with the other dancers. Then we moved into the studio, pulled out the barres and got down to business. 
Wagner Studio has a lovely view of the courtyard below.

A short foot warm-up, pliés, tendus, dégagés, ronds de jambes, développés, fundus and battements – the barre exercises progressed so fluidly with Laurence, our teacher, demonstrating each exercise while we marked it. While each new exercise built onto the previous one and each become more challenging, I kept thinking over and over –

I’m really here! I’m taking a ballet class in Paris!

And as my body responded to the instructions and corrections, as I turned my legs out from the hips and pressed my feet into the floor with each tendu and my eyes followed each movement of my arms, I also felt something else...

I felt like I was home.

It was that feeling of being somewhere so recognizable and welcoming, somewhere safe and familiar, surrounded by people you love. In a dance studio in Paris, France, in a building from the 1600s, surrounded by a new teacher and new dancers, I was home.

It was amazing.

As we moved into the center, we did some petit allegro to Gene Kelly’s Singing in the Rain, which added a fun, classic-musical theatre element to traditional ballet vocabulary. We even got to use rosin on the slippery, worn wood dance floor! 

My favorite center exercise was the beautiful adage accompanied by the classic Gershwin standard, S’wonderful. It was by no means easy, especially the phrase that started with a developé devant, transferred to an arabesque-promenade, then an attitude-promenade, and finally to a fondu-penché. Phew! It was a challenge to really lengthen each movement and to use breath and control - especially on the extensions - to transition from each position to the next, but the music helped it flow together so smoothly. I felt like I already knew the combination and when we ran it without following our teacher, it felt like real choreography, not just an exercise. It was joyous and I loved it!

No Danse Classique class would be complete without some jumps and I admit I let out a delighted squeal when the theme from Fame came on for a short warm-up sauté combo. No one else seemed that excited about it; they all had these ‘Silly Canadian girl!’ looks on their faces. But I swear it helped me jump higher because it made me think of my sister and my fellow dancers back in Canada. We did a classic glissade, assemblé combo coming forward to Chicago’s All That Jazz and naturally, a grand-jeté combo finished off our center practice.

Thank you, feet! 
It was an incredible 90 minutes and after the reverence and some sneaky photo-taking of the studio, I had to take a minute to really process what I just did and what it meant. As I sat there in the waiting room, sweaty and exhausted, smiling so big while my muscles – especially my hips – were already feeling the extent of the physical and technical exertion, I felt a huge sense of joy. I did it –

I took a ballet class in France!

But it was more than that. I felt intense gratitude – towards my body, towards my training, and towards my teachers and my family. They helped instill a love of dancing and learning in me that propels me to go after what I want and to keep pushing and putting myself out there.

That’s why I dance.

And it’s that gratitude and joy - and the fact that writing this post was a chance to relive the experience - that makes me thrilled to share this journey with you.

I’m so inspired, and still smiling so big, and I can’t wait to check out other classes at Le Centre and elsewhere, and to dance again!

Le Centre de Danse du Marais
membership card and gift bag.

Le Centre de Danse du Marais is one of many dance studios in Paris that offer classes in many different styles and at different levels. For more information, check out their website:

(Don’t worry, there’s an English version!) 


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