THE MIRROR OF THE NIGHT
My two friends and I had an idea to dance in the parks of Paris. But there was a twist. Because of work commitments I could only travel in winter. “We will put on layers of warm clothes, drink wine and tea, and dance to keep warm.” We chatted about as we sorted our costumes and routines. After not having seen each other for a year, we had a lot to catch up on. I lived in Europe for 8 years and left to return home to Darwin, Australia for personal reasons. We’d kept in contact via Skype and I continued to practise the dance moves. Another twist? I could hardly speak German. “French is more important,” Gala insisted. “You are in Europe and you are a dancer!”
At that moment, my heart almost stopped and I took a deep breath to wake up. My living, breathing dream was to be that. And what better place to dance than in Paris! Besides, I had a crash course on French weeks before. Our Bohemian Weekend adventure in Paris was born.
Gala’s apartment in Frankfurt is a beautiful high ceiling old German building. The most memorable pieces were a bookshelf that covered a wall in one of the living rooms that doubled up as a bedroom, dividing the space with a white silk curtain. The large windows and classic white walls gave the sense of more space, and mirrors were placed everywhere in arty ways. A perfect setting that set the mood for Paris that weekend.
The getting there said it all. I was so excited to enter the train and find our seats. Cherishing every moment, of course I had my camera, pencil and pad paper with me. I’d started learning to draw and had some coloured pencils packed in my suitcase that I never used. Oh, well.. next time! Before we knew it, we’d arrived in Paris. I packed much more than usual, because like every woman and dancer, I needed to have a variety of clothes and jewelery to choose from. I stepped out quite awkwardly but found the strength to walk with my luggage in confidence. It is, after all, why suitcases come on wheels!
Upon arriving at our apartment we were greeted by a large beautiful fluffy cat at the counter. “So French,” I thought smiling at the humour. That night, we decided to explore the place where we planned to dance. I had my high black boots on that weren’t the ideal walking shoes for the distances we had to do. I was so relieved to finally arrive, I didn’t mind the dodgy look of the place. It had a charm I couldn’t put into words, possibly because of the colourful lights that reflected on the water.
I saw many young people, especially men loitering about outside a club, surrounded by walls of graffiti art. It was midnight and dark, but the lively atmosphere reassured me as I began to play my finger cymbals Tak-takka-tak, tak-takka-tak, as Gala joined me with the hypnotic dance. Almost forgetting where we were I was startled by a guy who approached us, asking for a light and wanting to know what we were doing. Another guy followed, and thinking the worst we quickly fled.
3 artists, 3 silent voices walked the living streets of Paris late that night back to our apartment, wondering what to do the next day.
What impresses me most about Paris is the way it embraces the good and the ugly, opening avenues for self-expression and beauty. Graffiti art and collages of posters were everywhere, encouraging my senses to explore further. My attempts at speaking French were welcomed by beautiful pouts of moving mouths. How do they do it? Everyone is beautiful in Paris because French beautifies their souls and integrates them into the Parisian unique style.
Paris has a place for everyone with quarters that appeal for every taste. Our quarter was accessible to other famous arty quarters such as the famous hill of Montmartre and in the other direction was Moulin Rouge. We placed our food shopping in plastic bags on the ledge outside our apartment window, which we used as our outdoor fridge and went to bed.
The adjacent building from our apartment block with 3 floors was the focus of my wonderings. There’s a dancer in the middle floor. She is not seen at nights because of the reflections by the lights and so she dances alone.” Gala and I exchanged ideas for writing as we got dressed the next day with colourful layers of skirts, pullovers, scarves, and dangly large earrings. “Oh my gosh!” I cried, “I have no more foundation. “Danke liebe Gott,” Gala replied, “that it will do your skin good to have a break.”
After a long day of preparation we finally arrived at a spot across from the brightly lit Louvre. We chose a tree with a bench surround its trunk, where we made our home for the evening. We were in good spirits as we drank sweet wine and set up the picnic, laughing and joking at the novelty. We had fine cheeses, salad, bread and meats that we ate as we got ready for our performance.
I noticed many men in the distance hanging around looking like shadows but this time I felt safer with just the right amount of traffic nearby not disturb the scene.
I took my cymbals and danced with the Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel as the beautiful background of the outdoor stage. Later, Gala and Lena also started to dance with hypnotic moves that synchronised and mirrored those of a partner. It felt like I was dancing on air.
Later, we walked a little and came to a structure that felt like the Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what the name of it was because I was too involved in the moment to care. “How does the Manchegas song go?” Gala asked as she suddenly halted, a cue for me to sing instantly. “Tarralum, tarralum, tarralum, tum, tum,.. My voice rang so loudly that it felt I was waiting for this moment all my life. The voices of my friends followed with echoing sounds that brought back memories of my time in Albacete, Spain. Listen to the song here: 01-Manchegas de Albacete We walked on after we noticed a security camera and took a train over to the river Seine.
We looked for different backgrounds for our dance by the side of the river. First we stopped at some steps and did fun dance poses, taking lots of photos. I climbed up high on the podium at the bottom of the steps and posed like a dancing statue. Gala wrapped a beautiful red satin scarf around my head that exposed my large earrings and kept me warm. We continued closer to the water, feeling more confident and energetic as the night progressed. We stood on a large wooden plank where the boats dock, making sure we stayed in the middle and not fall into the water. This time, we used our veils to dance to the music from the ipod compact speakers.
The life of people still out and about seemingly pulling us as we walked on, arriving at a bench across Moulin Rouge, a street away from our apartment. We took out the dessert part of what was left of our picnic hamper and some hot lemon tea, sat quietly and people watched.
It wasn’t until later I realised I lost one of my finger cymbals that must have dropped by the side of the river. Losing a piece of dance accessory means a lot to me because of the history attached to it. Nevertheless, I got over it and the greatest souvenir of this trip will stay in my head. Words can’t describe the sensations of a weekend French Bohemian life but I managed to keep these by publishing a book, Poems That Touch The Soul. Paris by night is my favourite and the thought of this theme, along with the river and lights, the surrounding shadows of loitering men, I started to compose ideas of the mirror of the night, my poem later to be titled, Glorified Queen Bee which probably encompasses my impression of the weekend of Bohemian Paris.
The next day was our last, and we explored Paris by day. We bought food from the grocery store which incidentally, was carefully chosen by Gala who was studying to become a naturopath. We walked to the famous hill, Montmartre on our last day to have an outdoor picnic lunch. As we headed towards the river we detoured into different streets, specialty shops, places to eat and a market. Gala helped me choose earrings, practise makeup with the right shades of colours, a tribal dance costume, and other accessories to go with our tribal fusion and American tribal dance style look, bought at chains of budget shops.
I promised myself upon returning to Darwin, Australia that I will do more dance practice because I tend to write more than I dance. I don’t take learning dance routines as seriously as I possible should, or to be kinder to myself, I’m forced to prioritise because of lack of time, and so I fluke the steps and improvise, relying on my reflexes and natural instincts. Gala believes that it is more important to have graceful dance technique and natural style than know the steps. ;) This trip taught me the value of stepping-stones and the giant leaps that are possible by travel because through travel I have gained perspective. Perspective is what helps me see my progress and ways I can improve. My Paris trip didn’t go totally to plan. Certain things happened that could have turned out better but it was a way forward to better things.
Now, I keep positive and hope to one day return to Europe and continue my life there. Until then, I’m enjoying the moments I have. Perhaps my luck will turn and I win this competition, and relive my dream for 6 months of my dancing in Europe. Look at the link here if you’d like to vote for me. A career in education was how I kept focused and justified my travel addiction over the 8 years abroad. “Just one more country,” I told myself. From London to Madrid, to Albacete, then Frankfurt. Finding another job in a different city was as easy as a click of a button on the computer at the local internet café and a phone interview.
“Yes, I speak very good German,” I lied. I was learning at the local school of languages but it would never be enough. And so I found myself in the most unlikely place, Frankfurt, Germany! Throughout my experiences abroad, I have always incorporated dance in everything I did but was always disappointed in myself for not starting at a younger age. It was just a few years ago upon making friends with Gala when my writing matured and realized that in belly dance age is not a barrier and in fact an advantage.
To be honest, I don’t really need this competition to find myself back in Europe. I can do this in time, but I wanted to enter because I think it’s a cool way to express myself and my passion for travel. Little excuses for travel transformed into unique, memorable experiences. A glass of wine in Paris or a tea in London and a why not try a different city, learn the guitar in Spain, another language, and getting totally lost in a big city, pursued me to places I may not have experienced with a travel guide.
Once a traveler always a traveler. In fact, my mind is always traveling because I’m the ideal dreamer. I can create anything from nothing everywhere I go because inspiration is inside me. A traveler can be anyone, and once abroad, of course you then become one! The crunch is that my experiences changed me forever and I can’t remember the person I was. It’s like I disappeared!
Before heading overseas for the first time, I spent weeks packing and unpacking. You might know the scenario.. taking stuff you probably won’t need but taking it anyway. Comfort stuff like maybe a teddy bear memento, a favourite inspirational book to keep you going, a comfort blanket, and enough toiletries to last for months. How things have changed…