In December 2016 I was a veteran dancer at Atlanta Ballet, living in the United States with my boyfriend and my dog. On a whim I found some really cheap tickets to Paris for New Year’s. Maybe if I hadn’t gone to Paris that week I wouldn’t have felt the squeeze in my heart that told me I needed to be living in Europe. But I did go to Paris. So I changed my life.
Flash forward to December 2017 and I am back where the bug bit me. Paris. This time everything is different. I am a now a new dancer at Le Ballet de l’opera National du Rhin. I live in a much smaller town. Dates with my boyfriend require coordinating time zones. I speak French, a little bit anyway. And my friends have to travel a lot farther to see me. But at least when they do they get to see this.
My friend Merica, the architect, flew to Paris and I took the overnight bus after rehearsal. To be honest the overnight bus isn’t too bad! And for 20 euros to get to Paris without wasting any time- I’d do it again next week!
Since I arrived at about 6am I wandered the dark streets of Paris. That time of year the City of Light is more like, the City of Light for about 6 hours per day. (But not as bad as London where sunset was at 3:30pm!) I got a croissant, naturally, and then another one, also naturally.
Then I found Merica!
We were staying in the 4th arrondissement which I’ve never been to. It’s the old Jewish quarter that in recent years has become quite hip. Merica’s friend, also an architect had a super sweet pad that he was letting us crash in.
Since Merica is an architect we set off to check out some of Paris’s more interesting buildings. It was fascinating to go with Merica and Amboise (the guy whose house we were staying in) to learn a bit about why these buildings are important or special. A different sort of tour than usual!
First stop was the Louis Vuitton Fondacion which was having a visiting exhibit from MOMA so Merica (who lives in NYC and can see MOMA all the time) was a bit miffed. The building though! It had an unlimited budget.
I found FDR’s address on the opening of MOMA particularly timely.
“For we know that only where men are free can the arts flourish and the civilization of national culture reach full flower.
The arts cannot thrive except where men are free to be themselves and to be in charge of the discipline of their own energies and ardors. The conditions for democracy and for art are one and the same. What we call liberty in politics results in freedom in the arts. There can be no vitality in the works gathered in a museum unless there exists the right of spontaneous life in the society in which the arts are nourished.
A world turned into a stereotype, a society converted into a regiment, a life translated into a routine, make it difficult for either art or artists to survive. Crush individuality in society and you crush art as well. Nourish the conditions of a free life and you nourish the arts, too.”
Next we hit up the Palais Tokyo, a cutting-edge contemporary art museum, with a fascinating architectural backstory. And a little room for an exhibit that was for 18 and up only…..which was quite surprising to say the least. But hey! Maybe it’s the way to convince people to go to art museums!
Amboise and his girlfriend Helene were our guides for the rest of the afternoon. They are the coolest people ever. We jumped on the art (we were allowed.) We exchanged tongue twisters in French and English. We ate lunch in a lovely cafe. We walked along the Seine and saw the most beautiful sunset ever.
A quick snack back at the beautiful apartment before we had to head to the Palais Garnier for Alexander Ekman’s premiere of Play which I pretty much thought was the most fun ballet ever. Merica got us tickets in the third row. It was wild. We met up with Merica’s friend Isabella Boylston, principal dancer at American Ballet Theater, who is currently guesting with Paris Opera Ballet. It was interesting to hear her experiences working in Paris.
We stayed out late at the bistro and when we returned home our key to our apartment didn’t work. At 2am. Luckily Amboise and Helene are saints and we were able to Uber over to their house to get another one.
The next day we started with the world’s smallest coffee. This is my main problem with France. But oh well. Merica and I did some window shopping in the 10th. Then we met up with another expat ballerina, Laura, who is studying in Paris and went on a quest to find a flea market. We listened to singers at the most acoustically perfect cathedral in Paris. We had smoothie bowls and some of the Marais district’s famous falafel.
And then sadly we had to get on the train back to Mulhouse. But any time spent in Paris does such good things for the soul, even if it’s only a weekend. It might even make you want to change your life.