Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dance, cuisine, and traboules

We’re beginning to notice the change of seasons; mornings tend to be a little misty with the clouds generally burning off by midday. Evening can feel chilly even when the afternoon is quite warm and sunny. The leaves are beginning to turn golden here, although they will not become the extraordinary reds of New England. The big, beautiful trees that line the avenues of many French cities are called plane trees and have grey, mottled bark and leaves that look like giant maple leaves. We walk through drifts of these wind-blown leaves in the streets, and there are chestnuts on the ground in Place Bellecour.

This week we began our dance classes at the ARTE studio that is in a large, 19th century building beside the Opera House. I find it interesting to contemplate the depressions worn in the stone steps as we climb to the troisième étage, which is actually four stories in American terms. The studio is smaller than the one at TDMI, but everyone at ARTE is very friendly and there is a mirror with which to work. In these next weeks we will begin to emphasize rehearsal for the work we will be creating for the dance concert in February.

One of the real highlights of our week continues to be the evening when we cook together and serve up a beautiful meal to share. Originally, when envisioning the Lyon program, I imagined this as an activity that would be interesting and a pleasure. I think we’re all finding that this has become one of our favorite things. We usually commandeer three of the apartment kitchens and prepare various parts of the meal in each. Several of the students are actually learning how to cook! We’ve been toying with the idea of creating a Lyon Dance Semester Cookbook! This last week we made chicken (with mushrooms, garlic, and onions), ratatouille, and spinach salad with pears and pistachios. This was followed by a dessert of mirabelles (small, yellow and purple plums) and fromage blanc (“white cheese” – which is actually much like yogurt and is served with a little sugar). In good French fashion, we generally spend a long time “at table,” talking and enjoying each other’s company.

On Wednesday afternoon the students completed an assignment to create a tour of Lyon’s traboules. Vieux Lyon (the old city) and the Croix Rousse area of the city are honeycombed with passageways and internal courtyards that once served as ways for the canuts, or silk workers, to cross from building to building. It is thought that this was a way to keep the bolts of silk fabric from getting wet as they were moved from workshops to warehouses. The traboules were also useful during WWII as secret passages through which Resistance members were able to move about the city.

Christine and I were met at the Louis XIV statue in Place Bellecour by the “Avec La Gauche Tours” team (our students) and taken on an interesting and informative tour of the traboules with commentary all along the way. They really did a fabulous job, right down to their “uniforms” with scarves.

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