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Powerful Paris Burning Energy

The Bals des Pompiers seems like a lifetime ago, although it’s been only a few days since we partied among the handsome young men of the fire station on rue de Sevigné. A long weekend of revelry to celebrate the 227th anniversary of the French Revolution was one exciting event after another in the land of “Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité.”

July 13th and 14th is when the clean-cut hard-bodied firefighters let down their guard to party all night long with the citizens of Paris. At their stations, they set up booths to dispense beer, soft drinks, fries and hot dogs. On the temporary stage was a band capable of performing every imaginable musical style. Everyone was dancing, old and young alike. The women all dressed to allure and attract, hoping to be asked to dance, or take home a kiss if not a fireman, himself.

At the “caserne” on rue de Sevigné, they decorated with an Hawaiian theme and (I heard) held a strip show at midnight in the firetrucks’ garage. It was a relief that Thursday night, there were no major fires to snuff out, seeing as the ‘heroes’ were elsewhere with different kinds of ‘flames’ on their minds.

If you weren’t nursing a hangover, then Friday morning the place to be was the Champs-Elysées for the annual Bastille Day parade, when M. Jacques Chirac, “Le président de la République,” inspected the troupes and the air force showed off their flight power. From my desk in the Marais I could hear the roar of the jets and caught a glimpse of the beautiful birds soaring through the bright blue sky.

Journalists Jonathan Hawley and Jenny Lamattina didn’t make it down to the ‘Champs’ for the parade…”mainly because we went to the Pompiers’ Ball last night in rue de Sevigné and couldn’t get out of bed! —
But it turned out even better because all the military vehicles ended up at Saint-Paul and it was pretty funny to see all the cyclists weaving through the tanks!”

Friday night was the main event of the year — the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. We arrived hours early to secure a good spot on the Champs de Mars as dead-center as one could be between the tower and Ecole Militaire. Our party kept growing in spite of those who could never find us among the sea of picnickers even though the day-glo green shirt I was wearing decorated with frogs (French frogs, of course) could be seen for miles. (I saved it just for this occasion.)

Once we had eaten and drunk more than we wanted, everyone took a brief siesta before the sun set and the lights went up on La Grande Dame. The crowd cheered in anticipation of the spectacular show about to ensue. Then it started with a bang — a symphony of classic melodies, a ballet of fire and light, a choreographed performance of brilliant conception, design and execution, lasting about 45 minutes.

There is simply no way to describe the sheer beauty
of the setting. Sure, there are great fireworks to be had in other parts of the world — but none so exciting as those with the powerful yet elegant metal tower silhouetted against a sea of light and color, set to music in perfect harmony. The crowd ooed and aahed, cheered and applauded, awestruck in every way.

Leaving the Champs de Mars to make the last trains were the hundreds of thousands of people who had partied with us on the grass. As we slowly worked out way home we lamented as we do every year…”This year was even more beautiful than the last.” And so it was.

Sunday night, we topped off the eventful weekend with a performance by a French dance troupe called “Pas de Quartier.” It was part of 18 performances by the American Alvin Ailey Dance Theater at a temporary stage built in the gardens of the magnificent Hôtel de Rohan-Soubise, an 18th-century palace that houses the National Archives. A transparent plastic roof covers the seated area for 2,000 in case of inclement weather, but the dry warm night air couldn’t have been more perfect for the hip hop show.

Alan Riding of the New York Times in his article of July 6th said of the show that…”There was color, passion, lyricism, energy and loads of talent, but what really won over a large crowd of Parisians to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater this week was something all too often overlooked amid the abstraction and intellectualism of contemporary dance. Sexiness.”

I’d call the hip hop show something different…”Powerful.” One could feel the sheer power and energy of the extraordinary performers, just like the young warriors of fire, like the tanks on the Champs-Elysées, like the burning light and color over the Eiffel Tower and like the screaming jets high in the sky…

It was a powerful energy that burned up our Paris hearts.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email in[email protected]

P.S. Please note that all next week there will be NO Parler Paris newsletters while I travel through the hills of Tuscany. Please direct all your mail to [email protected] so Lynda Sydney can assist you until I return July 31st.

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