Gallic Fever

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Le Roy “Retrospective” at MoMA PS 1 – Q&A with a dancer

Greg Grube, Guest Contributor

Dancer Greg Grube, Guest Contributor

Xavier Le Roy’s work gained recognition in contemporary, international dance circles after he finished a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology — which may explain the rigor and experimental focus of the work. His Retrospective, a three-month installation at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, emerges as a loop of discrete personal narratives textured by traces of his and each individual dancer’s past endeavors.  – G.G.

La Francofolle: You said about Retrospective that Le Roy “…pulled it off.” How do you mean? One dancer, in fact, pulled off a sweatshirt during his dance-talk, then wriggled back into it. Could that be a reference to ambivalence about his revelations?


Using narration and movement, Sherwood Chen relates a dancer’s past.

Gregory Grube: Le Roy turned on its head the notion of a culminating look at an oeuvre, he turned it — upside down and inside out — as one of the performers sang to us. This allusion to Diana Ross demonstrates how many plot twists the provocative Retrospective can produce. Sherwood Chen, the dancer who sang a snippet of the disco hit, also spoke eloquently about his own work on Min Tanaka’s farm, studying with Anna Halprin on September 11, 2001, and about the breakup that caused his departure from the U.S. to study court dance in Java.

‪Chen also showed us contemporary Senegalese choreographers’ work, and the piece by Le Roy with the sweatshirt, Self-Unfinished, where the dancer’s body is transformed into something animal or alien by simply taking a garment and using it strangely. Through this interplay, form becomes about otherness, unfixing the sign to catalytically release some locked up energy. In the end, Chen’s monologue risks hardly being a retrospective at all, but a global performance collage that each viewer is invited to frame on their own.

Ff: In France, “le rétro” is in. But what’s French about this Le Roy dance direction?

Gregory Grube: In the US, the ballet tradition and modern dance traditions were the dominant poles that provided ground for a revolt in the post-modern era. In France, propensities for philosophical debate and political insurrection, combined with knowledge of our artistic coups in the 1960s, perhaps opened an avenue for making performances that manage to be both idiosyncratic and poignant conceptually, deconstructing how dance can Continue reading


You’ll smile when Charles Duque says fromage. . .

“Fromage,” says Charles Duque — an invitation to experience French cheese. No wonder I’m smiling.

Non, it’s not about having your picture taken (even if I couldn’t quite resist), it’s about fulfilling your consuming desire for French cheese. And — the better to relish your camembert, comté and fourme d’ambert, among others — for French cheese expertise, too.

Charles Duque, French Cheese Board founding managing director and long-time specialty foods marketer, introduced to media folks the Board’s U.S. flagship venue on the very day I returned to New York from several months in France. But I needn’t have obsessed about missing the occasion. The French Cheese Board “pop up” is long-term (in New York, not much is forever) and an active, convenient locale right around the corner from specialty store Lord & Taylor. Would any true francofolle stay away? Non. Especially since, at French Cheese Board events their gourmet goodies are purveyed at “discovery” prices a gourmand can afford. A gourmand, fyi, has no qualms about going back for seconds, or thirds.

Gourmets or gourmands, either way, U.S. consumers are more into “specialty foods” — a category that includes cheese — than I’d supposed. A Specialty Food Association survey  reports that almost 60 percent of U.S. food shoppers are specialty food shoppers, and that such consumers currently spend one in four of their food dollars on specialty food — up from one in five in 2013. Among specialty foods, the survey notes, most purchased are chocolate, olive oil and . . . cheese.


At NYC French Cheese Board flagship, fromage fans enjoy imports direct from the source.

Our love affair with French cheese is not new, said Charles, who first got serious about French in high school, and is fluent. So when the French Cheese Board (FCB) opened to the New York public with a two-day event, and two thousand of his new best friends showed up to sample 20 different fromage varieties, Charles was pleased but unfazed. And there’s never any shortage of expertise for Charles’s guests: tv Top Chefs share their fromage inspiration on the affiliated website,  CheesesofEurope.

FCB feeds French cheese habits like mine, thanks to sponsorship by the French Dairy Board, supported in turn by dairy farmers and producers of a variety of milk products in the hexagon (the French nickname for their country is a reference to the map shape of France). Another support source is the European Union, since the Union wants to bolster its member countries’ export economies.

In many U.S. cities, Whole Foods and other retailers’ events will celebrate French cheeses. In Gotham, at 26 West 39th Street, you can cultivate your fromage habit at French Cheese Board events October 31, November 21, and December 12. Charles Duque can coach you on correctly pronouncing any French cheese name, and let you in on French cheese cultural secrets — which variety is aged in the vast cellars of what originally was a fort, built by Napoleon in the 19th century? New Yorkers will get fromage answers galore, not to mention samples, at the French Cheese Board this fall/winter tasting season. gf

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Your musical invitation to travel in France


Please listen to my April 2013 Masters Recital performance of “L’invitation au voyage” with Lucy Arner at the piano. 

Lydia Dahling, Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor Lydia Dahling, soprano

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté, /Luxe, calme et volupté. There all is order and beauty,/ Luxury, peace, and pleasure. These words are a recurring theme in Charles Baudelaire’s “L’invitation au voyage,” set to music by Henri Duparc.  In the poem, Baudelaire describes  Amsterdam, but his description could apply to any place the reader wishes.

I was born a francophile, the kid who read an adaptation of Les Miserables at the age of seven (granted, this version omitted topics such as prostitution, political unrest, disease, extreme poverty, suicide, and child abuse), who’s always loved cheese and good bread, always has had a voracious appetite for French art and history, and maybe still wants to just pack it up, move to France and buy a lavender farm. I could make soaps and teach music.


Our own corner of the Périgord region

I studied Duparc’s  “L’invitation au voyage” during my participation in “L’art du chant francaise” — a music and language program situated in the Périgord (aka truffles) region of France. Glenn Morton, one of my vocal coaches at Mannes College,  runs the three-week programHoused in a Périgord gite, eight of us singers studied French musical style and poetry with tenor Michel Sénéchal, a friend and colleague of musicians such as Francis Poulenc Régine CrespinNadia Boulanger. During his more than 60 years’ singing and teaching career, Michel also has directed the young artist studio of the Paris National Opera.

Le Château de Lanquais, where we performed our final concert, and I sang "L'invitation au voyage"

Le Château de Lanquais, where we performed our final concert, and I sang “L’invitation au voyage”

Professional accomplishments aside,  Michel Sénéchal is one of the kindest, most generous and funniest people I’ve ever met. One evening at dinner, as I got up to get a piece of cake, (we always enjoyed dessert), Michel, also visiting the dessert table, pointed to one of the cakes, and whispered a tip, “C’est le meilleur.Continue reading