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

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

Soirée art-and-commerce — Vincent Darré / Poltrona Frau / Le Bon Marche

Was Lascaux actually an art gallery where a prehistoric wealthy collector could, let’s say, order an original print of a cave painting to grace the wall of her own condo cavern? No? Well, that was definitely the last time we know of when art and commerce had no interest in common.

So, Art(s) and Commerce cohabit comfortably on GallicFever, and, in this case the collaboration between prolific French artist Vincent Darré, and the venerable (founded 1912) Italian furniture maker, Poltrona Frau, that now has in their sensuous and luxe materials, Darré’s sometimes mordant, invariably witty designs. 

Paris creatives celebrate with (far left) Vincent Darré. Arielle Dombasle, Francis D'Orleans, Marie Beltrami, Catherine Baba, Elie Top

Designer Vincent Darré (far left) celebrates with fellow Paris creatives Arielle Dombasle, Francis D’Orleans, Marie Beltrami, Catherine Baba, Elie Top

Poltrona is far from the first heavyweight firm to hook up to Darré’s talent in the interests of prestige and profit for both, and naturally there’s a luxury retail lynchpin, too — the Left Bank capital of chic, Le Bon Marché. (Five years after the store became part of the LVMH brand, in 1989, Au Bon Marché was rechristened Le Bon Marché and any relation whatsoever to the dictionary meaning of bon marché [er, cheap] ceased to apply.) The LBM windows on rue de Sèvres and much of the 2e étage, the Interiors floor, are devoted at this writing to displays of Darré furniture design and décor inspiration. Unapologetically priced in the thousands of euros per item.

Vincent Darré, educated in an Influential Paris fashion school,  as well as in the eighties trend crucible that was the famed disco, Le Palace (think Studio 54 in New York), made the most not only of his considerable design ability but also of a talent for timing. His bio illustrates how he always could be found at the fashion focal point, at the peak fashionable moment, “even when that meant being in several places at once.” Continue reading

Photographer’s accomplice: Robert Delpire

Great photographers bring us good news and bad news. They’ve captured that decisive moment – and it is beautiful or trenchant, often both. Well, yes, but the young girl* caught by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s lens has since run right out of the frame, never to return. The moment in reality is gone; what we’re left with is the artist’s vision.

Nice consolation prize after all; one for which we’re indebted to an eclectic French publisher – really an impresario of the image: Robert Delpire. If New Yorkers hadn’t known Delpire’s name, or been aware of his contribution –  “Delpire & Co.,” a four-venue show, made a point in Spring 2012 of Delpire’s influence. In fact, as this exhibition coordinated by the Aperture Foundation made clear, Delpire has called the world’s attention over the past six decades not only to genius in photography but also in illustration, graphics and children’s stories.

Delpire’s Illustrateur series hung at the NYU Maison Française (off UniversityPlace in the Washington Mews,  Greenwich Village), and examples of the photographers’ work Continue reading

French movie, anyone? Ooh, la la…

My French movie addiction tends to be a lonely habit. For years, I could hardly get pals to go to with me to films that would turn out, predictably, to feature long conversations about aspects of love, lots of talking heads bobbing around dining tables bigger than are common in New York. The heads were pretty and handsome, and talked intelligently en français, the better for me to concentrate on my French language comprehension. I frowned on subtitles – that, I pointed out to anyone who did dare accompany me, too often were unfaithfully translated, sabotaging the conversation and Continue reading

Light summer reading can give you a frisson

Maman, a dedicated, proper French teacher, wondered uneasily how her only child strayed into, of all things, crime writing? French was in my blood, though, and a passion for Paris did surface. When I discovered how many of my crime-writing colleagues were similarly smitten, my life themes at last converged. “Recommend some French-drenched light summer reading,” I emailed the crime scribes.

True crime writer, Sue Russell, an ex-pat Brit, recalled her dad reading Georges Simenon, and watching a “moody, noir-ish” Maigret TV series. On an internet list of maybe 100 Maigret titles in English, I clicked on Murder in Montmartre (the 18th Continue reading