Cirque du Grand Bal: Miracles Avec Notre Corps

So dancing and camping and meeting new people has a strange effect on my diet: I forget to eat. This is added to the fact that I am mostly buying my food in shops, rather than restaurants, and I come close to finding out whether man can live on bread (and cheese and sausage) alone. Tuesday I ate several croissants and a mini-quiche for brunch. This actually took some work, since I shops close for lunch (isn’t that cool?) right around the time I was generally waking up. I also finally caved that night and bought an 8 euro meal ticket and had some shepherd’s pie. After eating, I sat on the hill with Zarina and played banjo while watching a middle aged man getting beaten up by five or six small Irish girls. Please read the following dialoge in shrill Irish accents:

Girl 1: Get his head!!

Girl 2: Get his jumper! Off with his jumper, off with his jumper!!

Girl 3: Help pull his shoes! Take em off and hide em!!

Girl 2: Off with his jumper, off with his jumper!

Girl 4: Oww!!! Colleen, you’re hurting me!

Girl 1: Don’t let him get awayyyyy!!!!

Girl 5: It’s only a joke Aryn, you can’t get mad if its only a joke!

Girl 2: OFFF WITH HIS JUMPER!!!!!!!!

Man: Girls, girls, be nice…

That night I was playing around with some friends and did a dragon partner acro pose in the middle of the dance floor. As Zarina put it, this made me “famous.” (This was also the case when there was a birthday dance for the tango instructor and I danced. Advice: If you want to always have partners, do the birthday dance!) I was approached by this guy named Alexi who asked me if I would lead a circus workshop the next day. I of course said yes!  [In real time (not “i’m behind in blogging” time) I just watched “Yes Man.” This is sometimes my philosophy of travel and meeting people.] He wrote up a little notice and we were in business! We decided to meet out on the hill where the man had been savaged the day before. The first day, we got around a dozen people. For much of the begining they all were working on lifts (for scottish! what a concept!) which I already knew so I decided to play games with the three girls and one little boy who were also on the hill. They had brought a ton of circus stuff for juggling and the like, so I started teaching! Only one of them spoke english (and not very much), but the great thing about circus is that you can communicate so much through gesture and expression and that clowning is a perfectly valid method of teaching. It wasn’t until we started learning partner acro that all the “adults” started coming over and looking jealous. We decided to include them:
Some of the kids also decided to do their own acro if you look on the right hand side!

I taught partner acro and acro yoga:

Juggling, devil sticks, diablo and poi:funny (nose) swings, the paddlers dance, clowning (dead or alive was a hit for those in the smirkus world) and random body tricks. 

Five hours later we were just about exhausted but we had done some fun stuff!

I went to bed fairly early that night and woke up Friday to the tunes of Bob Marley with the European crowd. The day had some nice dancing, including some rocking irish set dancing. (The man leading the sets like to sing the tunes on “deedilly diedilly deedilly dum,” which was hilarious and charming in an irish accent. At one point a good section of the hall started singing along, because everyone was just singing in imitation to their neighbors!) The highlight of the day was definitely the circus workshop, part 2. There were more people this time, so I had to reach a little deeper into my bag of tricks

I also got to fly for the first time in a long time, although not without some hesitation!!

Alexi and I took pictures of all the different positions I knew so that he could remember. There were some pretty fun ones!

At the end, we got to make a larger pyramid! [I only have this photo, there were some bigger and better versions taken, and I will update when I get them!]

As a thank you for the circus, I was fed an amazing picnic dinner by the group. Thanks guys, you are all amazing!

I still hadn’t found a ride to Briancon, despite having put up a listing on the ride board and asked everyone who I had met. It was time for more desperate measures! I figured that many people going to italy would be passing near Briancon, so I made a sign and taped it to my shirt during the dance. Around midnight the day before I was leaving I started to get sort of stressed, alternating my time between dancing, asking random people for rides and looking up possible rideshares on the internet in French. Finally, one of my new friends came to my rescue and introduced me to a very small italian man with big red glasses. He was going to Turino and was confused by why I wanted to go there since he couldn’t take me to Briancon. Through our french translator (he spoke a little french) I explained that mostly I just needed to get out of this town, since there was basically no public transport of any kind. With a little bit more confusion, we managed to arrange to meet the next day, Saturday, buy the supermarket and he would drive me to turino. I then stressed out for a while about how to get to Briancon from there (basically no good way) but managed to enjoy the last of the dancing with Mélopées et Moribondes, one of the most fun, and certainly most unusual of the bands. They consisted of a random selection of banjo, a variety of sax, accordian (of course) bells, drums, whistles, flutes and “other.” 

The official evening ended at 3:00 with the band leading us all dancing around the building, up the stairs and around the halls. What a way to end the festival!

There were lots of goodbyes and the dancing continued unnoffically for many hours, but I had to head to bed. I had stayed up till 8:30 the night before and so I bid farewell to all my new friends, went back to my tent and snuggled into my sleeping bag.

Can you fall asleep before your head touches the pillow?



About Jeremy Carter-Gordon

My blog of a year studying point-and-hilt sword dancing on a Watson Fellowship. Enjoy reading, tell me your thoughts and leave me a comment, or visit my website at
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