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“Parisians never truly let go on the dance floor” How to master the art of dancing like the French

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Audrey Diwan

Editor-at-large of Stylist France, Audrey Diwan reveals the secret to becoming a little more French

I’ll start this column with a declaration of my love for your country. I must tell you how sad I am not to have been born there given how much you like to party. In my younger years, I had the chance to cross the Channel to sample the atmosphere of London after midnight. I remember the thrill of this wind of freedom that seemed to blow across the dance floor, a freedom of expression that transforms into a freedom of movement. In the UK, everyone has the right to choose their own style, identity and way of moving. Your nights out are monumental, taking place in huge cathedrals where each person plays their part and is united with others in joy. Deep down, I never lose that urge to jump on the Eurostar to come and celebrate with you. And yet my case is a bit unusual.

I love dancing but I have absolutely no sense of rhythm. I always dance out of time, regardless of the song. This malfunction is caused by a hearing problem – I just can’t make out the bass. It took me a long time to realise this. When I was younger, I often made a fool of myself in clubs. At first I thought, with a certain naivety, everyone else was off-beat. Then finally I accepted defeat and sided with the majority. ‘The others aren’t to blame – it’s me…’

The art of fitting in

In France, it’s better to dance to the same rhythm as everyone else. In Paris especially, it’s rare to see someone twisting and turning, waving their arms in the air. Dancing is essentially just a subtle movement of the pelvis and shoulders, while the head remains completely still. Nothing more extravagant than that – just a slight wiggle. And I’m barely stereotyping.

For those who worry about letting go for fear of regret, here are three very French tips for surviving on the dance floor without losing your dignity. The first technique is the dance of the sailor. Like a cabin boy in a storm, this requires you to continue moving but moor yourself to something, for instance with an elbow glued to the bar. It’s slightly masculine, which forces a gender fluid style of dancing. You can maintain conversation while performing a couple of steps with no danger of getting carried away.

The second option is the metronome. You stay seated, the bottom half of your body anchored in your seat. Only your top half shimmies intermittently, when the general euphoria takes over. You completely do away with the risk of falling over like a piece of dead wood – and that can only be a good thing.

The last technique is effective and enjoyable: find a tutor. Simply coil your arms around the neck of a guy or girl like a delicate plant. Your partner is responsible for keeping you both balanced and limits the acrobatic shapes you might otherwise give in to. And if the party gods are on your side, this French dance will lead to a French kiss. It’s win-win.


Photography: Chris Floyd

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