Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Bal Musette - French Dancing at the Museum

What is a Bal Musette?
Bal-musette is a style of French music and dance that first emerged in Paris in the 1880s and was hugely popular through the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, but lost out to the Rock and Pop invasion (originating in Britain and America) in the Sixties. It is now enjoying a revival as people rediscover this uniquely French culture.

Industrial Paris was the melting-pot: there were large numbers of migrants from the Auvergne (the middle of France), and also many Italian workers. The Auvergnats brought a type of bagpipe called a musette, and a dance called La Bourrée. The Italians came with their own styles and with their accordions. As the music developed in complexity, the accordion became the chief instrument, accompanied by banjo or guitar, bass, saxophone and drums. Musette was enriched by swing and jazz influences during and after the Second World War.

Some of the dance establishments were very seedy! The musicians, for their own protection, climbed into a gallery, and the ladder was removed for the evening! The “Bal Musette” at Ryedale Folk Museum will be a far more salubrious affair, and suitable for all the family!

To accommodate more dancers on a crowded floor, compact, rather intimate versions of the dances emerged. There was the Tango, imported from Argentina, the Paso Doble, which is a Two-Step danced to Spanish music, the Valse Musette, which is about twice as fast as an English Ballroom Waltz, and finally the Java, which developed in Thirties Paris, with a novel rhythmic feel and very compact, intimate dance steps!
. ** Soundfile “Véronique explains the Java dance” 48 seconds.

By 1945, the bal-musette became the most popular style of dance in France and its biggest stars were famous across the country. It went into decline in the Sixties, but is coming back, especially in larger cities, and a modern form of the musette is establishing itself.

Following the success of Saturdays Bal Musette at Ryedale Folk Museum, it may become a yearly event, see you next year! Have a look at the video to see and hear some of the celebrations.

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