This month, my tribute goes to a French dancer, Sylvie Guillem, also named ”Mademoiselle Non”. A Parisian, who grew up not really wanting to dance, and indeed was training in gymnastics up until she went for an audition at the Paris Opera Ballet. The then director, Claude Bessy, saw her enormous potential and she immediately became part of the corps de ballet aged only 16. She later became Rudolf Nureyev’s protegé, – he gave her roles that other dancers probably would have died for! The relationship between her and Nureyev was always fiery, but there was respect between two great artists. She, however, decided to leave to experiment in other companies going first to the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, London. Her subsequent role in a more contemporary ballet by William Forsythe “In the Middle Somewhat Elevated “ brought her huge success and also the freedom to choose where she might dance. This earned her the nickname of Mademoiselle Non, as she began to work independently with other companies and choreographers.
I remember seeing her in the 1980’s at Covent Garden, queuing up for a ticket was a big event, but I was determined to see this French wonder girl. I wasn’t disappointed. Her legendary long legs, high extensions, and marvellous feet, coupled with an amazing stage presence were quite literally something else. We had never seen this before in ballet. She has gone on to work with contemporary choreographers such as Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant, Mats Ek and always with William Forsythe – all international artists themselves. I personally love her work in this domain.
Last year she turned 50 and she decided it was time to retire. Not probably done lightly but she prefered to go before she felt she must and her body finally said no more. “the tears of the body” as she calls it. As she says, it will be a challenge, stopping after so long , but she thinks of it as a springboard into the future. She already is very involved in humanitarian issues and a supporter of marine conservation. Still, it’s sad we won’t see her dance again?
Recently, the corner shop became Un épicier. Overnight a new sign appeared and new people took it over. I was surprised as I didn’t know that our lady who owned it was retiring. A family business for over 50 years, passing from father to daughter, I have known it for 16 years now, always convenient when you have run out of something or when the supermarket isn’t open. A place where you can find everything from a ball of string to a good bottle of wine. It is the heart of the village and where people pass the time of day gossiping!
Probably a rare thing in the UK but in rural villages like ours everyone knows everyone. It reminded me of a similar place in France where a man had not been seen for several weeks and had not picked up his regular bits of shopping. They began to be worried, and went to his home to discover that he had been very ill. A case of customer care which luckily turned out well.
The opening of the little shop was celebrated with an all day drink and food nibbles party. The new owners are a hard working couple who have given new life to the shop and we now wish Madame Berthy and her family a very happy retirement!
Yes, these are black truffles, which are very particular to this region of the Black Perigord. This month there is a market in Sarlat, renowned for this famous delicacy but what exactly are they you ask? Basically they are mushrooms that have been cultivated around oak trees in a hard, chalky ground. The gestating time lasts nine months and very slowly the little nuts grow with the summer storms watering them copiously. Dogs are specifically trained to sniff out the truffles; in olden times they used pigs!
The truffle master follows the dog with a little rake, responding to the dog's excitement when it discovers a truffle. Careful digging unearths the truffle, which releases a powerful odour. Before they can be sold, they must undergo a strict validation under expert control of the product. Suitably weighed and the earth scraped off and to release the perfume.
They can be sold for astronomical prices and the chefs in the restaurants in Perigord can concoct their “omelettes aux truffes” or even use them in a dessert – a rice pudding laced with slices of truffle! Bon appètit!
Fifi’s story from rural France.
See details: Easter dance course 25th April 2016