On Friday, Richard picked me up and I met Lara who is also a member of the traditional Breton dance team.
She is really nice and on the ride to Plougastel Richard made a detour to a Calvin church in Pleyben and I took some pictures. I’m definitely going to be going there again maybe when my sister visits but Richard told me that the church used to be painted different colors which have worn away with time. In the summers, the original colors are projected onto the church building at night.
I got a quick glimpse of the sea/ocean on the highway. We then made another detour once we arrived at Plougastel so that I could see the church there. This was also a Calvin church and I got photos of a stone pillar that was made of some special granite I can’t remember and I also liked the fountain at the front.
Richard and Lara got to their rehearsal late and I got to see their team practice. Nathan, a fellow English teacher at my school, is actually the vice president of the group. Their team is reported to be the best in the region and when I saw them perform during the show I saw why.
I got to go backstage and I saw their traditional Breton outfits and costumes before the performance. The flowers on the women’s aprons were hand painted and their dance was an ode to Paul Sérusier, a centuries-ago painter who found inspiration in Brittany (en Bretagne) and moved to this region of France. Richard was explaining that the women’s headdress takes a lot of time and ironing and starch so that it stays in place but when it comes in contact with rain it easily wilts.
The guys looked dapper in their suits and hats and the women were radiant in their ensemble. I also met another English teacher who teaches in a nearby town. Richard told me that I was lucky to have caught the show because this was the last of the season. Some dancers were wearing pieces which were heirlooms like pins and broaches, jewelry, that were passed down over generations. It was fun to watch the groups perform. Each group has a band of musicians who perform alongside the dancers. Richard’s group was definitely the best. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the whole set because it was so beautiful and I was so proud. I could see the amount of passion and effort they put towards creating a flawless performance.
After the performance we met at a nearby hall where we had drinks before heading to dinner. I met an older man who used to be an English professor in my current French town but is now retired. He is one of the musicians in Richard and Nathan’s group. I also met a few other people who are on the younger spectrum. A few of the dancers are high schoolers and I found it interesting to see teachers and students taking part in the same activity outside of school and one of the dancers is actually a student in my class. Everyone was really sweet and the retired professor got me a pass for drinks and dinner.
The guy who sat next to me at dinner was very boisterous and was cracking jokes the whole time. He definitely has a great sense of humor. Across from me and one place to the right sat another young guy. He spoke English to me for a bit and I learned he’d spent a bit of time in Wales as part of his studies. And then there was Alan. He had a great energy and was very nice. Lara and I were talking about rings; she was wearing two with butterfly designs that I’d been admiring earlier. She told me that she’d been admiring mine and loved owls. She’s also a harpist which I think is amazing and she reminded me a bit of a friend of mine from college.
I’d learned on the ride over there that Nathan was a fan of Beyoncé and that he’s spent a bit of time in Los Angeles. I talked to him a little bit about that. Me speaking him for that short period of time during dinner was the longest conversation I’ve had in English since getting to France. As we were speaking, some people at our table were chiming in in French trying to guess what we were saying which was fun.
After dinner there was a concert and we stayed to watch the first two acts. They sang in Breton and the girl in the second group had an amazing voice. By the time that performance was wrapping up, I was super tired. Alan came over and talked to me for a bit. Once the set was over we- Richard, Lara, another dancer, and I- said goodbye and we hit the road.
It was past 12 AM by then and I slept during most of the car ride back. When the car stopped by my place I said my goodbyes, got ready for bed and was really appreciative for the experience. I really got to see and experience the spirit of people, looking at different people dancing and interacting, soaking in the beauty of the dances of these people, and also opening up a little bit to those in my surroundings. I am also really thankful to and for Richard. He was such a gracious guide. He was always looking out for me, informing me about people and places and things and just making me feel included which was what made this outing so perfect. It was such wonderful occasion and experience.