French women… Oh la la!


I was a pretentious git in my twenties. Often visiting library@esplanade to loan out artsy stuff.

Most of the art house movies never did make a lasting impression on me. One did – well, one scene did: Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris, where a butt-naked Brigitte Bardot asked her husband Paul if he liked her body part A, body part B…

Tu les trouves jolies mes fesses? (Do you find my ass pretty?)

Oui, tres (Yes. Very.)

Et mon visage? (And my face?)

Aussi. (Yes.)

Tout? Ma bouche, mes yeux, mon nez, mes oreilles? (All of me? My mouth, my eyes, my nose, my ears?)

Oui, tout. (Yes, all of you.)

Donc tu m’aimes totalement? (So you love me totally?)

Oui, je t’aime totalement, tendrement, tragiquement. (Yes, totally, tenderly, tragically.)


Oddly enoughly, the francophile in me never developed fierce cravings for snails…


I was in my French phase then – a phase that never did go away completely, for I still spurt out random grammatically incorrect French sentences.

But let me just state for the record, Brigitte Bardot had a beautiful ass.

There was also made an attempt to stir up interest in ballet when I chanced upon Marguerite and Armand, the synopsis had said “The stellar world premiere featuring Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, as the star-crossed lovers that would become their signature roles.”

Ballet never did stick.

I started my music education with heavyweights like Verdi and Puccini. Aida and Turandot bored me – certainly not because of plots that were wanting, but from a mind that was wanting. Only the catchy – and I suspect it was precisely because of that – La Donna è Mobile from Rigoletto did take root. I didn’t understand the Italian lyrics, of course, but only remembered it was sung by the character of the duke and spoke of women who are fickle like the wind.

Years later, on a whim for something upbeat but with no desire for The Sound of Music, I listened to La Donna è Mobile on YouTube, and had from its “suggestions” list found Sylvie Guillem, the 2nd French lady in this story; this is also where this story comes full circle: The French dancer announced her retirement in early November, and I’m placing watching her live in action as the top spot in my bucket list (sharing equal lust factor with watching Madonna live).

And it wasn’t even her fame – for I didn’t know Guillem from Eve then – that drew me to the clip, it was the title “Maurice Béjart – Boléro (2002)”. I had thought it was a classical piece by a French composer (see above, my French phase).

Béjart was indeed French, but he was a dancer-choreographer with his own very successfully dance company, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne (thank you Mr Wikipedia!) – though the late dancer-choreographer-entrepreneur did share the same first name as the composer of Boléro, Maurice Ravel.

Even though I never got ballet, I understood Guillem’s body language. The choreography compelling as it was, the clincher for me was her flawless executions on the platform. Seemingly fluid limbs move in tune with every beat, her intense energy and concentration that in turn energised and compelled the audience to follow every fall of her arm, every turn of her torso, her every step, her every breath. And till this day, whenever I listen to Ravel’s Boléro, in my mind’s eye, Guillem’s beautiful form always accompanies.

Sylvie Guillem will take her final curtain bow next December in Tokyo, plenty of time to catch the prima ballerina in action, plenty of time for me to save up as well.

See you in Tokyo!