Curtain Call

March 13, 2018

Every week, APA takes us to see a “spectacle.” The spectacles are one of my favorite things about being in Paris with APA — if it weren’t all organized for me, I doubt I would take the time (or money) to go to a show every week. Paris has one of the greatest arts and culture scenes in the world and I love being forced (inspired!) to experience that. They spectacles can be anything from a cabaret to the philharmonic. We’ve seen indecipherable classic plays in a beaux-arts theatre, a Grammy-winning singer who performed with Mick Jagger, and a lights show based around juggling. But one thing they all have in common? The clapping. I’m here to give you my insider scoop on the best thing about french culture.

After an excellent show in the US, the audience usually cheers and gives a standing ovation. I never gave it much thought, but expected this to be the case everywhere. But in France, they do something so much better. After our first spectacle, I was surprised that no one in the audience was standing up to applaud while the performers took their bows. A few people yelled “Bravo!” but it was limited. But as the performers left the stage, I noticed something strange. All of the audience members began to clap in unison.

CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP.

And the performers returned and bowed again, even more enthusiastically! I would attach a video of the applause, but I’ve already been yelled at once by an usher for taking photos at a spectacle. I’m not sure who starts the synchronized slow clap, or how people know when to join in and when to stop, but it’s so strange to me and so wonderful. At the philharmonic, the audience continued to clap in unison for so long that the pianist played an encore. After his encore, the synchronized clapping went on for so long that he played a second. After this second encore, as if by an invisible cue, the audience members knew to clap normally while he took his final bows. At a ballet we saw, the audience members liked it so much that they started stamping their feet, making a rumbling in addition to the synchronized claps. If any choreographers are interested, my proposal for the next big spectacle is modern dance set to the beat of recorded French applause.

Yours in applause,

Clara

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