Le Dernier Mot: The Dance of Life

Le Dernier Mot: The Dance of Life

Kristen contemplates sobriety, serendipity and synchronicity during her time in France.

On the terrace of a stately mas outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, amidst fields of lavender, I was sipping sparkling water and chatting with another wedding guest when the band came on. Suddenly, my high-heeled, gold-sequin-wearing interlocutrice set down her glass of bubbly and shimmied over to the dance floor. “Allez! On danse!” she called.

Oh to have such confidence in my own dancing shoes! But this was no time for wishful thinking. An invitation was dangling in the lavender-scented air and it would be impolite not to respond. Worse, it would dishonour les mariés who, by tradition, were the first on the dance floor and were now waiting for the wedding party to join in.

I watched as les invités set down their champagne glasses and let their bodies catch the rhythm of the beat. Easy for them after a few glasses of champers, but for me, having recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety, I couldn’t be swayed by inebriation. Stone sober, I entered the dance floor, hoping my awkward arm-swinging shuffle would go unnoticed. The problem with the French is they don’t wait around for weddings to shake their booties: soccer stadiums, parking lots and restaurants are all potential dance floors.

Jean-Marc and Kristin outside le mistral night club

This reminds me of a hip-shaking night out with friends in Saint-Tropez. As we perused the menu, one of the women began humming along with the background music, got the urge to Get Down On It, and before we knew it, our dinner party of eight was dancing beside our dinner plates.

While my mind is usually convinced that everyone on la piste de danse is a disco king or queen except me, in reality there are some disco dorks on every dance floor, and it is thanks to those Missing-the-Beat-but-Feelin’-Dynamite types that I am learning to let go. Twirling across the room, my husband is often there to catch me, and my clumsy deux pas is now a near-synchronous pas de deux.

One step at a time

When I stop to think of it, I owe my life in France to dance. For it was here, dans une boîte de nuit in Aix-en-Provence, that I spied my future partner. And by no cosmic coincidence, it was the first time I ever partied sober in a nightclub. As daunting as those first steps to sobriety were, I ventured out onto the dance floor and, now, many years later, feel eternally blessed for that mighty move… and the series of steps I continue to perfect ‘one day at a time’.

Kristin shares some of the personal challenges she’s overcome since moving to France in her memoir, The Lost Gardens. Co-authored with her husband, and set on two vineyards, the story explores life’s twists and turns.

Available at French Word-A-Day.com.


MAS = traditional house or farm in Provence


ALLEZ! ON DANSE! = Come on! Let’s dance!

LES MARIÉS = the newlyweds

LES INVITÉS = guests

DEUX PAS = two-step

LA PISTE DE DANSE dance floor

UNE BOÎTE DE NUIT = night club

From France Today Magazine

Lead photo credit : Traditional dance in Corrèze © shutterstock

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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