08 April 2011

Bal de l'X

The Opéra Garnier, lit up and dressed with thousands of fragrant flowers.  Handsome men in uniforms and tuxedos.  Women dressed in their finest gowns.  This trip back to the former glamour of the 19th Century happens once a year at the Opéra Garnier : the Bal de l'X.

Me, rockin' the bicorne

The Bal de Polytechnique, or Bal de l'X for short, is the annual gala of École Polytechnique.  It became an annual tradition in 1879, as a way to raise money for the Caisse de secours, which goes to former Polytechniciens and their widows (or widowers) in case of need.  Ambassadors, businessmen, students at other military schools are invited as a way of fostering relations between Polytechnique and other prestigious entities.  This year, I did a double take, because I saw men in uniforms that I knew I recognized, and then I heard them speaking English.  They were from West Point!  Apparently, West Point students were here at the time of the Bal to play rugby with the Polytechniciens, and they were invited to partake in the fun!  The Bal starts with a performance by the Corps de Ballet de Paris.  Last year, it was a showcase of student dancers, and this year was a performance of Copélia, which was being performed at the Opéra Garnier.  Following the ballet (which lasts around 2 hours), a huge dinner is served in the Opéra's Grand Hall.  I have yet to go, because if you want to attend the whole shebang, it costs you no less than 580 Euros per person!  After the dinner, dancing begins in three different halls.  There is a waltz area, a rock area, and a techno/club area.  The waltz area has a small orchestra to play various tunes, sometimes even contemporary songs with a waltz beat.  The rock area has a live band that plays popular songs from across the decades.  The techno area showcases DJs who attend Polytechnique.

Dancing the Quadrille

At 9:30 PM, 11 PM, and 12:15 AM, a dance showcasing current students at Polytechnique is performed.  The men, in their GU (grand uniforme) escort their partners, dressed in a red silk and crepe dress that changes design every year, to the bottom of the grand staircase to dance what is called the quadrille.  A popular dance in the 19th Century up until the First World War, it is danced by four couples who form a square.  This dance officially opens the "bal" part of the Bal de Polytechnique.

Last year, Fab treated me to the Ballet and then the Bal.  It was my first time, and I had never been to (or for that matter heard of) the Bal before.  We got to enter the Opéra Garnier under an alley of swords held up by Polytechniciens.  I have to say the whole thing was pretty freakin' cool and terribly romantic.  The best part was being able to go out on the balcony of the Opéra at 2:00 in the morning to take pictures with each other.

Fab and I with friends

This year, Fab and I went with several friends, and entered after midnight.  We really only went to dress up, dance, and drink good champagne that is way cheaper than usual.  Why wouldn't you want to dance all night in your finest until 4:30 AM in the Opéra Garnier ?

You don't have to be associated with a Polytechnicien to get into the Bal.  Generally, reservations for tickets open up about a month before the event, but you need to buy them in advance, because it is a popular party!

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