Go big on Bastille Day
“The idea came from a discussion about what we could do that would be fun,” says Nathalie Buckrell, director of Alliance Francaise, which has collaborated with the French Embassy to host Bal Masqué.
Masked balls are a popular French tradition and were held in Wellington from the 70s through the 90s, however the annual celebration lapsed. This year, French Ambassador to New Zealand, H.E. Francis Etienne, wanted to do something different.
“Bastille Day is a day of National Pride for French people including our citizens living 20,000 kms away from the homeland. The idea of the Bal Masqué is to invite all of them to celebrate this day with our Kiwi friends: let’s meet and dance!” says Etienne.
Buckrell stresses it isn’t a formal ball and not necessarily about the French Revolution. “The theme is all things French,” she says. “We didn’t want to limit it to traditional costumes. Let’s open things and let people choose whatever costume. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to come up with. New Zealanders have great imagination.”
Already, rumours are out about giant baguettes and walking guillotines in attendance. Local French vendors and restaurants, such as Le Canard and Le Marché Français, will be supplying food and drink. “It will be like a French fair inside,” says Buckrell. “If it works this year it could be a yearly event.” The night will open with live jazz before shifting to disco for dancing.
Win tickets to the ball if you dress for success at “Off With Their Heads,” an early Bastille Day celebration “dedicated to frivolous frocks and wild wigs” at Te Papa. The costume contest includes a lecture by Keren Chiaroni, senior lecturer in French Language at Victoria University, about the outlandish politics and fashion of the French Revolution era.
“Not many people know about how the story of a country and a revolution was told in fashion,” says Chiaroni. “The extremes of royal and aristocratic power were expressed in exaggerated extensions of the human body – heads, wigs, and yes, also shoes.”
The winner of the costume contest also gets a three-course dinner with wine at Hippopotamus Restaurant.
Off With Their Heads, Te Papa Marae, 6:30-7:45pm, July 12.
Bal Masqué, Museum Building, Massey University, 6:30pm, July 14.