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9 o The Bal Mabille Brididi and His Dancer—The  September  Polka— Louisa Aumont Scorned—The Pomaré Carnival    ’ when we arrived on the Allée des Veuves. . . . Mabille had been a small village dance hall, lighted by oil lamps. . . . Admission cost ten sous. . . . It was a favorite meeting place of butlers and maids in the days when they were less elegant than their masters. At the time I am speaking of, Mabille had greatly improved. It was not yet the magnificent gardens that we see today, with flower baskets, strings of lights, water fountains, a large room with walls lined with gold, velvet, and mirrors. In those days it was a modest garden! A few gaslights had replaced the oil lamps, but they were scarce, either out of economy or discretion. . . . Fabric clerks, grisettes, and milliners could tell us more about that, since the usual customers had changed. Admission was now one franc. It was into this milieu that we made our entrance. . . . The orchestra was in the middle of the garden and sounded good. I loved music. I had never danced. I wanted to try but the fear of looking ridiculous held me back. And yet, Adolphe had told me that Louisa Aumont could waltz well. I wanted to try. I was invited for a quadrille . . . and I was about to refuse when a young man fromVersailles came to greet me. I accepted. I asked Marie to be my vis-a-vis. In the same night I learned how to waltz and how to dance.     I walked around the dance hall, stopping briefly by each circle surrounding the good dancers. One of these circles was more crowded than the others. I heard laughter, cries of bravo! The circle opened and everyone  The Bal Mabille rushed on the heels of a woman, laughing, talking. This woman must have been five feet tall; her waist was short, her chest round, and her shoulders somewhat high. . . . She held her head proudly. Her hair was a beautiful shade of black, neatly parted. She wore her hair in flat bands; she had a coiled braid at her nape and from underneath this braid hung curly hair that hid her neck. Her forehead was low; her wellarched eyebrows met in the center, giving her a hard look. In addition to that she had large dark eyes, a nose reminiscent of Roxelane’s,1 and a scornful mouth. She went toward the café, and I followed her so I could be in the first row when she danced. She appeared short of breath. She coughed, placed her hand on her chest, then swallowed two glasses of ice water. A short man had just signaled to her. He took her by the waist, and the first figure began. He was as light as a bird. All those leaps, which seemed ridiculous when executed by the others, were graceful when he performed them. I was right to have followed them because therewas an even biggercrowd than the first time. For the second figure, his partner looked at the band leader and as soon as the baton moved, she took off, arms extended behind her, then upon completing the circle, she stood straight up, arched her back, her elbows almost touching, lifted her head, and came back forward. ‘‘Bravo! Bravo!’’ the spectators were saying. Shewas wearing a black wool dress, which signaled poverty. It is possible that she had not eaten all day because she was quite pale. I heard twoyoung men next to me say, ‘‘Let us take her to dinner! . . .’’ ‘‘No,’’ said the other, ‘‘she would cost us an arm and a leg. I bet she has not eaten for a week.’’ Someone called, ‘‘Brididi!’’ And the short young man who danced so well replied, ‘‘Coming! Coming!’’ and went toward the café. The next Thursday I went back to Mabille with Marie. We looked for Brididi and his dancer. She was one of the first women I saw. She was wearing a lilac barege dress.2 Her hair was more elegantly combed. A man of a certain age, wearing a gray hat, white trousers, a small baggy cardigan, stopped in front of her. ‘‘So, now,’’ he said, ‘‘we are in shape again! She looks like la Reine Pomaré.’’3 Everyone around her said all together, ‘‘Chicard is right, we have got to call her Pomaré.’’ ‘‘Bravo! Pomaré!’’  The Bal Mabille The evening turned into an event. The next day several newspapers wrote about it. That...


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