The CentQuatre Paris, ‘The Baroness of Paris', and Patricia Killeen invite you to an Irish Ball hosted at the on-the-pulse vibrant and versatile ‘CentQuatre’ cultural center on July 28, in Paris.

Ladies and gentlemen, the CentQuatre Paris, Mélina Sadi, (aka the Bâronne de Paname, the Baroness of Paris) and I would like to invite you to shine up your dancing shoes and attend a 'Bal Populaire - Special Irlande' on Sunday, July 28, at 3pm at ‘The CentQuatre’ in the 19th arrondissement of Paris.

The stunning architectural structure of the CentQuatre will take your breath away, but hopefully not for too long as the ball will blend the Bâronne's renowned "French-savoir-fête" and French ‘muzette’ style waltzes, tangos and javas with Lisdoonvarna style social dancing and a good number of energetic ceilidh dances.

Performing artists will include the Bâronne herself at the D.J. mixing table, 'The Invincibles', an ephemeral union of three artists producing an Irish traditional ambiance; 'Krunchie Killeen'- poet, musician and Joycean scholar, Margaret Nyland – Traditional singer and 'Strawboy' – and Paddy Sherlock, king of the Irish Parisian music scene and 'showman extraordinaire' along with the ‘The Famous SOAS Ceilidh Band’ who bring ceilidh across borders, their eclectic Celtic rhythms inciting ball attendees to kick up their heels and take to the floor, will also teach Parisians their ‘one-two-threes.’ 

If you'd like to attend the ball please click "going" or interested on the event's official Facebook page here.

Yes, it’s true if you’ll attend you’ll probably have to pay for travel expenses, but entrance to ‘the ball to beat the band’ is free!

Corcoran's Sacré-Cœur will also feature 'Irish-Country' on the night of Saturday July 27 and after the CentQuatre ball on Sunday, July 28, will welcome us all back again for a music session.

Three fantastic, free Irish events in Paris in one weekend and it’s not even St. Patrick’s!

Irish pubs in Paris are very popular with Irish and French living in Paris. The many tourists visiting the city also know they are assured ‘craic’ and quality in the Irish pubs.

Sport is broadcast on big screens and they often host music and social events. The fact that many of the pubs are located in spectacular locations is also a big draw.

Corcoran's Sacré-Cœur is located on the steps of Montmartre and a friendlier and more romantic location would be difficult to find. Where Irish congregate, there is often song and creativity.

Paddy Sherlock one of the performing artists at the ball also fosters new talent in Paris through his ‘Paris Songwriter club open mike’ at O’Sullivans Rebel Bar located in the historical Marais, one of the oldest and most visited areas of Paris.

So why is Paris ready to roll out such a welcome for the Irish?

The idea of an Irish/French ball originated after I researched the ‘Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival’ for a memoir at the Sorbonne Paris 3 University.

During the research, I became enchanted with the romance of the Lisdoonvarna balls. I was charmed by Willie Daly, the famous 74-year-old third generation traditional Irish matchmaker, who is an extraordinary person, akin to a 21st century seanchaí.

In Paris, I looked for a somewhat equivalent scene and found the magical balls organized by the renowned Mélina Sadi, (aka the Bâronne de Paname). I found the way the Bâronne and Willie Daly reigned over their respective ballrooms to be enticingly similar and the idea of a mixing the two ball cultures at an event in Paris grew. When I approached the Bâronne I was slightly apprehensive.

However, she listened and considered the eventuality of hosting an Irish ball. When this energetic lady, dressed in 1940s attire (she only ever dresses in authentic retro creations) finally nodded she had a twinkle in her eye and announced ‘it’s true I heard the Irish know how to party and dance; tell them to come and show me!’ The gauntlet (in this case a charming retro silk glove) was thrown down accompanied by a toss of the Bâronne’s unruffled victory rolls.

The Bâronne maintains that prior to the existence of virtual dating websites, the way to meet a partner was a real-life moment of romance, often at a ‘ball’ or dance. Willie Daly is of the same opinion. He firmly believes that one of the best ways to meet a soul mate is when eyes meet eyes across a crowded ballroom. He has orchestrated over 3,000 couples during his career, many of them from his office which juxtapositions the ‘Imperial Hotel’ dance floor in Lisdoonvarna.

It seems that Willie Daly and the ‘Bâronne of Paname’, though geographically separated, both believe in the power of the dance floor and share the desire to rekindle and reinvigorate the charm of the old-world balls. A charm had faded in both countries prior to a new and astounding revival in recent years. Perhaps the desire to congregate at a ball is a part of a huge wheel of life’s social modes that keeps on turning. However, the Bâronne surmised that “her balls are timeless; places that exist regardless of fashions and after a long period of amnesia, the ‘ball’ is now definitely back!”

For both Willie Daly and the ‘Bâronne of Paname’ the warm, human interaction inherent at these balls is synonymous with life itself. Both characters inspire a feeling of inclusion and courtesy, which is palpable at their events. Perhaps Marcel Proust was thinking of people like the Bâronne and Willie Daly when he said ‘let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom’.

The music and dance of the Parisian 'Bal Populaire - Special Irlande' will echo the diversity of the dances at the Lisdoonvarna ballrooms. Irish ballroom music (waltzes, polkas, and mazurkas) will blend with French ‘musette’ social dancing. Ed Emery leader of ‘The Famous SOAS Ceilidh Band’ will call the ceilidh dances. The dress code will cover every possible rigout imaginable from extremely casual to the high street and retro chic. However, the most important item to have is shoes you can comfortably dance in. Jeans, Parisian retro and retro current attire, Irish dance dresses and kilts, and any other type of Irish attire are all very welcome and will swirl and twirl in unison on the dance floor. ‘Diva’, the Bâronne’s elegant greyhound that attends all her balls will be decked out with a brand new shamrock necklace for the occasion.

This event has been given the enormous honor of closing this year’s cultural season at the CentQuatre. The balls the Bâronne organizes at the CentQuatre induce a sensation of authenticity; people pulsating to the music, some with expert but the majority with amateur steps; nobody cares if you get it wrong. There are no draconian dance rules in the CentQuatre. Adding the Irish to this easy-going fun equation could make for an unforgettable event!

The Bâronne urges Euro 2016 Irish football supporters to come back for a different type of ‘ball’ and to once again sprinkle their festive humor around the City of Light.

Irish people are popular in Paris and Parisians who remember the Euro 2016 will be happy to see Irish people visiting Paris again.

The memory of the Irish football supporters left a very positive image and the Town hall of Paris awarded both the Republic and Northern Ireland’s football teams with the prestigious and highly coveted “Medal of the City of Paris” in homage to the festive element their singing, serenading and fun brought to the city of Paris. The popular Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said she decorated the Irish fans in recognition of their “exemplary attitude”.

For Irish people living in France, there is a feeling that post-Brexit the relationship between Ireland and France will become even deeper and business and cultural links will be further strengthened. It is estimated that there are approximately 24,000 Irish currently living in France. Although the ‘leave’ win in the 2016 Brexit referendum saddened the majority of Irish people in France, the flip side of the coin may be that Brexit will open interesting new career paths for the current diaspora and for a new wave of Irish to settle in France. The soft-power provided by the Irish diaspora on the ground could also contribute to further developing the ‘special relationship’ between two countries led by staunchly pro-European leaders, (President Emmanuel Macron and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar), in a period when the 27 remaining European countries’ roles, post-Brexit, are being choreographed. 

As Brexit looms and Boris Johnson and the Tories fiddle, the Irish on the dance floor of the CentQuatre will be ‘Blowing kisses from Europe’ as Paddy Sherlock, performing artist at the ball, represents Ireland on the highly popular French FR2 TV show ‘Bon Baisers d’Europe’.

The initiative for a ball that links our two cultures received encouragement from the Irish Embassy in Paris, who in their June newsletter kindly wrote ‘kudos to Patricia Killeen and the Bâronne herself for putting together this event and we encourage you all to attend'. The Irish Embassy in Paris is more active than ever before and is closely connected with the Irish Diaspora in France. Patricia O’Brien, our dynamic Irish ambassador to France encompasses the warmth of the Irish with the elegance of a Parisian.

It seems there has always been an Irish Cultural (the renowned ‘Centre Culturel Irlandais’) and social life in Paris, however the creation of ‘Irish in France’ by Paul Lynch in 2017, fostering a link between the Irish people in France, has given a new élan to the Irish in the hexagon. Like Irish in other countries we now have our own local organisation, which along with organising the Paris Saint Patrick’s Parade (their second parade in March 2019 congregated over 2,000 people) and regular social events also provides an IIF Facebook members’ platform and an IIF Facebook page, allowing us to both reach out to other Irish and to be informed of the many Irish events in Paris and throughout France. The CentQuatre, the Bâronne and I look forward to welcoming Irish associations and companies to the 28th July ball and many have said they are ready to put their best foot forward. ‘Network Irlande’ promotes business and trade links between Irish people in France and with Ireland. ‘The Association Irlandaise de Paris’ inaugurated in 1984 is a haven of Irish music, dance and culture. They regularly organise ceilidhs and other Irish events sometimes in liaison with ‘An Ghaeltacht sur Seine’ who encourages people who wish to speak Irish to try even if they only have a ‘cúpla focal’ at their regular events in The Quiet Man in the 4th arrondissement and more recently at a picnic at the foot of the Eiffel tower. The ‘Paris Gaels GAA’ goal is to promote and practice Irish Gaelic sports in France. ‘Tourisme Irlandais’ do an exceptional job promoting tourism in Ireland on the French market.

While we prepare for the 'Bal Populaire - Special Irlande' in Paris, in Lisdoonvarna people are delighted by the Parisian interest in their ballrooms and recently posted ‘the magic of Lisdoonvarna is catching on around the world... there is a fantastic event happening in Paris at the end of July’. After the Irish show the Parisians their steps at the CentQuatre, perhaps one day the Bâronne and her merry band of glamorous retro-current revelers will sprinkle the magic of Paris on the Lisdoonvarna Spa Wells dance floor. Kim Bernardin, a Korean Paris based independent designer has also been intrigued by the Irish ball scene and created a 'Lisdoonvarna 2019 dress'. Connecting the culture of the magical Parisian balls with the Irish ‘ballrooms of desire’ and linking Lisdoonvarna ‘the little town of love’, with Paris ‘the capital of romance’, might be a match made in heaven!

Céad míle fáilte to everyone planning to attend the ball on 28th July and many thanks to Irish traveling from far and wide to join us. We’re hoping to congregate a large, fun intergenerational crowd and the CentQuatre’s ballroom can host over 2,000 people! So in the mythical words of the late David Bowie ‘Let’s dance!’ or ‘a ligean ar rince!’.

Sunday, July 28, 2019, at 3 PM – 6:30 PM

BAL POP DU 104 (CentQuatre)

5 rue Curial / 104 rue d'Aubervilliers, 75019 Paris, France

(Any Irish step dancers planning to attend, could you please contact me if you’d like to be part of the show: triciakilleen@yahoo.fr).

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Get your Irish groove on in Paris this July! Getty