Halley Knigge (Griffin)

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R and I met early-ish this morning to go for a run before retreating back to the Pompidou library to work on final papers all day long. Running the streets of Paris is pretty much unheard of, but it also turns into a huge pain during tourist season. The sidewalks just aren’t wide enough to support both confused people wandering with maps in their hands and runners trying to keep a steady pace, so we’ve learned to keep to the banks of the river when possible.

As we jogged through the jardin des Tuileries on our way to the Seine, a large white tent caught our eyes. Next to the tent was a stage with speakers and in front of it were four or five small tables with chairs. We didn’t think much of it until I noticed that the maybe 20 people milling around were all wearing matching Vittel shirts. Suddenly I remembered pausing to read an advertisement in the window of the tanning salon on my street as I passed by a few days ago, and came to an excited realization.

As part of some massive advertising campaign, called reVittelisez-vous, the Vittel bottled water company is sponsoring free workout classes in the jardin des Tuileries each Sunday until June 24th.

R and I made a beeline for the Vittel tent, and as soon as we were near enough to hear her, the girl behind the counter asked us which sport we wanted to participate in. We chose Bodyjam from 11h-12h, and once we’d written our names and genders on the class roster, we were each handed a reVittelisez-vous tee shirt and a water bottle.

We actually had no idea what Bodyjam might be, but it was the class that began the soonest, so that became our default. At precisely 11h our Jessica Biel-lookalike instructor jogged up onto the stage wearing a microphone headset and dance music began blasting out of the speakers. Apparently Bodyjam is an aerobic dance class, mixing faux hip-hop, salsa and swing into a bizarre but really fun workout. We learned a series of short routines which were amusing to me but somewhat beyond most people’s ability to keep up with. At our first break (during which we were all urged to reVitteliser) a panting French-Vietnamese woman tapped me on the arm and asked if I’d already learned the steps. When I told her no she just gaped at me and said Mais c’est dur, ça! (But it’s hard!). I didn’t really know what to say, but I tried to reassure her by saying that I dance so I’m used to having to learn choreography and being able to perform it back immediately.

The jardin des Tuileries is usually bustling with people, but not so usually filled with people in matching Vittel tee shirts dancing between statues to hip-hop and swing music. As soon as we started dancing we attracted a crowd, and it wasn’t long before our group had doubled. Just as quickly as it grew though, it began to shrink, as people were put off by having to learn complicated steps. I had a great time, but I’m not so sure that R did. That was fun, but I was so lost, was her impression, and I think it mirrored that of most of our co-bodyjammers.

When Bodyjam was over, we rounded off our workout with half an hour on the stairs that connect Quai François Mitterrand to the banks of the Seine and vowed to return each Sunday until the end of June. We have yet to try the Tai Chi, Gym Suédoise (Swedish gym), and Capoeira classes, so you can bet we’ll be back.

We’re clearly buying into this weird advertising campaign, but I don’t mind. Free is a darn good price for a free workout class, a tee shirt and a water bottle – and how many times in my life am I really going to have the opportunity to Bodyjam in front of the Musée du Louvre?

** If you keep a Paris blog and will be in the city on June 9th, come hang out at parc des Buttes Chaumonts.

*** Happy birthday to my Aunt Penny and Uncle Tom!

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

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