Paris People #4

Just as I was leaving Rio for London the late ballet dancer Gerry Maretzski who had nurtured me through thick and thin despite being in an iron cast for curvature of her spine, suggested I look up her friend from Rio, the Brazilian dancer Yvonne Meyers.

I was given her address in South Kensington London SW7 but no phone number. Looking up friends of friends is second nature today but in 1971, it was difficult without a phone number and a flat number. So I let it go for several years especially as I was concentrating on being a TEFL teacher having been made redundant with USIT, the student organisation in London.

One day in 1977 I found myself in Elvaston Place and remembered Yvonne and her Russian dancer husband Ivan Dragadzy. The street was typically South Kensington with tall white columned houses side by side. I stood outside the building looking at the panel with numberless buttons. Which should I press? Abracadabra, open sesame! The top buttons or the bottom ones? There about 8 to choose from. I went for the top left. An educated woman's voice answered through the intercom. I explained who I was looking for. Amazingly she laughed and buzzed me in telling me to join her on the second floor.

Up I climbed and encountered in an empty flat Ivan's sister, Tamara from Georgia at a time when one never met people living in the USSR. This woman was English but had fallen in love with a Georgian and, speaking fluent Russian, had moved to the USSR but she had the freedom to travel with her British passport. She did not live in London, was on a brief visit and that very day was sorting out Ivan's mail before returning the keys. If I hadn't rung the bell that moment, we would never have met and I would have not found out that Yvonne and Ivan were living in 9 rue Ballu with their two cats in Paris 9em near sleazy Pigalle.

We were never to meet again but in 1977 I moved to Paris only knowing 2 people and armed with the phone number of the dancers, I began a new life realising I was uneducated in cultural artistic life. Paris was the University of Life and I became an avid student hungry for knowledge.

I became a frequent visitor in their very Parisian cluttered home. They both taught ballet but Ivan had mixed his own yoga stretching technique in with his ballet teaching so it was different. I loved dance but had 2 left feet although I do recall going to a couple of his classes. I liked modern dance companies like Alvin Ailey, The Joffrey Ballet, Jerome Robbins and Merce Cunningham and would watch when they came to London or Paris.

One day Yvonne told me she had an American Jamaican/Cuban friend from New York called Carmen Aul who was an ex-show dancer and divorced from her American dancing partner husband, who at 85 still lives in Martinique, Ronnie Aul. She insisted I meet Carmen to advise her on what to buy at Hotel Drouot, the Paris auction house. Carmen would go every day at 12.00 to view but as yet had not made a move to buy merchandise to resell other than some decorative objects for her lovely home at 82 Georges Lardennois, Paris 18em. As I was already buying and selling between London and Paris, Yvonne thought I could advise Carmen on dealing between Paris and New York.

Thus Carmen Aul Salis entered my life. In the beginning I became her mentor and eventually changed her life forever. But that is another story.

Written in Hotel Puerto Nazari, Orgiva, Spain on 18/5/17. To be read in conjunction with the vignette 'Carmen and Elliot.'

References - Yvonne Meyers
Wikipedia - Carmen Aul
Google - Georgia USSR.