David Barnes of Spoken Word Paris reads as a member of The Pillow Project riffs

On Tuesday November 27, The Pillow Project paid a visit to legendary bookshop Shakespeare & Company. The Pittsburgh-based troupe plays “freejazz,” an improvisational form they describe as “using the body as the instrument playing visual notes.”

The experimental group is starting to forge deeper ties to Paris. On hand for the event were members of the city’s active spoken word scene.

For non-French speakers, there’s a lot of blood and torture in the text!

Three dancers took inspiration from the surroundings, picking up books at random to incorporate into their movement, letting the titles on the shelves guide the way. Two of the dancers got stuck in the political theory section for perhaps a beat longer than they wished. Ah, tomes on communism and the Occupy Movement – poetic?

My main interest in the beginning was divided between the actual performance and the reaction of the public. I knew about the event beforehand, but most people in the shop that afternoon had no idea this would be going on. I loved watching the reactions of people browsing and bumping into the dancers. I’m not sure how you ignore people dancing in the aisles, but some do a really good job pretending!

The project continues Shakespeare & Co’s innovative new programming. I feel like they’ve been on a tear lately, not just with amazing readings (A. M. Homes and Percival Everett were incredible!) but also musical acts, silent films, and now site specific dance. Not everything is my cup of tea, but I always appreciate people fully committing to doing their thing.

One of the new bookclerks (there’s always a rotating crew helping out in the store) went up to another staff member during the improv pause and after a large group of Italians had shuffled in then out, the place abuzz as usual.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

Indeed, young man. Indeed.

Sion Dayson is an American writer living in Paris. Her nonfiction has appeared in  The Utne Reader, The Wall Street Journal, Girls’ Guide to Paris  and her fiction in  Smokelong Quarterly  and the anthology  Strangers in Paris, among other venues. She holds an MFA from Vermont College and is currently seeking publication of her first novel. She blogs about the City of Light’s quirkier side at  paris (im)perfect.