Cowboys the rage in Paris
Weird cowboys. Line dances are not nearly as popular in Texas, where the two step and even the waltz draw a bigger crowd to the dance floor. A band may throw in one or two line dances a performance and pretty well saturate the demand. I wonder if Hannah Montana's father Billy Ray Cyrus is big over there. He was a one hit wonder with a line dance song called Achy Breaky Heart.
They turn out in their hundreds in Stetsons and boots as hits such as the Crazy Foot Mambo and the Cowboy Strut echo around their village halls.
They are drawn by a love of American culture - although definitely not American politics - and a passion for line dancing, which enables them to swing but avoid all human contact.
Now country and western has become so big in France that the country's bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control.
The French administration has moved to create an official country dancing diploma as part of a drive to regulate the fad. Authorised instructors who have been on publicly funded training courses will be put in charge of line dancing lessons and balls.
The rules, which come into force next year, come after the rapid spread of country and western in France, where an estimated 100,000 people line dance several times a week. Jean Chauveau, the chairman of the country section of the French Dance Federation, said: “It's growing at a crazy rate. There are thousands of clubs and more are springing up all the time.”
He said the French shunned the square dancing that is popular among country and western fans in the United States because it involved physical contact. “They don't want to take anyone by the hand or anything like that,” he said. But they were passionate about line dancing, where participants follow the steps without touching anyone else. “I think this corresponds to the individualism of our times,” Mr Chauveau said.
The majority of enthusiasts in France are women, who leave their husbands and boyfriends in front of the television while they go out for le country. They often spend several evenings a week perfecting steps to the sound of Every Cotton Pickin' Morning, Country Walking or Irish Spirit.
Yannick Bigard, who has been line dancing for four years, told Sud Ouest, her local daily: “I couldn't imagine going without the costume or at least the boots and the hat. I spend my time imagining new choreographies.”
Mr Chauveau said the trend illustrated France's “complicated and ambiguous” relationship with the United States. “We love American magic and the American dream,” he said. “But we hate Americans when we confront the hard reality of their behaviour throughout the world. We go for the cowboy hats but not George Bush.”
You can tell the world you never was my girlBelieve or not there is more.
You can burn my clothes when I'm gone
Or you can tell your friends just what a fool I've been
And laugh and joke about me on the phone
You can tell my arms to go back onto the phone
You can tell my feet to hit the floor
Or you can tell my lips to tell my fingertips
They won't be reaching out for you no more
But don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
I just don't think it'd understand
And if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
He might blow up and kill this man
While it is not a line dance Barry P. Nunn's London Homesick Blues explains the culture clash across the pond. Here is the last verse:
...That is a homesick cowboy that George Bush can probably relate to about now,
Well, I decided that, I'd get my cowboy hat
and go down to Marble Arch Station.
'Cause when a Texan fancies, he'll take his chances,
and chances will be takin, now that's for sure.
And them Limey eyes, they were eyein' a prize,
that some people call manly footwear.
And they said you're from down South,
and when you open your mouth,
you always seem to put your foot there.
I wanna go home with the armadillo.
Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene.
The friendliest people and the prettiest women
you've ever seen.