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March 24, 2010

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From the north of France to French Polynesia

SET in a former Taoist temple, the Expo's Lille Pavilion will showcase French high technology, fashion, contemporary art and fine cuisine. The France Pavilion will showcase Tahitian dance. Sam Riley reports.

The French will showcase their diverse culture during World Expo 2010, launching a pavilion to celebrate the technology, culture and industries of the northern city of Lille.

Set in Hongmiao, an old Taoist temple off the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, the Lille Pavilion will showcase the food of the region with visiting chefs from one of the city's best restaurants.

While the colder European climes of Lille don't conjure exotic island sojourns, the pavilion on Nanjing Road E. should provide a fascinating demonstration of the high-tech industries, edgy contemporary art and fine culinary history of the city.

Set in the Taoist temple that was converted to an art gallery, the Lille crowd has taken more than 600 square meters, which include room for a restaurant and cocktail bar.

The restaurant will be run by the owners of landmark Lille restaurant Meert that traces its history back to 1761.

The restaurant proudly claims generals, presidents, viceroys and kings among its customers.

Tech textiles

Not content to rest on the restaurant's historical laurels, however, Meert chef Nicolas Pourcheresse says he wants to provide modern French cuisine at the Lille Pavilion that also showcases a fusion of French and Asian flavorings.

Along with delicious food, the pavilion will showcase a number of contemporary art exhibitions that use some of the high-tech textiles produced in Lille.

Some of these textiles include materials used in astronauts' space suits and also state-of-the-art fabric that reflects a silhouette back to the viewer.

Lille will also showcase its rich culture with several of the city's best classical music groups visiting Shanghai. These include the Lille National Orchestra, which will perform from July 8 to 11.

The Lille Pavilion will be open from May 1 until July 15 and is located down a laneway at 496 Nanjing Road E.

The diversity of French culture will also be on display in the France Pavilion itself, with a delegation from Tahiti in Shanghai last week to promote their celebration of their country, which will take place in the last two weeks of May.

Complete with a Miss Tahiti in tow who demonstrated the Pacific chain of islands' unique dancing style, Gilles Yau, head of Tahiti's biggest business lobby group, addressed the French Chamber of Commerce's monthly meeting at the Kee Club.

It was a typically French-flavored meeting, with Miss Tahiti livening up proceedings with a hip-swaying Tahitian dance to make it one of the more memorable chamber events of the year.

Yau - who heads the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Services and Trade of French Polynesia - says the island's prized pearls, vanilla, essential oils, and perfume will be some of the products showcased when the Tahitians come to town for two weeks in May.

Recalling how the Japanese tourist market enthusiastically embraced the Tahitian getaway in the 1980s, Yau will also be hoping to plug the islands' stunning beaches and luxury spas to Chinese jet setters' itineraries.

"As we built the Japanese market before, we now have special facilities to cater for Chinese tourists, including Mandarin being spoken at many of the hotels and Mandarin-speaking guides who conduct tours around the island," says Yau.

But for lovers of Tahitian dance - and there might be few new converts dreaming of trading their office jobs for a dance partner in a flowing skirt with a flower in her hair - Yau promises there will be twice daily dance demonstrations at the France Pavilion.

"We will have a dance troupe of more than 25 dancers and they will present an afternoon and evening event," Yau says.

Lille Pavilion

Address: No. 50 Shitan Lane, 496 Nanjing Rd E.


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