Back in White: Philadelphia’s fourth annual DÎNER EN BLANC

DÎNER EN BLANC, Philadelphia, 2014, on the Avenue of the Arts (Photo credit: Johanna Austin, AustinArt)

DÎNER EN BLANC, Philadelphia, 2014, on the Avenue of the Arts (Photo credit: Johanna Austin, AustinArt)

On August 20, a “smart mob” of an estimated 4,500 attendees in Philadelphia will participate in one of the world’s hottest summer phenomena, DÎNER EN BLANC. The chic mass picnic began in Paris in 1988, when François Pasquier, a returning Parisian who had been away from his city for several years, invited a group of old friends to meet him for a dinner party in the Bois de Boulogne. He asked them to wear white, so that he could easily recognize his guests in the large public park. For the past seventeen years, the “dinner in white” has grown to its present numbers (15,000 people attend annually in Paris, each time at a different iconic locale), and has also gone global, spreading throughout six continents and, for the past four years, to Philadelphia.

For Philadelphia’s fabulous fête, invited guests are notified of the secret location at the last minute via their digital devices, when they are instructed to descend on a very public place that has been blocked off to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Dressed all in white, the pre-registered diners arrive en masse between 6 and 7 pm, with their own elegant set-up (a portable table and white chairs, tablecloth, place settings, and napkins), along with an epicurean meal and drinks. Beer and hard liquor are not permitted, only wine or champagne, of course!

In addition to the gourmet group dinner, the beginning of which is signaled by the waving of a white cloth napkin, the carefully planned but seemingly impromptu open-air event provides music, dancing, entertainment, and spectacular photo ops, such as the lighting of thousands of silver sparklers–at which point the participants are free to move about the space and dance. This year’s performers, being revealed in advance for the first time, are DJ Sabeel Chohan, The Canarsie Wobblers (specializing in dance from the Jazz Age and the Swing Era), and The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret, as Martha (Dito van Reigersberg), backed by a live four-piece band, celebrates her tenth anniversary this month as Philly’s “tallest and hairiest drag queen.”

At the sounding of a trumpet at party’s end, the guests will pick up their litter, pack up all their belongings, and head home, leaving not a trace of their night-time revelry. DÎNER EN BLANC is sure to be one enchanted evening that recalls the elaborate soirées of courtly societies of the past, mixed with the latest in viral pop-up parties that are trending today. But remember: admission is by invitation and pre-registration only, so if you’re not on this year’s guest list, check it out for 2016! [At an as yet undisclosed location in Center City Philadelphia] August 20, 2015; dinerenblanc.info.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.