Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dreams About Love - Spanish Culture in SPB

About Love
On Tuesday I had my first taste of Spanish culture since being in Piter - a show about Spanish music and flamenco from the Renaissance to modern day, sponsored by the Spanish Cultural Institute. 

A lovely babushka with a small child saw us looking at the station map and escorted us from m.Ploshad' Lenina to the concert hall where 'Dreams About Love' was being held. 550r (£11) got us seats at the centre of the front row, though had we known it was just a large hall with plush seats set out, we could have just moved forward. Of the people half-filling the hall, none looked Spanish and we got the impression they were predominantly friends of cast members, rather than flamenco aficionados. 
Russian concert halls - they're just better.
We discovered that the Russian equivalent of fast-clapping or singing 'Why are we waiting?' is to start applauding and then stop as if confused that the show hasn't started yet. They also try to open clearly locked doors to the shower or toilet to hurry people out. It's a good technique, if seriously annoying. I'm surprised the British haven't thought of it.
The show opened with a light display which led onto a Renaissance-style flamenco dance. There was one main dancer throughout, who wore a hooped skirt, clog-like shoes and a white net with pom-poms over her hair. The dance was quite slow and restrained compared to modern flamenco. 
The slideshow was pretty poorly operated, but it showed a lot of famous Renaissance art and typical symbols of Spain like oranges and views of Granada as we watched the progression of flamenco styles.
I did not have the shutter speed to capture a still of the whirling Baroque style. The dancer was constantly spinning and winding her arms, dressed in long, black lace. 
It did end strangely as the light people came back on and she threw herself dramatically to the ground like a poorly-acted death scene. That could be the heightened tension emphasised by the Baroque movement, or it could just be Russia.
Opera and dancer whirling large red fans
The programme alternated between dance, opera and instrumental performances. Although the singer was very talented, and actually looked Andalusian, the style didn't vary much and the dance was definitely the highlight of the evening:
Seville flamenco with a shawl
Romantic flamenco - lots of bending and twirling.
I can imagine that to someone not well-acquainted/in love with Spanish culture, the poor organisation of the event could have marred the experience, but the Spanish guitar, stamping and castanets were exactly the hot-blooded sounds I have been missing, along with the novelty of seeing a foreign culture interpreted by an even more foreign culture. As awesome and crazy as Russia is, I'll see you guiris in Andalusia.

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