Happy Mishaps in Adelaide, Australia: Alegrias, Beaches and Cabaret

24 Jun

Mishap Number One: My motivation for this long weekend winter trip to Adelaide was Manuel Betanzos’ flamenco workshop organised by the indefatigable Tania Goh of Singapore. Seven hours getting happy and sweaty with Manuel’s Alegrias was too good an opportunity to miss and I was ready for a change from the farm. Even better my friend Jocelyn from Brisbane agreed to come down and share an apartment with me. Stu is in the throes of major changes in his business plus had to attend a farm expo this weekend – too much going on to get away. Hurrah, a girls’ weekend! 

Tania published the venue early, 11 Gibson Street, Adelaide. A quick web search located it within an easy walk of West Beach. I remembered Tania talking about how Manuel loves teaching and staying near the beach. Sweet, I thought, we too can stay at the beach and walk to class. You know where this is going don’t you? After I booked the non-refundable apartment with sea views Jocelyn gently pointed out that I must have referenced the wrong Gibson Street. The Gibson Street dance studio was actually in Bowden a 15 to 20 minute drive from West Beach. Oh well, a rental car would be handy for other activities. 

 View from apartment 3, Esplanade Apartments.

That aside the experience was a breeze. Three previous trips to Adelaide, two as a launching point to the wine country, hadn’t allowed much opportunity to get a feel for the city and its people. My main impression this time is one of intelligent ease. Everything seems to be organised with an eye to user experience, from the airport to road signage to transport. And free trams! 

 Plus very classy street art. This one in Glenelg.

From West Beach we could turn right to walk to Henley Beach or left towards Glenelg, both hubs of seafront cafes and restaurants, possessing long piers and endless white sandy beaches. An unobtrusive, clever system of pipes and pumps redistributes the continually moving sand, pushed north by currents and waves, to ensure beaches and dunes aren’t degraded. 

       Spot the real pelican – art imitating life.

Downtown the architecture is a well maintained mix of heritage and modernist public buildings punctuated by green space. Case in point the Adelaide Festival Centre. At night it looks a little sci-fi but in a good way. 

       Adelaideans have a quirky, self-deprecating sense of humour.

Mishap Number Two:

The Barry Humphries directed Cabaret Festival was in its second week. More good fortune. After assessing our flamenco committments post class one we decided we’d have enough time and energy to see an 8:30pm Saturday night show. Best fit was Eddie Perfect’s solo act (with an eleven piece musical ensemble) at the Dunstan Playhouse. Late Thursday night I booked two tickets on my mobile phone. The Festival website was a bit a tricky but I was elated we’d get to see a young multitalented Australian in his first Adelaide show.

 Breezing into the box office while Jocelyn continued on to the bistro to join other friends from Brisbane for a drink I was puzzled when the assistant couldn’t locate our tickets. A search on their computer found the problem, I had accidentally booked the matinee. The show was sold out. $hit! I apologised and asked if there was any way we could get to see the show. Jemima and Jennifer, the lovely women behind the counter, said they could move us to another show but it was unlikely we would get in to Eddie’s show. There was a faint possibility, if we were prepared to wait until showtime, that some journalists might not take up their seats and they would give us those. We wouldn’t be sitting together but that was all they could offer. I agreed to proceed with that plan and said we’d be back and waiting fifteen minutes before showtime.

Downstairs at the bistro I had to confess my second stuff up to Jocelyn. Luckily she’s a cool character and was ok with the plan. A glass of Grant Burge bubbly calmed the nerves and we chatted until it was time to go back upstairs to wait. Jennifer waved me over and said, ‘I have good news and bad news. Good news is that man over there has a spare ticket he wants to sell. Bad news is that is the only thing we can offer.’ I said ‘No problem’ and negotiated with ticket holder Andrew to buy his ticket for $50, $10 off the face value. Jocelyn had a seat!

 The doors opened and everyone filed in leaving me alone with one other person who’d left her run too late to buy a ticket. Because she was a Festival volunteer J & J were trying to get her in. Five minutes before curtain up an usher wearing huge, sequinned Dame Edna glasses came over and said ‘Follow me’. She took me through a door and up a ramp and suddenly I was in a box with a perfect view of the stage. It was a disabled seating area. I could see Jocelyn on the opposite side sitting next to Andrew. I signalled to her and we had a good giggle while the musicians filed in. The show was musically lush, wryly humorous and surprisingly emotional, drawing on Eddie’s nostalgia of growing up in Melbourne’s Mentone, a ‘beige beachside suburb, the Riviera of the South’. Home was a place and people he couldn’t wait to escape from, but for which he now feels great fondness.

After the show I returned to thank J & J for accommodating us. Jemima volunteered that they’d had nine bookings make the same mistake I had that evening and those other eight didn’t get in. She said we got in because I admitted it was my fault and kept calm. As Jocelyn pointed out, the probable reason the web booking defaulted to the matinee was because the evening was sold out, it just didn’t display it. Unlucky luck wot?! 

 Left to right Sonia, Victoria, moi, Jocelyn – preshow.

I’m now on the Festival mailing list so I’ll always get the program early and have my pick of the shows. The newspaper next day announced the co-director of the 2016 Festival will be Eddie Perfect. Perfect choice.

To Market to Market:

Flamenco has brought me many wonderful friends, acquaintances, mentors and role models. Several live in Adelaide, a vibrant flamenco community. Sophie is one such, a talented photographer, dancer and all round lovely human being. Our only chance to see each other would likely be when she was working at her biannual clothes stall at the Gilles Street market on Saturday. Gilles Street primary school hosts a clothing market on the third Saturday of each month during winter. A mix of vintage, secondhand, emerging designers and handmade products, the prices are competitive and the stock is good quality. We almost didn’t need to go past Sophie’s stall, she had so many gorgeous pieces. Sophie recommended we go on to the next cross street, King William for the Market Shed. Another revelation, a huge open shed bursting with organic fruit and veg, breads, pies, pizza and pastry and coffee stalls with a large sunny courtyard where people chill over twenty different kinds of breakfast. Nice one Adelaide. 

       ‘Manuel Handling’ (Pun stolen from the funniest flamenca I know, Caitlin Fry):

It would be rude to end without a brief comment on the workshop. If you’re familiar with my dance trajectory you’d know how much I value Manuel Betanzos from my three months at his academy in Seville in 2011. The years have not diminished my respect. Quite the opposite. I value most his willingness to dig deep within himself and within his students to wrench out their truest, most essential expression. He’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that, whether he’s jumping on a dancer’s back to demonstrate the sensation of lifting against a great force, or standing almost pelvis to butt behind another to correct the angle of flexion on a step. I humbly accept his criticism when he tells me ‘you dance like a director’, i.e. too rigid and upright, habits ingrained from my years as an actual director, and I love him for his honesty and willingness to make fun of himself to get a point across. Splitting his jeans at the crotch was comedy gold. 


The advanced class – Seguiriya. Joy to watch.

It struck me though last night at the farewell dinner for workshop participants how much he sacrifices for us. His Spanish academy is very successful. By my calculation he doesn’t need, for financial reasons, to do exhausting tours like the one he’s just completed in Australia. When he showed us photos of his two dogs, five cats and his beautiful white horse his face revealed how palpably he missed them. I believe the only reason he pushes himself so hard is because he is driven to share his art with people he believes are worth his time and effort. How fortunate we are. 

 Dinner  photo by David Xiberras.  Not big on stature but no one has a bigger heart – Maestro Manuel. 

 Our practice spot was the car park across the street. Note handicapped parking sign. The playground audience was amused.  A flamenca’s bedroom – in this case Jocelyn’s ’cause she has way better stuff. 


Esplanade Apartments at 80 Seaview is managed in an efficient, low key manner by Helen who hails from St Petersburg. No signs telling you not to bring sand into the apartment, in fact no signs or snarky language at all except a polite ‘Please turn off the AC/heater when you go out’. For $150/night, wifi included, we had a spacious, comfy two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with kitchen and access to a well eqipped laundry room – well we sweat a lot in class! 

Europa Cafe in Glenelg: Best coffee and handmade dark chocolates (Joce’s recommendation).

Enzo’s Italian restaurant in Bowden was another lucky find. Located just around the corner and across the road from the studio, we saw it whilst driving by. Starving after the first night’s class we rocked up at 8:45pm and asked if we could dine with them. Sure, no problem! Food, wine and service were faultless and we were surprised the menu was not more expensive. Portions were too big but they allowed us to take our leftovers home, sealing the carton with a sticker explaining how to safely reheat the dish. Smart! In fact we liked Enzo’s so much we asked if we could book a table for dinner the next night. Apologetically our waitress explained they were fully booked and her manager would kill her if she tried to squeeze us in. That’s when it dawned in us we had lucked into an Adelaide institution. I was reminded later by a friend that he said I should go. I’d completely forgotten. (Sorry Brian)

Hasta la proxima amigos!


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