Rome Flamenco Weekend

30 Mar

I’ll travel a long way to study with a great flamenco maestro and Angel Muñoz is an artist I rate in my top ten (living) male dancers. We first met in Australia in August 2011 (before my Neverending Gap Year started) when my friend Stacey organised a workshop in Brisbane. Angel and his wife, the beautiful dancer, Charo Delgado had performed with Paco Peña and his group and they had a break before the next show. Angel and Charo stayed in our home that weekend and though our Spanish and Angel and Charo’s English was limited we enjoyed their visit and the workshop enormously.

The 2011 Brisbane workshop group above and Charo and Angel at Mt Cootha (photo by Stacey)


Since then I’ve seen almost all Angel’s solo shows at the Festival de Jerez and with Paco Peña when they’ve returned to Australia. Twice now I’ve taken Angel’s workshops in the Festival, always high energy, glorious choreography. If they handed out loyalty cards for frequent flamenco followers I would have earned at least silver status.

 

When Italian flamenco friend Vanessa told me of a Rome weekend workshop by Angel that she and her teacher Carmen were organising at the end of March, I saw an opportunity to combine friendship, flamenco and tourism. We were in!

 

This was Stuart’s third and my fifth trip to Rome (the first as a wide-eyed 20-year-old and memorably with Cam when he was ten and I walked him so hard he developed fallen arches) so we didn’t feel compelled to see everything, just wandered at will. I found an apartment in the San Lorenzo district neighbourhood which is where the visiting flamencos were staying. This made it easy to meet up for a group lunch and dinner. Classes were across town at a large tango club, called Gotan.

After dinner singalong above and Tango studio cat below.

Stuart and I rode the metro and a tram, useful to a degree, but I can understand how frustrated Romans are with the limited public transport. And taxis are relatively expensive.

Tiny cars are the preferred mode of transport. Here we are going for the record for the number of flamencos in Smart car.

Mosaic wall in Arco di Travertino Metro station.

Angel taught three one-hour workshops (basic/media/avanzado) from Friday night through Sunday. I opted for his basico level – Marianas. I know how fast Angel moves with his choreography and I doubted I would retain much since this was a new palo for me. Also Stuart would be twiddling his thumbs waiting for me to head out for the tourism part of the weekend.

Wikipedia told me that Marianas are a 4:4 beat flamenco style from the danza español tradition. One of the best youtube videos I found in my preparation was by Pastora Galvan.

 

Certainly some of the steps were completely new to me. We worked from recorded music, and by Sunday we had several minutes which Angel allowed us to video. He looked fabulous of course. For many  of us the kindest thing to say is that we need more practice.

Note the side bend Angel achieves and my pale imitation. (Photo by Vanessa P)

But we both wear glasses so we have that in common.

I watched part of the final medio Rondeña class, some tricky timing in the footwork and lovely energetic kicking pasos.

 

Rome spring weather was glorious, perfect for walking along the Tiber, around the Colloseum and through the piazzas. Not even the presence of the 27 heads of the European Union (GB was conspicuous by their absence of course) for their celebration of the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, along with the four authorised demonstrations in the city, could stop thousands of tourists and Romans enjoying the weekend. At any one time 25 per cent of people in Rome are tourists which must get tiresome.

Pro-EU demonstration – the Blues.







We had some good meals, principally at Il Pommidoro (second time as Vanessa took us there on our previous Rome trip), at Soul Kitchen in San Lorenzo and Cornucopia (a seafood restaurant) in Piazza in Piscinula. The cocktail bar, Black Market, in San Lorenzo (entry by secret knock or doorbell) was also very cool. My mocktail was delicious.


I apologise for ending on a negative note but I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t mention how disappointed we were with the state of the city streets and buildings, especially around our apartment. Certainly we’re not alone in this, tourists and locals agree Rome needs some tough love.

 

I know the new female mayor is struggling with improving the vexed refuse collection problems, but my gripe is more about the apparent indifference and neglect local people show their neighbourhoods. Most buildings and walls, even ancient ones, are layered with tags and ugly graffiti (as opposed to street art – there is a world of difference). Dog shit, cigarette butts and litter make walking distateful. It’s like moving through an ash tray in a rubbish bin in a toilet. Romans it is not edgy or Bohemian, it’s shite.

 

I wonder what goes through people’s heads when they spray paint a church wall, drop their fag or chuck a wrapper on the street? Waiting for our taxi to pick us up from the apartment in San Lorenzo I watched the building caretaker kick a piece of paper from outside the door further along the pavement. What hope does the next generation have of changing the status quo if this is the model they have?

 

It’s the last week of the ski season in the Dolomites with sun forecast for the next four days so we’ve left Rome a day early to get our final ski fix. Trenitalia to Bolzano first class is the lazy way to travel and the views from Verona to Bolzano are spectacular.

Stu will write the ski report so ciao for now!

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