Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Back from a little break in Andalucia!

Good evening Bard-Walkers!

Apologies for the delay in getting this next blog entry to you, but I have been away on a little break to Seville...

The Giralda (note the GSC bag btw!)

...and between the excellent Rioja and the mouth-watering tapas (whiskey in a port sauce, now you're talking!) my training did continue...I think I covered every inch of Seville on foot, everyday...and even 30 minutes in a rowing boat! Whilst enjoying the delights of this gorgeous town, a couple of interesting connections came to me, which I thought I would share with you.

Seville is the one of the spiritual homes of flamenco - the fiery, passionate dance that originated out of disparate groups of Roma, Moors, Jews and the everyday Spaniards in the 15th century. Over the centuries it has evolved to be a great mix of styles, involving dance, song and accompaniment. As my helpful Lonely Planet pointed out, the playwright Frederico Garcia Lorca called it the 'music of hope and despair', whilst Goethe described it as 'a physical power that all may feel but no philosophy can explain'...we'll I'll give it a go anyway ;-)

I had never seen live flamenco before. Yes I'd seen bits on TV - my memory always seemed to take me back to episodes of The Generation Game - but never the real dance up close. What I had the privilege to watch in Seville was truly breath-taking.

At the Casa de la Memoria I witnessed some of the finest, fastest foot-work, finger-clicking, and guitar playing I have ever seen. The two dancers, one male, one female, performed two pieces together and two solo numbers. Whilst I was in awe of the skill, rhythm and composure of the solo performances, it was the duets that got me thinking (how could it not) about Shakespeare - how the story of the flamenco mirrored the relationship of Much Ado's Beatrice and Benedick.

The dancers constantly toyed with each other. Each dancer would take turns to literally 'show off' whilst the other watched from far. The second then bettered them, to which the first dancer either sought to top that or shrug it off and go to dance on their own, reveling in their own poise and beauty. It made me think instantly of Beatrice and Benedick's opening skirmish when they meet:

I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you

What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence. 

Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none. 

A dear happiness to women: they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor...

...and so it goes on....I can hear the heel clicking and finger-clicking already!

During the Flamenco the dancers were clearly wanting to be together and revel in each other's physical presence; their passion was intense and explosive, just as Shakespeare's heroes are in Much Ado. There were light moments of frivolity which crashed into moments extreme emotion, where on occasion they seemed to literally pause and move into slow-motion. I was reminded how real the characters of B&B are after the disaster at the wedding - suddenly all the fun and quips stop...

You have stayed me in a happy hour: I was about to protest I loved you.

And do it with all thy heart.

I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.

Come, bid me do any thing for thee.

Kill Claudio.

Ha! not for the wide world.

You kill me to deny it. Farewell.

Tarry, sweet Beatrice.

I am gone, though I am here: there is no love in you: nay, I pray you, let me go.

Plus characters are spurred on by their audience of their friends, taking their statements and opinions to extreme levels for 'effect' - and the dancers did exactly the same for us watching.

Image result for flamenco
Not a pic of Casa de la Memoria btw ;-)

Both are peacocks, in a sense, showing off and reveling their sexuality and strength - there is strutting, stamping and shouting, but also skill, speed and sensuousness all of which I think Much Ado's couple has in bucket loads...and the speed of those feet and finger-clicks really mirrored the duo's rapier wit!!

So that was flamenco - which, by the way, I did not try!

The other thought that struck me whilst away was during my time in the Real Alcazar - the Royal Palace.

The subtle elegance of this palace was truly incredible. Not gaudy or ostentatious, but beautiful, regal and on the right side of awesome (in its literal sense). Aside from the palace's architecture and gardens what struck me most were the figures from history who had lived and worked there. To walk in the footsteps of King Philip II of Spain, Elizabeth's great enemy was very evocative. It was here that he spent a lot of his time, as Seville was one of the largest naval ports in Spain at that time.

I find it wonderful to consider that under that stunning wooden, starred dome of the throne room, Philip II sat receiving ambassadors from all over Europe with reports of what Shakespeare's Queen was doing; from here did he send send the Jesuit missionaries to infiltrate the heathen land of the English and bring her back to Rome? The balconies, incidentally, were added by Philip.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed those few observations of my time away, and now I shall get back to the training regime. Tomorrow, once more I will be walking Woking to Guildford, so if you pass me on the way to work give me a toot!

By the way - Seville also features in a lovely gag in Much Ado...

The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well; but civil count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion.

couldn't leave you without a picture of a Seville orange now could I?

Oooo and one last thing...although I don't speak any Spanish I did learn what Borrachio's name means in Spanish - check out the character in Much Ado and I think you'll find it's quite apt! 

That Shakespeare, he did some walking hey!

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