Archive | October, 2010

Ballet, the Brazilian Way

29 Oct

Next month London’s West End will learn how to dance ballet the Brazilian way as the hit show Balé de Rua comes to the Peacock Theatre. This dynamic dance show, best translated as ‘street ballet’, traces Brazil’s history all the way back to its African roots through a line-up of hip hop, African dance, samba and capoeira. Those who go expecting classical ballet beware; there’s not a tutu in sight. Instead you’ll see semi-naked painted bodies, dancers clad in sunflower-covered apparatus and a set that captures every colour of the rainbow. The show promises to be a high-energy, eccentric adventure, described by the Daily Express as ‘breathtaking’.

The cast is made up of 15 dancers, 14 of which are men (if the guys out there were hoping to see scantily-clad females) and two singers who present the dance as a celebration of life, love and all things Brazilian. This is their first performance since finishing a triumphant international tour that covered France, Switzerland, Germany, Bahrain and Canada, and ended with a two-week sell out stint at Sydney Opera House.

Suzanne Walker, Head of Programming at Sadler’s Wells and the Peacock Theatre, said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming Balé de Rua to London’s West End. This is the biggest Brazilian show we have featured for years and promises to be a highly entertaining evening of dance and music that originated in the streets of Brazil. It’s a colourful winter treat and very timely considering the growing popularity of all things Brazilian in the recent past.” Continue reading

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A nation of nappers?

26 Oct

If the international perception of the Spanish wasn’t already connected with the lethargy and decadence of the siesta, then it certainly is now after the country’s first national siesta championship last week. In what other country would you find 360 people, some clad in pyjamas with eye masks and teddy bears in tow, fighting it out to see who could snooze most impressively in a public place?

The competition, organised by the National Association of Friends of the Siesta, challenged participants to sleep soundly in a busy shopping centre in Madrid while a doctor monitored their pulse for 20 minutes. Extra points were awarded to those who snored the loudest, slept in the most original position or wore the wackiest outfit. This contest was designed to prove that Spaniards can sleep anywhere, anytime. Well, that’s not the official line of course. Andres Lemes, the association’s spokesman, said: “The mission of the championship is to spread the idea that the nap is something of ours that must be defended and practised, because it is healthy and good for everyone”. The winner of the competition, Pedro Soria Lopez, won 1,000 euros after sleeping for 17 minutes. The unemployed security guard was dubbed ‘the Ecuadorean super-snorer’ after his snores registered 70 decibels.

It’s all light-hearted fun and in the eyes of the association this is a campaign to safeguard a national tradition, but the response of foreign observers may well be cynical. Oh those wacky Spaniards what are they up to now? Ever since Spain joined the EU in 1986 it has experienced pressure to ban the siesta as it hinders the EU goals of economic competition and international trade. Continue reading

Step into the Latin Quarter

24 Oct

From the moment you enter the bright, pillared dining room of Cuba Libre you are transported to sunnier climes. The restaurant oozes colour from every direction from the multicoloured patchwork tablecloths to the pop-art posters that resemble donations from a traveller’s Cuban scrapbook.

As I pull my coat tighter round me, fighting the October chill drifting in from Islington’s Upper Street through the restaurant’s open door, I’m surrounded by a mural of a sunny terrace with green shuttered windows. The theme continues throughout the restaurant; one window displays some washing pegged on the line, a well-to-do Cuban is painted standing in another and, of course, everywhere you turn you’re presented with Che Guevara’s silhouette staring proudly into the distance. Harder to spot in the restaurant’s décor, Fidel Castro lies tucked away in a corner represented by a papier-mâché model playing cards with his piers JFK, Khrushchev and Guevara.

Open since 1990, Cuba Libre claims to be London’s first and best Cuban restaurant. Although I cannot boast enough knowledge of Cuban cuisine to confirm this, the hoard of customers flooding out onto the restaurant’s pavement terrace on Friday and Saturday nights speaks for itself. The Havana Bar at the back of the venue hosts happy hours from 5pm to 8pm every week day and for those who start the party early, from noon to 8pm at the weekend, serving up unique cocktails such as the Khrushchev Heel, Castro Missile and Guevara Sunrise. With the offer of two cocktails for £8.50 and bottled beer at £2.70 this place beats the price of many Islington bars. Most refreshingly, Cuba Libre lacks the pretentiousness that is rife in so many of Upper Street’s more classy (and pricey) establishments. Forget a dress code or preferred clientele, this place spells fun for anyone and everyone. Continue reading

A celebration of Spanish guitar with Manuel Barrueco

21 Oct

To celebrate its 110th year, London’s Wigmore Hall has launched a new guitar series to illustrate the versatility and popularity of classical, Spanish guitar music. The series kicked off last week with a concert by Grammy and BRIT award winner, John Williams, and continues this Sunday 24th October with the Cuban guitarist Manuel Barrueco.

Barrueco has spent the last three decades touring the world and this concert will be his ninth visit to London. During his career he has played with renowned orchestras such as the London Symphony and Boston Symphony and in 2007 he was nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Instrumental Soloist Performance’.

His appearance at Wigmore Hall is set to celebrate the Spanish roots and folkloric elements of classical guitar. Barrueco’s repertoire will showcase Hispanic composers and their works from the nineteenth century Spanish Romantic, Manuel Ponce, to the famous Argentine tango composer, Astor Piazzolla.

Particularly moving will be the Sonata for Guitar by Barrueco’s compatriot Jose Ardévol which features variations on the Cuban country dance, the guajira.  Barrueco left Cuba in 1967 when he was 14 years old and has never returned, but an admiration of his country’s musical tradition remains. In an exclusive interview with Hispanic London, Barrueco said: “I like the guajira so much. It’s in my roots because I heard it when I was a kid in Cuba. That’s given me an understanding of the music. It’s a very interesting piece.” Continue reading

Moreish Moro

16 Oct

Tucked away under the sparkling fairy lights of Exmouth Market, Moro’s warmth and liveliness offer the perfect antidote to a wet autumnal London night. And with 23 different sherries to choose from, you’ll be warmed up and ready to eat till you burst in no time.

Moro successfully marries the concepts of a modern wine bar with a bustling traditional dining room befitting its ‘neo-Spanish’ label. Stylish young professionals line up under the bar’s mirrored panel to nibble delicious tapas washed down with Rioja. At wooden tables and chairs large family groups and dating couples can choose from the varied weekly menu, always with the guarantee of some rare dishes to tempt the more adventurous. Continue reading

Chilean miners rescue at Copiapo: A display of Chilean spirit

13 Oct

The first 20 Chilean miners have been successfully rescued from their cave, 2,257 feet underground, and the world’s media has spent the last 24 hours gripped by the spectacle. But what will be the lasting legacy of the San José mine collapse? What will the world remember when they’re reminded of the perseverance of ‘los 33’, trapped in their potential tomb for 69 days?

Probably not the event itself on 5th August when 700,000 tons of rock collapsed and entrapped those mining for copper and gold below. It is also unlikely that people will focus on the cause of the collapse and the mine’s history of instability which had already caused one miner’s death prior to the incident.

If such an incident were to occur in Britain there would be no end of criticism and retribution of the mine company. There would be questions of health and safety; how did the mine roof come to collapse? Why were these men subjected to such danger? Continue reading

The aftermath of a nation’s struggle: C. J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid

12 Oct

“The snow had lain thick in the Tierra Muerta for nearly a month. It had come early and stayed; the guards said people in Cuenca were calling it the hardest winter for years.

C. J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid treats a period of Spanish history that has escaped popular attention. It is 1940. The Republicans have lost the Spanish Civil War and any surviving soldiers slowly perish in Franco’s internment camps. The warning that the war bore to Europe, namely the imminent rise of European Fascism, has been ignored and Nazi Germany is at large. The Spanish people, especially the Madrileños who fought the Generalisimo‘s Nationalist troops to the bitter end in 1939, are living off scraps of food and begging under the watchful eye of the civiles.

Sansom’s tale marries fiction and historical fact as his British characters fall in love and tackle their personal demons in postwar Madrid. The reader sees ruinous Madrid through the eyes of shell-shocked Dunkirk veteran Harry Brett. Through his activity as a spy for the British Secret Service, investigating the likelihood of Franco dragging Spain to Hitler’s aid, Harry becomes privy to the opulent lifestyle of the Monarchists and the Falange. Sansom’s heroine, Brummy nurse Barbara Clare, undertakes a hazardous search for Bernie, her Communist lover who was last heard of fighting at the Jarama. Continue reading