I wrote about our quick errand to Menton the other day.
What pure luck we had when, while walking the 6-km trek to and from the old town (because all car parks were full and we only found one in the next town), lo and behold, we saw a poster about the Flamenco Festival in Gorbio. Two things excited us that moment: One, Flamenco dancing is our Obsession (with a capital O)! Two, it’s about time we visit Gorbio again. The last time we were there was like ages ago (9 years in fact) and I was not a picture-taking freak then!
So, we ticked Friday (yesterday) as a non-(house)-renovating day for H (so that he won’t use EXHAUSTION as reason for not going that evening). His excitement extended to as far as searching for his long-time-no-used TomTom (GPS) so that we won’t get lost into the mountainous and torturous road to this hilltop village. He even asked me to pack a picnic bag so we won’t have to eat out for dinner (penny-pinching). And lastly, we even took a nap that afternoon so we are refreshed and energized for the whole night ahead.
Upon entering the village, this inscription welcomes the visitor:
Gorbio, medieval village
Lascaris Castle, 12th century (Lascaris was a Count of Ventimiglia, Italy)
Chapel of Saint Lazarus, 12th century
Chapel of Saint Roch, 17th century
Chapel of Saint Barthelemy, 17th century
Elm Tree planted in 1713
Chapel of Penitents, 1445
The poster says “Entree Gratuite” (Free entrance) so we were surprised to see the square, where the show was to be held, barricaded, except for a little gap which served as an entrance gate. Hordes of people were already waiting at the entrance when we arrived. Different nationalities, different languages spoken: The biblical line “speaking in different tongues” is literally manifested here – Italian, German, French, Dutch, some eccentric Eastern European, English – everyone trying to speak to the lady at the gate in their own language and the latter, struggling to be a linguist but her strong French accent renders her responses barely comprehensible.
Yes, it’s technically free to see the show and some who were determined to keep it that way got seated at the far rear of the square, where, what they will most likely see, judging by the big crowd lining up, are just heads of the dancers. That would be utterly useless I think, because Flamenco dancing involves rapid audible footwork, intricate hand, arm and body movements and, to be able to see the orgasmic passion of the dancers’ facial expressions, the viewer has to be very very close, and I mean, even to squat at the foot of the stage!
The very first couple who I saw marching head high onto the “far rear” (ie., didn’t pay) was, surprisingly, the husband and wife whom I earlier concluded as “filthy rich” because they were dressed, coiffed and accessorized like one. Oh, did I hear them speaking in Dutch?
H suddenly announced, and I thought I misunderstood, that he is buying dinner tickets.
M – “What about our picnic basket?”
H – “I’m starving! And if I am going to watch a Flamenco show, I’d rather do it with style”
M – “But supposing it’s 20euros per head!”
H – “I’ve got cash!”
Then that settles it!
The 40euros we paid covered the 3-course meal: a drink of sangria each, main dish and dessert, plus the chance to sit infront. Apparently, most of the front tables were already reserved for those who purchased their tickets earlier but since we arrived early, we got seated at a table right on the side of the stage! Hurray! isn’t that second time lucky!
The food was hearty, but the sauce bearnaise was a winner!
But what the #@~? …… the 7:30pm show was a disappointment! A monotonous massacre of the dance by flamenco students from Marseille (south of France). We felt we got ripped off of our 40euros!
The students. No passion here, just smiles!
Watching these kids were far more entertaining …..
“Flamenco is culture. Flamenco is alive. Flamenco is a way of life”
These were the words of the host who introduced the authentic “all-Spanish” show that started at 10pm.
He then acknowledged the presence of the mayors of neighbouring villages and the Vice-President of the Conseil General (Regional Council) of Provence Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA region) who were seated among the crowd. We have been to many concerts, fiestas, les aperitifs d’honneur organized by village/town halls and the presence of government personalities such as the above, sometimes even a member of the Senate (French Parliament), is noticeable. It’s because these cultural events get 100% funding from the state via the Conseil General. The promotion of Culture is a top priority of the State. In 2008 alone, 50million euros were alloted to our region (PACA) of 5 million inhabitants. France is divided into 26 regions. Ile de France where Paris belongs has a population of 12million.
He introduced the young performers called “Flamenco Joven” age range from 14 to 22 as a group with lots and lots of talent. I noticed these adolescents earlier, sitting just two tables away from us munching on pizzas and coke looking like they were just stopping for a bite on their way to a night out. I was actually wondering at that time why the host was very friendly with them, looking after their needs and taking care of their food. Who are they? They couldn’t be part of the show? They are just high school students!
Never did i imagine that, the girls, after dressing up into their elegant flamenco costumes, hair tied into buns and secured with ribbons, came out on stage looking very beautiful, like brides on their wedding day, and the boys, looking like handsome young men who were raised with perfect manners by their perfect mothers.
They started the show with a percussive harmonic tapping of the cajon. Then the cantaores, the two young men, started singing with utmost feeling and power that you start to wonder how could they have gotten those powerful voices when they have just came out of puberty. And of course, the guitarist who strummed his guitar with flamenco magic.
While the cantaor was chanting with a crying passion, she slowly rose up from her seat and astounded the crowd with her bodily movements…her dancing set the crowd ablaze!
They all are!
The look on the dancers faces, their immense concentration, passion and energy astonished the crowd for the entire two hours of the performance. Some people were standing, some squatted at the foot of the stage not wanting to miss a single step, others were putting their hands to their heads like, their dancing is out of this world! How could they do that!
What an exhilarating performance! It was the most spectacular display of human ability! These young kids of 14 to 22 made the audience weep and clap like crazy! The whole place was buzzing with powerful emotion. We instantly loved these girls!
All the performers, their teachers and everyone involved with the “Flamenco Joven” gave his/her own short dance exhibition. They were all fantastic! They were given a standing ovation. Everybody was shouting “Bravo!”
After the show, I was raving how our 40 euros was worth every penny! The food and the two-hour performance. We went home with our hearts beating with excitement! And I swear, what I saw that night gave me the urge to run to the nearest flamenco school and beg them to turn me into a dancer like these girls! And H? he is now talking about taking our caravan to Seville and go on a Flamenco legend route holiday!