Sunday, 1 November 2015

Chapter 110: Catalonia - La Central Del Circ

Barcelona. Where to begin? I went there last week, following my son's school chamber choir from cathedral to cathedral, celestial voices ringing out in heavenly locations. As this was a school trip, parents were welcome to the concerts but very much encouraged to keep their distance at all other times, so I was essentially a free agent  - all the more so given the rest of the family was back in London.

On the plane on the way over I found myself listening to Gregory Porter's album "Liquid Spirit" and daydreaming. It took me back to the summer term of static trapeze at the National Circus, where I had nailed the needle - effectively a handstand in the ropes - while his music played in the background. Now I wonder if that was really me, for between family commitments and sick bugs I haven't made a single class so far this term, and I miss it. Badly. And in the wake of the previous post, Porter's song "Grandma's Hands" takes on a whole new resonance. Time at the moment feels like it is slipping away, and this then, was going to be a week to slow right down and take stock.

Barcelona, never a drag
Barcelona, though, had other ideas. To be fair, I did manage to write one post (See "He Ain't Heavy" click here). Sitting with a cappucino on the rooftop of my hotel, spires and tiled azure domes close to hand, Montjuic and the sea further out in the distance, I thought the sky really was the limit. Then I took a deep breath and descended in the hurly-burly of the Ramblas. Tourists and tat competing for space with my beloved living statues. I did have one mission this holiday. At the bottom of the main Rambla there is a sign pointing to a Waxwork Museum down a dead end alley. It looks as tacky as hell. Follow it, and round the corner to the right is a café, El Bosc de los Fades (Fairies' Wood). A bliss of kitsch - plastic trees with faces like Ents, low tables and chairs, a little fountain with a mermaid, and in the space next door the stage is set with a Victoriana celebration of the Illusionist and his levitating assistant. Circus everywhere. I ordered a carajillo de ponche - an espresso with a shot of fruit liqueur - for old time's sake, and savoured the memories. The bar now has a shop next to it. Lots of Scandi design goods; camera lens coffee cups, tin mechanical circus objects, and eco-themed story books for kids. I gravitated to a necklace that looked rather like an elegant henna tattoo when held against the skin. My circus talisman, I thought. Walking back up La Rambla, a stubbled Marilyn Monroe, in her trademark white dress, busty and gusty, blew kisses from the balcony of the Erotica Museum.

That evening I opened an email from a friend who had sent me a link to La Central Del Circ, Barcelona's circus space. That was the gentle nudge I needed to check it out. Set in a desert of asphalt bordered by the sea, there is an oasis of spectacular architecture, my favourite being the Museu Blau, pictured. Just beyond is an urban playground, and a couple of circus tents, originally home to the Central. Inside the current building, the vibe was similar to the National Circus and I was welcome to wander round. I made my way down to the training space and found myself chatting to some Argentine acrobats who told me about a circus cabaret happening the following evening at Cronopis, an alternative circus space.

As I was turning to leave, Miriam, who had greeted me on the front desk, invited me to look in at some female tightwire artists, training together at the moment. I thought of Dizzy O'Dare back in the UK, who I had last seen at Canvas, and what are the odds, Paula Quintas (left) was one of them! Giving me the warmest welcome, Paula told the others all about my blog, how I explain to people who don't do circus what it's like learning from scratch, and how that leads to a greater appreciation of the work that professionals do. I was beyond touched to be vouched for like that. Paula, with Irene de Paz and Mariona Moya (right) weren't working on a show together as far as I could gather, just exploring shapes, swapping techniques and dancing along the wire to eclectic Spanish and Latin tunes. It was a gift to watch in such an intimate space, with just Miriam and Irene from the office, for company. Afterwards, in such a daydream, I missed my lift to Tarragona and got pick-pocketed to boot. Luckily a taxi driver gave me a lift to a train station, and a ticket in another purse, meant I made it to the church on time. And the concert.

Listening to the school chamber orchestra raise the roof with Piazzolla's "Fuga y misterio" in Tarragona Cathedral, my mind flitted back to the tightrope tango earlier, and attempts back home on a slackline the week before. Life is a delicate balancing act, I reflected, a series of constant, tiny adjustments, and those moments when it comes into tune make all the hard graft worthwhile. 

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