Showing posts with label dancing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dancing. Show all posts

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ah, Vienna...

Just about recovered from a thrilling New Year in the city of waltzes... Appropriately enough, since 2007 is the 50th anniversary of Korngold's death and the 110th of his birth, we spent New Year's Eve dancing the night away outside the Rathaus, where Korngold and Luzi von Sonnenthal got married.

Oh boy, do the Viennese know how to party. The city centre turns into one big celebration, with different music going on in various squares and pedestrian areas until 2am, and all the sausages, langos, gluhwein and schnapps you could wish for, not to mention strudel, with fireworks zooming about overhead constantly - none of that wait-for-midnight nonsense here, thanks... Apparently Vienna entertained about 700,000 people that night, double the number who risked chaos in central London (where organising so much as a p***-up in a brewery seems to defeat even the most well-intentioned). A few firecrackers to dodge along the way, and it's best to avoid the most crowded areas like the Karntnerstrasse, but otherwise the atmosphere was simply wonderful.

One learns some startling things about one's partner in these circumstances. Good old Tomcat turns out to be an unreconstructed old rocker! After the operetta crew finished The Blue Danube after midnight (yes, we waltzed, or tried to), on came a band called Remembering Elvis. Tom doesn't have much hair, but a few bars of Blue Suede Shoes and what's left came down in spectacular fashion. After that, along came a band called Montevideo and Tom discovered that I'm a frustrated South American at heart, itching to learn salsa and samba (our tango classes tragically having ended in abandonment of all hope). 2007 resolution: learn to waltz and go back next time - maybe even to a ball...???

The next morning, we watched the New Year's Day concert on a big screen in the Rathausplatz. The Vienna Philharmonic sound as glorious as ever. BUT it's still very odd only to see one woman in their ranks. Read some interesting info about this here (thanks to Ionarts for the link). How do they get away with it? I interviewed two of them for Classical Music Magazine about 15 years ago when the orchestra played in London, and asked them why they don't employ more women. They told me it was because of maternity leave laws: apparently they'd have to keep the job open for three years (or was it five?). I can't say I was convinced. It's tempting to wonder why other Austrian orchestras seem to manage fine, or why some fabulous female musician who doesn't intend to have children should be excluded. In Britain, there'd be no rest from the negative media over something like this. At least on this occasion they had an Indian conductor...

Vienna's an odd place. What was once the capital city of the biggest empire in Europe now feels like a small, isolated town with a lot of beautiful cafes and some very good music. It always takes me a day or two to stop thinking about the Korngold family and those like them fleeing the Anschluss, Hitler waving to the cheering crowds from the hotel balcony, and all that followed. But once I've got past that and started drinking in the Klimts in the Belvedere, the shades of Mozart at Schonbrunn, and on this occasion one of the best Chagall exhibitions I've seen, not to mention coffee with liqueur and schlagobers, it's impossible not to enjoy it.

Stars in the pavement of the Kartnerstrasse and Graben pay tribute to the likes of Weber, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Kreisler, Rubinstein, Chopin, Schumann and Clara Schumann and more (though I couldn't find Korngold or Schoenberg). Two youngsters from Ankara asked us the way to the Figarohaus, where Mozart lived; for my part, I was sorry to leave without paying tribute to Schubert's spectacles in the house where he was born. And during our last coffee-stop we chatted to a Viennese couple at the next table who knew all the gossip about the New Year's Day concert reviews (catty indeed!). But the strangest thing is that you can spend a happy holiday in Vienna without setting eyes on that famous river even once. If you want to see the Beautiful Blue Danube at its finest, go to Budapest.

Most important, this is Korngold year. There'll be plenty going on all over the world and I'll try to keep posting about the most interesting events to come my way. For starters, watch out for a major exhibition about the composer opening in late October in Vienna, and a very special concert series right here in London in the autumn.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I am a newcomer to...


We've been to three classes and have learned, kind of, to do a total of 8 beats. Between us, we seem to have 8 left feet. While the other 'beginners' have been in the class for several months, look relatively graceful and have the most fabulous shoes (! tango shoes are gorgeous!), we've been lumping about at the side of the room, trying to get the hold right, the stance and the attitude. The latter is the most difficult for me, because the secret of the whole thing seems to be that the man has to lead and must indicate clearly exactly what you, the woman, are supposed to do. I'm not used to this. In day to day life, I go and do my own thing and Tom joins in if/when he can. In tango, this is the biggest of all big no-nos! I reckon Tom absolutely loves this deep down and is trying not to admit it. For me, it's come as a big shock...but the music and the shoes, when I get some, are going to be worth it.

Have been listening to recordings of Piazzolla's own band from the 1940s and they are AMAZING (I can't find the CD I have on Amazon, but a quick search there on Piazzolla's name produces plenty to choose from). I don't know many dances that are that atmospheric by their very nature.

Anyway, we are absolute, absolute beginners. We have to ditch our classical tendency to do things by counting, not feeling; I have to ditch my long-buried classical ballet reflexes (20 years on, they still come back on a dance floor); we have to learn a softer, smoother method of crossing a floor, and somehow we have to learn to trust each other in a whole new way, which is very bizarre.

But it's like learning anything new: if you really want to do it, you persevere. You get inspired, not intimidated, by people who can do it already. You apply effort and commitment and time and take some lessons. And having a goal is no bad thing. We are going to Buenos Aires in January; my goal is that by the time we get there, I want to be able to hit the dance floor for an evening and not feel like a total idiot. I think Tom feels the same (hope so, anyway). It's not a crime for other people to have spent half their lives doing this, nor do I resent the fact that they have and I haven't. I just want the chance to learn now to the best of my ability, even if I'm abysmal.