Though its menacing towers, relentless grid, and sea of taxis make it a hard city to escape, there are numerous opportunities and places where one can duck into and be transported to the far corners of the world. Blame it on the cultural diversity that this city possesses, where on one avenue within a twenty block distance you will be filled with the sights and sounds of at least three continents. In that sense, the city is a kaleidoscope, blending and merging the fragments of countless nationalities and ethnicities within fixed confines to produce jarring yet delightful images for the eye. There are, however, places that open up briefly with traveling shows and the like that allow total immersion if not physical transportation to places that are far away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. In a similar fashion, you can be taken to distant lands in certain holes in the walls that pepper the ethnic enclaves or bohemian quarters of this city.
This past weekend, I decided to leave, to get the hell out of town. “Where to?” I asked. “Why not Spain?”
There’s a small restaurant, hidden in the West Village, where the grid begins to break down to the point where you begin to think that you’re no longer in New York. Though the restaurant is named Sevilla, it really could have been located anywhere in Spain, and actually made me recall a place that I was in some six years ago on a narrow street turning off from the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Decorated in warm colored woods and red naugahyde, with burgundy polyester jacketed waiters, the teleportation device that I was sitting in worked flawlessly. The food — a delicious plate of veal cutlets with chorizo — and a large jug of sangrÃƒ a, made this leg of the journey complete. I left in a delightful daze that helped me pay no attention to the New York cab ride to mid town for the show.
Show? Ah yes, the fugue to follow the toccata of the evening. Yet this was no organ recital. Not in the least. Carlos Saura, famed director of Spanish films documenting the art of flamenco dancing and music had brought his show, Flamenco Hoy into town. It was playing at the City Center, no less, that veritable institution on West 55th Street whose beige exterior, azulejo tiled interior, and morocco lamps caused the visions of the Iberian peninsula to persist. The show unfortunately was and remains beyond words to describe, and I lament that I can only leave you, the reader, with these humble attempts to summarize what I saw.
Reds, oranges, yellows, stark whites, ominous greys, color and light — shadows. Carmine silks, long silver fringe, Isabelline mantillas of manila lace”¦spit-polished shoes of black Spanish leather. The lighting bolt moves of a young man, Nani PaÃƒ ±os a star of the Spanish stages, dressed all in white with gleaming heels beating out a sacred rhythm at a speed that eyes could not grasp and brains could not comprehend. The ruffled dresses, mantones de seda, and the high trussed hair of the women as they seduced the souls of the audience, reminding viewers of the primal and eternal feminine spirit of Spain, a spirit that is omnipresent and physically visible at least since the time when an unknown sculptor carved the eyes of La Dama de Elche. The voices”¦haunting calls from the interior of the red Andalucian soil, best represented that night in the stirring performances of Canto Jondo from the stage. Yo voy por las calles”¦the ancient Seguirya was belted out by Rubio de Pruna in a manner that brought tears to my eyes. Following this was the solemn song of labor, a Martinete, sung by Blas CÃ³rdoba, a sequence of deep ethereal sounds that pulled us to the ancient gypsy forges between Sevilla, Jerez de la Frontera, and CÃ¡diz.
I stepped out of the theater that night and almost immediately, the trance began to wear off. The thick Castilian and Andalusia voices thinned out and were replaced with the speech of housewives from the Upper East Side, professionals from TriBeCa, and hipsters from Williamsburg.
Was I sad, now that it all came to an end? Not at all, because this is New York, and next week I could be sipping espresso in a ristorante that takes me to Milan, the following day I could be ordering croissants from a patisserie that could be in Paris, and the day after that I can find myself dancing to salsa, eating kebabs, and drinking tea from buttered cups in the Havana, Cairo, and Kathmandu of my imagination.
Sevilla, 62 Charles Street | (212) 243-9513
New York City Center, 130 West 56th Street | 212.581.1212