Anthony Fragola Temple in Spain

A weeklong vacation.

Well, not really. That’s coming up in Semana Santa. This wasn’t exactly a vacation, but I’d call it a break. Instead of attending our normal classes this past week, we got to choose and attend 2 workshops from a list of 8 that La Casa de las Lenguas offered. Traditional classes were canceled and we had the chance to do things involved dance, radio, photography and theater. I, being a tap dancer (kind of) and having participated in a musical or two in high school, naturally chose dance and theater. And what good choices they were!

I started the week bright and early on Monday morning with the dance instructor, Marta. We started the workshop learning the basic steps and turns of the pasodoble, which translates to ‘Double Step,’ a traditional Spanish dance in which the man mimics the movements of a torero, a bullfighter, and the woman his bandera, or flag. When danced correctly, it’s highly impressive. We, however, aren’t professional dancers…so we moved on to the merengue. A style of music and dance coming from the Dominican Republic, the Merengue is very upbeat, fun and, well, tiring. We applied the same turns we learned for the Pasodoble to the new style of dance, but applied them to the different beat of the music. It was a lot of fun, and the other dance group actually performed a Merengue routine on Friday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After sweating it out the merengue, we tried the salsa. Upbeat, though distinct from the merengue, and also rooted in the Caribbean culture, the salsa seems to be a blend of a lot of different styles, reflecting a mix of European and Afro-caribbean cultures. This dance also uses some of the same flashy moves as the previous ones, but to a different beat. We had a lot of fun trying to act like we knew what we were doing, but because the salsa is a difficult dance to master, we moved on.

The next one we tried on for size was the tango, a dance coming from Argentina. And it was a winner. The steps aren’t too hard to remember, but the dance is interesting in that the basic step only moves in once direction, unlike the pasodoble, merengue and salsa. So, to make up lost ground, different steps are used to move in the opposite direction. I thought it was a really interesting and passionate dance and I had a lot of fun dancing to it. We learned a routine over the course of the week and while learning it we still did a little of the others just to keep things upbeat. We presented our combination on Friday and, although we aren’t professionals, I think the crowd enjoyed it. Here’s a photo thanks to a fellow classmate named Hiroko:

Now, to talk about theater. I was nervous at first and I only picked this workshop because one of my current professors, who is probably my favorite one here, was the instructor. However, it definitely paid off. I wasn’t bored once in that workshop during the whole week. We did different activities Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to get calentitos (warmed up), and then we acted out short, interesting scenarios for the rest of the group. I was a parrot who died from eating my owner’s awful cooking in one and a paranoid waiter who thought his customer was an alien in the other. Then, on Wednesday, we paired into groups to write our own little skits and then on Thursday, we competed. I was in a group with 9 other Temple kids and ours was a little, well, ridiculous. Here’s the rundown:

The world’s best jamón, ham, was stolen. Now, this was a big deal because here in Spain, ham is big. HUGE. So, Amy began the skit playing the part of a newscaster and announcing to all of Spain that the best ham had disappeared. The scene went to Ashley in the street with the owner of the ham, Ashcon, and his wife, Alyssa/Beatriz. They were in tears and Aschon told the audience that they raised the piglet since he was born and was devastated that he would never be able to taste the meat. He also gave a very accurate description (purple pants, white shirt, black hat, man, recognizable and characteristic mustache) of the thief. Next, Hannah, my boss, gave me, the worst detective you could possibly imagine, the case of finding the thief.

I went to Lugones, a suburb of Oviedo (okay, I didn’t really go, but in the play) to find him. After encountering Steven on the street and not realizing that was indeed the thief, I enlisted his help in finding the actual stealer of the ham. When he convinced me that Rachel, a woman who clearly did not fit the description, was the thief, I accused her and arrested her. Later, I invited Steven to dinner to thank him for helping me. He brought the ham, and I was oblivious. As I was about to take a bite, two policewomen busted through the door to arrest me because they had caught me red-handed. Only then did I realize what had happened. Also, one of the policewomen found Steven very attractive and, while I went to jail, he went to her bedroom. The play ended with Amy telling Spain the good news and Ashley interviewing Aschon, the owner, as he tasted the ham. “¡Está riquísimo/It’s delicious!” he exclaimed, and the skit ended there. I know. It was kind of out there and ridiculous. Here’s another one of Hiroko’s photos:

See? Ridiculous, but a lot of fun. Each group in the workshop had to present their piece to the rest in the class, and then each group got one vote. To my surprise, we won. What did that mean? That we had to present what we’d been working on to all of the students in our department of the university on Friday. How nerve-racking?! But we practiced, got some extra props (I had a magnifying glass and a pipe) and put on a show the following day. And I do believe the crowd enjoyed it. In between the performances there were presentations from people who had participated in other workshops (including a presentation from two Japanese students comparing Spain to Japan, which was hilarious). There was also a photo competition in which everyone voted for their favorite picture taken by one of the students in the Photography workshop. There was also a group who wrote their original lyrics Although some of the workshops seemed more fun than others, I think that overall the week of workshops was fun and a nice break from class. There was a little get-together for everyone involved afterwards in which wine, soda and snacks, tortilla being one of them, were served. Afterwards, I went home, took a two hours siesta, and then headed to Llanes, a town on the eastern coast of Asturias, with my host family for the weekend.

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