Thursday, February 12, 2009


639 days ago

On Saturday I went to a concert given by Uruguyan veteran folk singer and guitar player - Daniel Viglietti. Born in 1939, he's now 68, almost. He spent some time in prison under the military dictatureship. He touches the guitar divinely and sings about rivers (the concert was for charity, dedicated to the floods that hit Uruguay recently), workers, exile, Latin-America.

His own songs and other great composers': Chilean Violeta Parra, Uruguyan Anibal Sampayo (who died one day before the concert), Argentinian Atahualpa Yupanqui (this great folk singer was married to an Antonieta "Nenette" who also wrote songs under the name Pablo del Cerro) or poets: Mario Benedetti, Cesar Vallejo. Very emotional, a lot of people in the small college concert hall knew the lyrics, he told stories in between songs about the subject or the composers, or how he came to sing them. Most of the audience were Uruguayans, including the family that invited me. After the show, during the wine of honour, they introduced me to the maestro who started telling me names of famous Romanians: composer George Enescu, writer Eugen Ionescu, actress Elvira Popescu What a funny character. Very smart, very sensitive and very modest.

My hosts: Jorge washes windows in my office building and his ex-sister-in-law, Amalia, is a cleaner. His wife is Argentinian, they have three sons and have spent about 30 years in Canada. Jorge has two brothers, two sisters and a very active mother - Perla. They kind of adopted me, invited me to the concert, then took me to Club Social Argentino de Montréal, where I had an empanada and a maizena (a kind of double biscuit filled with dulce de leche). Perla and Jorge also told me they could put me with Perla's sister during my stay in Montevideo, because she lives alone.

I am amazed about how things turn since I've decided to go to that part of the planet - el cono Sur. These people are simple and warm, not highly educated, but sensitive and knowledgeable nevertheless. Very generous and with a high sense of hospitality. Quite amazing! They match the positive cliché about Latin-Americans and fill my heart with joy and trust. Trust in the humanity, that I was about to lose here in the North.

On another level, I just saw a documentary about the Ballets Russes. George Balanchine amongst others and some amazing Russian and not only dancers. Nini Theilade (born in Indonesia) is 89 and still teaches. She said young people are technically good (trying to make as many pirouettes as possible) but are hard to convince to express emotions. They are not warm - that's what she actually said. Maybe because she lives and teaches in Denmark? Frederic Franklin is 90 years old and still plays character roles. Quite interesting was also the story of Maria Tallchief (original name Tall Chief, as she was half Osage - Native American). She was one of the 5 native dancers from Oklahoma who danced with Ballets Russes. Also Raven's story was impressive, the African-American mulato dancer who had only a 6 years history with Ballets Russes because of racism problems, especially in the South of US. She then became a soloist with Dutch National Ballet and returned to the US in 1974. She plays now character roles at the NY Opera.
Most interesting also is Miguel Terekhov, born in...Uruguay, who joined the company when he was 14.

Of course there were many Russians... Most of these dancers live now in the USA. What impressed me is their liveliness and amazing physical shape. It's all about passion, and expressing yourself through your body. What a miracle tool! And so underused.

Briefly, I was very touched both by the Saturday concert and this Monday night doc film. I am deeply convinced Art is what makes us transcend this mortal bodies.

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