Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Angelico Austrian Adventure - shaken to the core (all four of them)

I've known Midga all my life, and though I'm aware he made a few slight changes in his lifestyle when he met Asha, I would never in 1,048,576 years have guessed he would voluntarily get up and dance. There's so much to tell that I hardly know which parts are the highest priority. However, for the sake of my listeners I will forego interrupt-driven programming and present the events of tonight in a pure top-down layout.

We arrived at the dining room of the hotel right on 8:30pm and saw some people in traditional dress. This promised to be a good evening. We sat down at a table with some people from our group, which happened to be next to an electronic keyboard and a piano accordion. On closer examination the keyboard had three pedals under it and quite a number of buttons and soft keys, and the accordion had a cable coming out of it. Rosuav, you would have loved it. The player/singer ran it all as a one man band - the pedals switched between pre-set programs to control the rhythm and choice of instruments in the bass section (chords were controlled by the bottom half of the keyboard), the percussion section was controlled by buttons, and he was singing as well as playing the melody on either the accordion or the top half of the keyboard. It was fascinating to watch him getting the most out of the machine's features.

As expected, he opened with some traditional Austrian music, similar to the stuff we'd heard in the bummelbahn. Midga was sitting there tapping his foot and just enjoying the music. I could understand that. But then the music changed a bit - it went a bit more modern. Now I have to tell you something about Austrian music - it's not all written in waltz time. Quite a lot of it is in 4/4 or 2/4 and is great for marching or working to. And this particular song was in 4/4 and had a bit of a blues groove to it. And what did Midga do but ask Asha to dance! I thought it must have been a joke because so many other couples were on the floor but they really did it! There wasn't a director telling him to dance or a choreographer telling him how, but he did it anyway. I don't know what's real and what's not - maybe I'm hallucinating from the effect of the altitude and being offline for so long.

Anyway, after that the traditional dancers came on and did their thing. For the men there's a lot of very fast, very accurate high kicking, knee slapping and foot slapping. They were perfectly in time and it looked and sounded amazing. Once you looked closer you could see that some of the foot slaps were in front and some were behind, it alternated left and right feet, and there must have been a pattern to it all because they were all doing the same thing. For the girls it consisted mostly of spinning. Of course they were wearing long skirts, which obeyed the laws of physics. When the couples paired up it initially looked like they were just going to walk around in a circle, but then you could see the men were each grabbing the thumb of the next in line and their arms were twisted around in a manner which defied physiology.

They must have been tired after that, because the one man band came back on and played some more music. I guess after the last eipsode I should have been prepared for Midga to get up and have another go, but I was still processing the traditional dance. Anyway, a few songs in it was a waltz, and off he went again. Asha declined, so he asked another lady at our table. She declined too, so he shamelessly opened it up to the whole table. And when that didn't work he went over to some people we'd spent a bit of time with at various places on the tour, and one of them got up and danced with him. Right in front of her husband too. I have to say, he's improved a bit since Diana Burleigh told him "That was the funniest looking waltz I ever saw in my life". Probably the effect of having been a Greek diplomat on stage.

It went on for quite a while - a few songs from the band (most of which were in English, from various eras, but played on Austrian instruments, real and synthesised), and then the traditional dancers would get up and do a piece. Most of them depicted activities of everyday life - the first was milking cows, so they came on with buckets and one legged stools, carefully put them down in the centre of the circle, did their knee slap routine, and then squatted down and acted out milking in time to the music. There were some funny bits, eg one audience member was getting quite close with his camera so they mimed squirting him with the milk. One of the guys tried to sneak a peek under the skirt of one of the girls and he got slapped in the face, and all in time to the music.

After a few more songs they did a dance about milling flour, which included some incredibly fast (it looked quite dangerous in fact) whirling around in circles, meshing to depict the gear wheels that crushed the heads of grain. Then it went to a more sedate winnowing, then mixing. I forgot to say that for each dance them came out in the appropriate headwear and accessories, so in this case white caps and aprons.

The next one was mining, so the guys came out with their heads bent and mimed swinging picks to the light of lamps. That ended with a cry of "FIRE!" and they actually lit a platter full of something that burned blue, then orange, then back to blue. They had doused the lights before coming out so it looked quite impressive. The last one they did was bell ringing, which didn't seem to have much point to it except that they played along with the accordion using two or three bells each which made up the octave and a bit.

Then when we thought they'd finished and it was just going to be the Minister for Aerial Music playing for dancing for all ranks, back they come and pick members of the audience to join them for their original opening dance. Well, you'd think Midga might have had enough of making a fool of himself, but no, he jumped up like a Roulettes bomb burst formation and one of the dancers put a Tyrolean hat on his head. Then came what seemed like hours of limbs flying around in all directions, and then the drinking dance. Shots of neat spirit, they looked like, and not the simple 30ml shots you can buy in a pub at home, quite generous ones. I looked quizzically at Asha because she doesn't like the way he acts when he's drinking, but she was too busy filming the whole sordid scene to worry. I guess having gone so far he could hardly turn back. Anyway, he downed it in one, and then it was congratulations all round and he sat down again.

That was it for the traditional dancers but the accordion player kept going, like old Outback 'Arry at Ballagundi. Luckily Midga's last dance was cut short when Asha's toe started sending her non-maskable interrupts for emergency relief. According to what he told some of the other guests it was a Charleston they were dancing - which Jeeves once said is a great way to find out whether anyone has been stealing silver spoons and hiding them under their outer garments.

Thankfully for my peace of mind, that was the last indiscretion committed by the shameless couple whom I serve. The music ended, they went upstairs to bed, and I settled down to sooth my ruffled feelings.

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