Tag Archives: Spain

Shot of the Week

Everything about the Alhambra in Granada, Spain and its surrounding area is awe-inspiring. I was passing through, jaw dropped and eyes wide, with my family in late October 2008 when I noticed this perfectly framed scene.

Karina for TKGO

Spanish Drinking Culture

A friend of mine from study abroad recently pointed me toward a Time article about Barcelona’s battle against drunk tourists. The “sensitivity campaign” the city launched includes posters with the universally understood stick figure instructing tourists how not to act, as well as a happy hour ban. It’s an admirable effort to get tourists to respect the city and send the message that Gaudi’s playground is no Cancun.



Mind your business along Las Ramblas! Photo by Albert Gea for Reuters


While studying abroad in Barcelona, my friends and I were quick to pick up on how Spaniards vs. visitors acted when out and about. The surest way to stand out as a tourist? Be visibly drunk. We never saw Spaniards stumbling around the streets or throwing back shot after shot at the bars, and even those in a state they might’ve considered “drunk” were in way better condition than “drunk” by American, frat house standards.

As our study abroad adviser explained to us in class one day — complete with a hand-drawn graph on the board — when Spanish people drink, it’s always socially, and they imbibe only to reach and then maintain their “point,” as he called it. From what I understood, that “point” is a tipsy state: feeling good about life but still fully functioning. (Fun fact: Tapas in Spain are prepared with generous amounts of olive oil because it slows the absorption of alcohol.)

Since the “sensitivity campaign” doesn’t seem to include any “point” drinking lessons to tourists entering the city, if you’re headed to Barcelona in the near future you might encounter the drunken bachelor party or two, especially on and around Las Ramblas. Instead of focusing on perhaps where to avoid, I’m using the Time article as excuse to share a handful of my favorite bars and clubs in the city based on what you’re looking for from your night.

Get a more extensive look at Barcelona nightlife on the TKGO City Guides, Barcelona page.

For a club packed with Spaniards: Sutton

For a relaxed bar scene: Ambar

For the best views of the city: Mirablau and Mirabe

For a historic, charmingly gritty bar (and absinthe): Marsella

-Karina for TKGO

TKGO City Guides, Barcelona Launches

Well, it’s finally here: TKGO City Guides, Barcelona is up for your pleasure, enjoyment and planning. Listings include finds like a restaurant that bottles its own sparkling wine and a retro amusement park on top of the tallest mountain in Barcelona, not to mention an absinthe bar once frequented by the likes of Hemingway.

Check back on TKGO City Guides, Naples, too, for some new additions. And as always, we’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Akram Khan and Cross-Cultural Dance

Akram Khan’s bahok came to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art Stage this past weekend, and it was a show we were eager to attend. Karina had been hearing all of the (well-deserved) hype at her internship at the MCA, and Tara is taking a Cultural Studies of Dance class at Northwestern and learning, among other things, about the problematics of authenticity in cultural representation and how a message is communicated to an audience. But even if we had just wandered into the show, we’re certain we would have been just as riveted throughout the entire entertaining and thought-provoking 75-minute show.

bahok, which means “carrier” in Bengali, premiered in Beijing in January 2008 and was voted “Best new vision of global interchange” by Dance Magazine before it embarked on a world tour in 2009. Akram Khan has been called one of the greatest young choreographers by the Dance Critics’ Circle, dance critics and fellow choreographers (including Tara’s flamenco instructor and Northwestern professor Joel Valentín-Martínez). With all the hype, you’d expect an overly abstract piece from the kind of choreographer who works on the too-buried-in-metaphors-to-understand kind of dances. Instead, the Londoner (his family is Bangladeshi) offers a simple but profound message set to an international score from composer and longtime collaborator Nitin Sawhney and, at times, humor in bahok.

(Below is a clip from one of our favorite numbers in the show.)

Set in an unidentified airport (though it really could be any transportation station), bahok explores what happens when people of different origins — China, Spain, Slovakia, India, South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa — are forced to interact and communicate with one another despite language barriers and cultural differences. The dancers in Khan’s company are from all the aforementioned countries, which brings another level of nuance to the work.

Total unison is rare in bahok. Instead, Khan plays with levels and shadows in his choreography. Dancers fly across the floor and lift each other in the air, showing their differences even when all move at the same time. Stage lighting gives the work even more dimension, leaving some dancers in the dark while others are featured in “monologues.”

While language is used in the show (a big electronic departures sign serves at times as the subtitle screen, other times to display cryptic messages), it does not aid in communication. Characters retreat into their own memories, describing their childhoods in a way no one else can understand, or they unsuccessfully attempt to answer simple questions for a customs official. Movement is the only way characters can explain their feelings and communicate who they are to one another. In portions of the show where only one or a few are dancing in the spotlight, each expresses an individual personality on stage, whether it be obsessive paper collecting or a private dance with a father’s shoe.

(Learn a few bahok moves in the MCA’s informative promotional video, below.)

The work, ultimately, is honest. Khan understands that a transportation station is both a void and transient space, and though his characters overlap and spend a long time waiting together in the same space, they never completely accept or understand one another. They exclude each other, they ignore each other, they bicker with one another (but without a cliché dance fight scene). Even when all embrace in one scene toward the end, the most eccentric character is left out and must force her way into the huddle. All are from different places and going different places, but inevitably they end up getting to know each other, whether or not that’s their intention.

Moreover, they are all from somewhere and going somewhere, all the while carrying (hence, “bahok”) memories, aspirations and experiences. It’s a theme that resonates with us especially now, as we (and our friends) conclude our final months at college, which perhaps is an equally adequate representation of transient space, and figure out where we’re going. The final image on the train schedule board is a play on words that sums up the piece: Replace the ‘M’ in “HOME” with a ‘P’ and you see “HOPE.”

How’s that for a representation of the world as it is today? Bravo, Akram Khan, for not only revealing a new perspective on human nature that’s highly relevant in today’s ever-transient society, but also for teaching the world another — better — way to communicate: dance.

Check Akram Khan’s calendar to see if the tour’s headed your way; we both agree you don’t want to miss this. And lastly, check out Nitin Sawhnye’s music, because the score was sublime. (We want the soundtrack!)

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Contemporary Tchochkes

In Barcelona I discovered a shopping secret: Museum stores. A museum store is the ideal place to find souvenirs not sold on every corner of whichever city you’re in, or to pick up personal gifts for family and friends. From gorgeous, glossy coffee table books to artsy jewelry and home wares, they’re full of things you never knew you needed — or at least really wanted.

When I began interning at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago about a month ago, I was certain to stop in the MCA Store. I’ve since been back multiple times because, I must say, it’s the most intriguing museum store I have seen yet. So far I’ve managed to keep my spending spree to one pair of Hotcakes earrings. (I grabbed the last pair of resin red rose earrings, pictured here on the bottom right of the page.)

I’ve included a few photos below, courtesy of the MCA site, to give an idea of the array of products in the store. Of course, this sampling hardly does justice to how awesome the offerings are, so if you’re in the area, be sure to stop in the store. (And the museum itself, too. Tuesdays are free!) Click the images to go to the item on the MCA Store site.


Multicolored Nesting Set



Chrome Tangle



Mona Lisa Clock



Hug Salt & Pepper Shakers




The Rockabillies, by photographer and Chicago native Jennifer Greenberg



Arne Jacobsen/Paul Smith Mini Chair


Karina for TKGO

A TKGO Thanksgiving

We are thankful for…

  • Northwestern’s Intercampus shuttle, which gets us into one of the country’s most vibrant, tasty cities — Chicago — in record time and for free.
  • Mayan hot chocolate, particularly at ice skating rinks.
  • Flights that aren’t delayed or canceled.
  • European scarves that cost five euros on the street but still manage to keep us warm and looking trendy.
  • WordPress for blogging made easy.
  • The last year of our lives, which for Tara meant living in Buenos Aires, exploring South America and then months in New York City. For Karina that involved living in Barcelona, exploring Europe and then months in New York City. (We realize how lucky we are.)
  • Happy Ending Lounge, our favorite hipster, grab-bag springtime nightspot in New York City.
  • Our crazy, wonderful, multicultural families. And each other, of course!


TKGO at Happy Ending


Tara and Karina for TKGO

A Compás (In the Rhythm)



Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, October 15, by Karina for TKGO.


One of the nation’s top flamenco troupes—Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company—visited Northwestern University’s Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, and we managed to secure tickets before it sold out. Below are our reactions to the event. (Here’s a hint: We were mesmerized the whole two and a half hours.) To peek at what we saw, watch the video below (which isn’t actually from the show at Pick).

Tara’s Take

My flamenco background is by no means extensive—I’m the only one wearing a red skirt in a Northwestern University class full of black-skirted women and a couple guys—but it’s been a month now since the class started, and I know the difference between a farruca and a bulerías.


My Northwestern University flamenco class, with instructor Joel Valentin-Martinez (left), by Tara for TKGO.


Paco Peña’s was the first live flamenco show I’d seen, but because I’m the worst in the class, I do a lot of YouTubing. The show’s selection of flamenco styles all follow the a compás rhythm, a 12-beat measure with emphasis on the third, sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth counts. They stuck to a traditional range of flamenco music, but the dancers often added touches of Spanish ballet to modernize the show. They didn’t even stick to the program! The highlight of the first half was when Ramón Martínez took the stage by storm doing zapateado (“footwork”) in blood-red patent leather shoes. After the intermission, we saw Charo Espino’s solo performance, which in my opinion she was made for: Her impeccably clean but fluid arm movements only looked better with a shawl as a prop.

But the energy during Explorando el Compás was unmatched. Paco and the gang hammered on steel tabletops, clapped a jota, and hit the bass for the ultimate garage band sound. The best part? The improvisational goodie bag at the end, when the stout, gut-wrenching martinete singer, Inmaculada Rivero, took the dance floor in a messy, passionate, authentic close to the performance.

Karina’s Thoughts

My time spent abroad, as I’ve professed before, threw me into a love affair with all things Spanish. So when Tara forwarded me the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company performance information, I didn’t even double check if I was free. I would be there.

During the performance I was so caught up in the intensity of it all I was practically immobile. Charo Espino fiercely twisted her dress around and I felt caught between her ruffles. Ramón Martínez spun in repeated circles, beads of sweat flying from the top of his head in beat with the passionate cries of Inmaculada Rivero and I was stuck in his spins, her song dictating my emotions. Every element was enchanting, but Paco Peña’s guitar playing would have been an astounding performance on its own. He nimbly plucked the instrument, fingers expertly flying over the strings, and it was as though I was hearing a guitar for the first time. The guitar became a living creature in his possession, seemingly with its own breath and heartbeat. I have never felt, seen or heard Spanish guitar like that.

The show was so authentically Spanish, from the late start and lengthy intermission (but who wants to rush artistry anyway?) to the way every number seemed to devolve into an overwhelming and confusing cacophony, but then come to together perfectly, precisely right when it needed to (which is essentially a parallel to how I felt at times while living and studying abroad). Spaniards are passionate people, and Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company’s A Compás performance epitomized that characteristic.

-Tara and Karina for TKGO