Two years running, my parents were generous enough to let me go to New York with my Performing Arts course. It was my birthday and Christmas present for both years, a great deal I reckon. I appear to have lost most of my photos from these two years and so my memories have now merged into one mega trip, with the odd standout moment.
Both years were spent sharing a room with three other girls in the double rooms of the Ameritania, just North of Times Square (double rooms meaning two double beds in the USA). Who knows what the other guests must have thought having forty teenagers tearing round the corridors. The first year started rather badly. My money, $200 or so, was stolen from my rucksack before we left JFK airport. I found myself watching everyone merrily splashing the cash while I bumbled through on a very tight budget. The college lent me some cash but I wasn’t able to purchase my fair share of I <3 NY t-shirts or Lady Liberty hats. A blessing in disguise perhaps?
This being a Performing Arts trip, we got to attend some amazing shows. Phantom of the Opera on Broadway was predictably stunning but being stuck up the back, I barely saw a thing (I am visually impaired for those who didn’t know…). We saw Blue Man Group (both years) which i loved (both years). The combination of physical comedy, music and blue face paint is great fun. In the second year, we went to see The Rivals at the Lincoln Centre. The space itself was wonderful but it was a piece of revival theatre and utterly jatlagged, the entire trip was dozing gently by the start of the third scene.
Lincoln Centre itself was great. We were treated to a tour of many of the buildings on the 10 acre site dedicated to the Arts. Juliard, the Met, the School of American Ballet, the Performing Arts library, the New York Philhamonic and a myriad of theatre spaces surround the fountain from the film Centre Stage (geek moment). We saw the two leads of the New York ballet rehearsing on stage, a rare treat and learnt that the philharmonic auditions applicants from behind a screen so their only consideration is the music. True art.
De La Guarde
We also went to see a show by Fuerza Bruta, previously known as De La Guarde. It was unlike anything any of us had seen before, a hectic mix of circus, physical theatre and a rave. Let me give you an idea of it.
We were stood in a low ceilinged room, anxious and excited. Glowing dots started to move across the ceiling to the centre where they slowly dropped down. At this point we realised they were polystyrene balls covered in iridescent paint and not a lighting effect. We smeared glow in the dark stripes across our cheeks. Suddenly an upside down figure burst through the roof and ripped a section away. The entire roof was made of paper and with a few more descents it was removed completely and we saw that we were in a huge warehouse space. People flew across the space on harnesses, bounced on bungees, bust out addictive rhythms on drums and then came and danced us into a frenzy. My friend even got a snog from the charismatic front man. Oh how jealous we were!
Their new show, Wayra, which I saw in October 2015, started out promisingly. It began with an excellent sequence on a giant treadmill, and had some set pieces but I think some of it dragged on a little long and it lacked the vitality of the other show. Maybe I’m biased because I loved the first one so much.
The food we ate went from terrible, cold and under cooked burgers at the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe, to sublime; the diner on the corner that hadn’t changed since the 1970s. We went to that diner several times and I even dragged Karl there for a couple more meals on our first trip to NYC together. When we went back in 2014 I was absolutely heartbroken to discover that it had turned into a Starbucks lookalike with no soul, no lovely waitresses that still called you “Hun” and no free refills.
Our other yummy discovery of the trip was a noodle place called Republic on Union Square. We had a workshop at the nearby New York Film Academy which was fun as I remember it but not overly informative. We were sent out for lunch and we ended up in Republic. The tables were long and sociable, this was before Wagamama was everywhere. We sat next to a couple of New Yorkers who we joyfully eavesdropped upon before interrupting their “private” lunch to quiz them on everything New York. Happily, Republic was still there when I went last year and still making superb bowls of noodles, to a slightly funkier soundtrack and a new industrial, stripped back decor.
The trips took place in January and they were quintessential New York winter breaks, complete with ice skating on Central Park rink (distressingly, we were too young to drink the mulled wine) and a run around the January sales of Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales. The first year was the coldest winter in fifty years and my thin, pink mac was woefully insufficient. I had been impervious to cold for years, wearing school shirts without a jumper in chilly temperatures at home. However, every time we left the hotel I felt like I was taking a slap to the face and a punch to the stomach that winded me. I had never felt cold like it. It was so cold that the water in the Lincoln Centre pool appeared to be steaming. Holy moly!
I haven’t warmed up since.