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Squeals of Delighted Terror

They’re talking about him, to him, at him yet he doesn’t flinch. I watched for several minutes and didn’t see him so much as blink. I watched his chest and shoulders for confirmation of breath but nothing. He is so convincing I began to doubt my own senses and found myself accepting him, the human sculpture, as being inanimate.

Finally a young woman, egged on by her friends,  approaches the human sculpture. She moves slowly, cautiously, simultaneously filled with fear and bravery. Perhaps that is what bravery consists of – one part bravado and one part fear. Her long braid dances across her back, she involuntarily shivers and stops. Realizing it was just the breeze she flashes an amazing smile and laughs out loud with amusement at herself and the situation she’s chosen.

Her friends cheered her on and nudged her from behind. She began again, this time she reached the sculpture and stood with only an inch between them. The sculpture remained as still as stone despite the frenzy of shutter clicks that ensued. He grabbed her! It was a stealth move that only took an instant. Not knowing if she should run or remain, she screamed and danced in place, tears sprang forth and again we were graced with her amazing smile and the crowd laughed and applauded. The sculpture – all too human now, faced his heroine, pressed his palms together and begged her forgiveness. She happily granted it and as she turned to leave, the sculpture released a loud, deep growl and lunged toward the heroine, sending all the females into squeals of delighted terror.

Street performers are ubiquitous in Barcelona, every corner, courtyard and alley will offer entertainment and creativity. Two men with guitars will host their own private competition of dueling classical or flamenco riffs while a block away the Brazilian Capoeira troupes will attract you with their rhythmic drumming and chanting. The Capoeira feed off the audience’s reaction and their nimble gymnastics, acrobatics and gasp-worthy martial art techniques becomes more complex, more thrilling with each exclamation from the crowd.

I spent more money on tipping street performers than on anything else while there.  I am a sucker for a violinist in the metro station, the aerial flips and oh so very near misses of the Capoeira’s kicks or fire dancers who appeared at the beach-side bar as if from the tide, mermaids of sorts who peppered the shoreline with light and silently added spice to my cocktail. The artist crouched over a dirty plastic bag in an alley cutting and weaving used soda cans into ashtrays and candle holders.

Entertainment over, the hat passed, the sculpture, duo or troupe has moved on, a friend whining to get moving again, my adrenalin levels returned to normal, my camera’s disk full of hundreds of yawn inspiring photos for my friends and I find myself resentful of the moments that follow, the quiet and calm that returns.

It was fleeting, each time I encounter a street artist I know it will be. But for me, these moments are what you rush around the corner for, leave your table for, stop your conversation for, divert from your path and be 10 minutes late for.

To be thoroughly entertained, completely enthralled and not able to focus on anything else around me is worth a couple of Euro because during those few, fleeting moments I received truly the best memento – I was very much in love with life, with just being in that space, in that moment and nothing else mattered.

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14 Comments

  1. Nomadic Samuel · 2012/02/09 Reply

    I think that was a brilliant move on his part :) I’m often fascinated by street performers. The most interesting show I’ve seen was in Buenos Aires.

    • Maria · 2012/02/09 Reply

      I am a sucker for the street performers and artists.
      So if we ever meet in ‘real’ life, dance a jig or sing for me – I’ll happily donate to the Church of You!
      **grin, laugh**

  2. Caz Makepeace · 2011/10/02 Reply

    Great story. I loved how he grabbed her. Street performers are always so entertaining. We used to have a lot of fun with them on the streets of London stumbling home after a night in the pubs

    • Maria · 2011/10/02 Reply

      Hey Caz, first trip to London (way back in mid 90s) they were ubiquitous but almost non-existent this year.
      Ordinance changes, time of year… do you know what gives? I really missed seeing them en-mass.

  3. manonthelam.com (@manonthelam1) · 2011/09/24 Reply

    I’m a sucker for street performers too. I think it’s money well-spent — and better than just handing it to a beggar. Although I’m guilty of that from time-to-time too. :)

  4. Don Faust · 2011/09/20 Reply

    Good costume on the top photo, although I have to admit I hate the “silver” and “gold” guys in the various cities across the world. I know most of these places are very touristy, but for me, it takes away a little bit of the charm.

    • Maria · 2011/09/20 Reply

      Don, who are the silver/gold guy? Where do I find them? Seriously, what are you talking about?

      • Matthew Karsten · 2011/09/25 Reply

        You’ve never seen them? I had a buddy in Honolulu who did it. They completely paint their body & clothes in semi-dangerous metallic paint and do the statue or robot routine. Kids and middle aged Asian men pay for photos with them.

        But street performers make some crazy money! I knew a talented belly dancer/hoola hoop girl who regularly made many hundreds of dollars a night…

        • Maria · 2011/09/25 Reply

          Too funny. We have people here who just walk around parks/festivals painted in the metallic paint – for free, of course they don’t do the robot though.

  5. Sherry · 2011/09/19 Reply

    Yeah, I would not even come close to that first guy. A similar “being” is always performing along the waterfront at the San Francisco marina and I avoid (s)/he at all cost. You end up being part of the show and I don’t like being the center of attention. Street performers are so captivating and I enjoy them more than actually going to a show. They’re like the soul of the city. I miss Barcelona with every post.

    • Maria · 2011/09/19 Reply

      Sherry, I’m good with the center – so long as I haven’t had an “accident” – which that artist moving after having been still sooo long would have caused!
      Sad to hear you miss Barca so much but happy that I can bring memories or laughter and color to you through the posts. Thnx.

  6. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler · 2011/09/19 Reply

    Yikes! That first guy is scary. I don’t like it when street performers pretend to be a statue because I have had them jump out at me and scare the crap out of me! I think I would have had a heart attack if this guy did that.

    • Maria · 2011/09/19 Reply

      Yeah Christy I hear you. I’d have probably peed right there, in front of the crowd. I have to say the young woman he got was a good sport.

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