I’ve been mad about tap dancing — tip tap they call it here — since I was small. I’ve seen every Fred Astaire movie dozens of times. I was devastated when Gregory Hines died. I could watch Savion Glover all day. I studied tap for a few years when I lived in New York and the fact that I didn’t keep it up is one of my biggest life regrets.
The other day I was having an orange juice in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. I don’t know the name of the bar but you can’t miss it because everyone there is drinking a great big tall glass of fresh squeezed blood orange deliciousness. And there are bowls and crates and boxes everywhere filled to the brim with oranges. Order a juice and you can sit for awhile gazing at one of the prettiest squares in Rome.
OK, just looked it up and the bar is called Caffè delle Arance (arance means oranges in Italian). Pretty well named I’d say.
Anyway, after a few minutes a couple of women strolled up carrying a guitar case and various other bits of buskers’ equipment. I wasn’t expecting anything special: these shows rarely are. Usually it’s off-key singing and mediocre instrumentals. There’s a guy who plays legendarily bad sax at the Pantheon, for example. So imagine my surprise and delight when the two started tap dancing right there on the cobbled piazza! I looked more closely and saw that the women were wearing matching outfits, little hats and boots, which were fitted with taps. They were really great and I left the piazza feeling energized, despite my impending horrible cold (the motivation for the OJ in the first place).
Fascinated, I went home and looked them up. There wasn’t much: a few videos (this one is the best) and a nice little segment on the website of the Busking Project. I’d never heard about this before and it is seriously cool. The Busking Project, which started about a year ago, has already captured hundreds of hours of video and thousands of photos of street performances in 40 cities on five continents around the world. Check it out. It’s very addictive.
Anyway, if you are ever in Rome, look for Livia and Ann, the cobblestone tap dancers. They apparently dance in Piazza Navona as well as Santa Maria. But you’d better get a move on. The Rome City Council just passed a resolution that promises to put major limitations on street performance. Although its objectives are laudable — to “reconcile show business and public peace” — the new resolution very severely restricts the location and timing of street acts. No performances are allowed near churches, schools, hospitals or areas of cultural or artistic heritage. That pretty much eliminates every square inch of Rome. And artists have to reserve their space and time in advance or face huge fines. It’s hard to imagine that this won’t badly affect street performances here.