INC HAS GOT TALENT – KELLY PIETRANGELI

INC is full of diverse talent. This week Susannah speaks to an INC member who has cropped up in her life over and over again either in person or audibly on various podcasts since an Area 4/5 coffee morning at Laura Summer´s house in 2015.

Kelly Pietrangeli’s career arc spans wide as she has moved from former music video Production Assistant, record cover Designer, parenting and motherhood Coach to current Author, Podcaster, retreat Host, women’s circle Facilitator, Soul Plan Practitioner, and last but by no means least, she is a fellow hot chilli sauce lover.

Kelly has been running online programmes and workshops for women around the world long before Zoom became mainstream. Her free Project Me Life Wheel® tool for living a well-balanced life has had over 10,000 downloads and became the framework for her book and online membership club. Her High Vibe Journey programme helps women to raise their emotional levels. Women are calling it life changing and transformational. (Editor´s Note: I completed it recently and am definitely firing on Spitfire rather than Freddy Laker cylinders).

How did you end up working as Johnny Depp´s Press Assistant?

As a young girl in Minnesota I dreamed of working in Hollywood and so aged 20 I naively drove out to California with very little money and no contacts. Within a few days I found a job at a Comedy Club, selling tickets in the box office. Soon after, I was promoted to the owner’s PA, which led to meeting Johnny Depp´s limo driver. Back then in 1990 he was a TV heart-throb starring in 21 Jump Street. I went to work for the production company and was promoted to the role as Johnny’s press assistant, opening huge sacks of fan mail from teenagers, sending him teddy bears – and sometimes their underpants!

My naivety became one of my biggest advantages professionally as I didn´t create any mental blocks to my career progression and I really had nothing to lose.

You then worked in music video production and subsequently became a record cover designer, what was it like working for top name bands such as Tina Turner, Boyzone, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey in the 1990s?

Looking back on it now I can see how exhilarating it was to have such a fun and lively job. Back then, the music industry was all about free CDs, concert tickets and parties.  MC Hammer taught me how to do the ‘You Can’t Touch This’ dance behind his trailer. Beyoncé screeched with delight and hugged me when she saw my artwork for the first Destiny’s Child single.  I had no idea she’d go on to become a global icon. In fact, when she and the girls left my office I said to my colleagues, “They’ll never make it.” I could never be a talent scout! I said the same thing about Johnny Depp when he told me he was leaving TV to pursue a movie career…

What brought you to Madrid in 2010 and how did you find settling in here?

By 2010 I had a 10 and 7 year old and had given up my career in the Entertainment Industry. I was definitely restless and ready for new adventures, so when my husband was offered a job in Madrid I was all for it! I helped him conquer his fears and doubts and encouraged him to go for it. Weeks later we were in Madrid and INC helped make the move seamless for me as I had a whole group of other international women to answer my multitude of questions and was able to tap into an instant friendship group with lots of fun cultural activities to attend.

How did Project Me start?

As a new mother, my life felt chaotic and I was wildly out of balance, often taking my frustrations out on my poor kids. One day I noticed on my shelf the perfectly-ordered folder I had put together for our house renovation project in London. It had neat coloured tab sections for each area of the house. I decided to create my own file for 8 sectors of my life, such as health, personal growth, fun, money and love.  

I began to meet with two girlfriends to discuss how we could inject some order, balance and joyful purpose into those areas and be accountable for making change in them. Thus the Project Me Life Wheel was born. 

In 2013 I set up the Project Me website and started teaching other women this framework to enhance productivity and become the empowered experts of their lives and themselves.

What´s the difference between Project Me and Project We?

In 2019 I took Project Me to a whole new level by launching an online membership club called Project WE. Together we lift each other higher! Not only have I gained deeper understanding of how to get the most out of my life, but it has been so successful for others in Project WE that some members are running their own workshops for us in their chosen area of expertise.

Project WE is for women wishing to switch out of auto-pilot and create a life they love.

You are playing your part in making the “woo-woo” make sense. How have you made spiritual introspection more acceptable to explore and discuss?

Launching the Project Me Podcast and sharing my stories of my journey into the wonderful world of ‘woo-woo’ has opened up so many hearts and minds.

A lot of women I work with now say they didn’t have a ‘woo woo’ bone in their body until they started listening to my podcast and doing my programmes. I see myself as the bridge between practical lifestyle management and all else that lies out there beyond what we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

You are now a certified Soul Plan Practitioner, tell us more

I discovered a couple of years ago that my own Soul Plan Destiny is to bring circles of people together to facilitate change. It was incredibly affirming and gave me the permission slip I needed to step more fully into this work. I trained to become a Soul Plan Practitioner and now love being able to share with my clients what their own soul gifts are, as well as the challenges they were born to overcome. It’s the most fun and fulfilling work I have ever done. Even being Johnny Depp’s PA! 

Which books have inspired you?

I’m a personal/spiritual growth book junkie! I have lots on the go at once and so many recommendations. Years ago it was The Magic by Rhonda Byrne which is a 28 day writing prompts book that really wakes you up to the immense power of gratitude. I gifted it to everyone I knew and so much magic did indeed unfold for them! In more recent years I have recommended The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment, both by Michael A Singer, to everyone who has done my programmes. I recently received his workbook from one of my retreat guests which I’m enjoying too.

What was the best advice you were given?

The words of wisdom I got from Johnny Depp´s limo driver who advocated never holding information too close to your chest. If you know something that could help someone else, share it freely. It might not be that same person who reciprocates, but it will flow back to you in some way when you need it. This has been very true for me.

What´s next for Project Me?

I am feeling called to pivot and move much more deeply in the direction of my soul work. Watch this space in early 2023!

The Spice Girls enjoy some chilli time together

Contact details – www.myprojectme.com

Susannah soars in the Azores

On a quest of adventure, temperate climes and some dramatic scenery we opted to spend our family summer holiday on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. With direct flights of only 3 hours from Madrid and many other European Cities the archipelago of the Azores is an attractive option. You can now impress your friends at the next pub quiz with your geographical knowledge that this volcanic string of islands lie 1500 km off the west coast of Portugal in the mid-Atlantic, well above Madeira which lies off of the coast of Morocco.

Whalewatching whilst gripping on for dear life

On our first day, relieved to be out of the intense heat on the Spanish peninsular, we enjoy the gentle sunshine as we step onto a large boat in search of whales. Moments later the clouds have rolled in and the boat is now keeling over. I hastily banish thoughts of the Titanic out of my mind to concentrate on the Marine Biologist´s shrieks of excitement as a 10 metre sperm whale glides past. By the time Moby Dick is in range for my camera the boat is dancing the Bossa Nova at full tilt with the horizontal rain driving everyone below deck where most people are heaving up lunch into small plastic sick bags.  Weatherwise, the Azores and Scotland have a lot in common as you can often experience four seasons in the same hour.

Hydrangeas everywhere

The following day we went out in search of smaller marine mammals. Snorkelling with dolphins requires Swiss horological precision as you have to slide into the sea splash-free to see them play under the water. We caught sight of a mother and a baby with the stripey fetal folds still in evidence down her side as well as some turtles.

After 2 days of seasickness we stay on dry land, visiting the fascinating Gruta de Carvao where we clambered through volcanic rock caves in hard hats. The grotto had previously been used as a welcome cold storage in the days before fridges were commonplace.

Rocking it in Azorean caves

A tasty light lunch of chicharros (fried baby mackerel) ensued with boiled yam and yuca followed by Queijada (bean cake pudding). After which we waddled up to Caldeira Velha thermal springs and waterfall to let off steam. The area is akin to a natural spa with lots of hot pools nestling amongst the lush, verdant vegetation.

Chained up ready to go

Later on, in a desperate bid to inch my way up the scale in the Mummy cool-ometer I booked us onto a few adventurous sports excursions. The first one had us all rappelling down ravines in chains and a giant yellow plastic diaper. The plastic nappy is supposedly to protect your nether regions over your wetsuit as you bump down on your bottom over fast flowing waterfalls over rocks (keeping your arms glued into your sides). This proved a lot less terrifying than rappelling down ravines and jumping into narrow rock pools from vertiginous 5 metre heights but I did feel a tremendous sense of triumph over adversity when the terror trip (mercilessly) ended.

Spa time

After that I felt ready for another bucket list activity to cross off….Stand Up Paddle Boarding. So we took a jeep to Sete Cidades where clusters of Swiss-style chalets cling to the shores of a volcanic lake and carefree cows wander aimlessly through pine forests. Goodness knows why it´s called Stand Up Paddle Board as our guide advised me to kneel down on it until I mastered my equilibrium. As it turned out there was quite a little current going on in the lake and the board had a mind of its own so there ensued a Mr Bean moment as I attempted to steer it away from reeds near the shore whilst in full genuflection. 

The family show me how it´s done

Eventually I got the better of the board and the soles of my feet developed limpet-like suction superpowers so I steadfastly paddled around, half expecting Julie Andrew´s dulcet tones to ricochet off the emerald slopes of the volcanic crater at any moment. 

I´m afraid there is no surviving photographic evidence of me indulging in this particular activity as I discovered, much to my chagrin, that one´s “smattering” of cellulite on the back of one´s thighs is vastly exaggerated when in the kneeling position.

Geothermal cooking at work

The Azoreans are a resourceful bunch and we shall be extremely envious of their ability to make full use of the free natural resources with which to cook their food while we struggle with ever-rising energy bills this winter. It turns out that Sao Miguel´s natural geysers make for a handy free oven. Local chefs in Furnas think nothing of rising at 5.30 am to lower gargantuan pots of “cozido” on chains into gaping holes through the Earth´s core as geysers hiss noisily around them.

Europe´s only tea plantation

Seven hours later the pots are hauled up ceremoniously and a tasty lunch of slow-cooked meat, sausages and cabbage, kale stew is served in the nearby restaurants. As with so much Iberian fare, it is bigger on taste than it is on beauty. Especially when you spatter the soggy cabbage leaves with some local spicy pepper sauce.

The mineral content of the thermal springs also give rise, literally, to the “bolos levados” or fluffy local muffins. Azorean dairy products account for 30% of Portugal´s dairy production with creamy butter and artisanal ice creams enjoying a much-appreciated position in the gourmet fridge section on the mainland.

Feijoada de marisco with limpets

Sumptuous squid, “lulas” and its baby version, “lulinhas” were devoured by our children wherever we went. I particularly enjoyed them doused in salsa verde. Taberna Açor in Ponta Delgada has a delicious Feijoada de marisco e lapas which is a red bean stew with limpets, another local delicacy. Other super foods include sweet potato and stalls of pineapple juice from Europe´s only pineapple plantation which used to be one of the main crops before dairy farming took hold.

Thermal springs at Terra Nostra

So, what type of people succumb to Sao Miguel´s multifarious charm? Well certainly hikers, nature lovers, maritime mammal fans, plucky kids of 7+, adrenaline-junky teens and anyone looking for gentle geothermal adventure, short distances between breath-taking sights and oodles of blue and lilac hydrangeas. Just remember to leave your Dolce and Gabbana bikini behind as the sulphurous hot springs will nuke the elastic of the top half and dye the bottom half oxidised orange.

Lagoa do Fogo viewpoint

Spotlight on Angela Daley

A regular fixture at INC cultural events, this month we take a look at the rich tapestry that makes up, Australian, Mother of 2, former librarian, Angela Daley´s life spanning several continents thanks to the pioneer spirit of her parents who left behind war-torn Germany.

Growing up in Melbourne your mother tongue at home was German – why was this?

My parents were from Germany and Montenegro respectively. They migrated to Melbourne four months before I was born and decided to retain the German language and many German customs as well. Many of which we have kept to this day such as the annual chocolate Easter Egg hunt and holding a German-style Christmas dinner on 24th December.

Annemarie and Mirko

Your father was originally Serbian and spent time as a Prisoner of War in Pompeii, did he ever speak about his experiences during the war?

My father fought for Yugoslavia in World War II.  Many of the battles were brutal and he lost endless comrades. Eventually he was caught by Italian soldiers and spent two years in a prisoner of war camp in Pompeii. He never spoke about his experiences in the war but whilst my sister and I were growing up he suffered dreadful nightmares from those days and would often wake up screaming. Enduring the war and captivity developed my father’s survival skills and these certainly came in handy when he moved to Australia. 

Pyramid time at Teotihuacán in Mexico City

Your mother had to flee from what is now Poland to West Germany by foot during World War II, did she ever talk about her wartime experiences?

My mother also suffered trauma. She had been brought up in a wealthy home and was being groomed to take over her father’s empire. However, in February 1945 the Russians attacked the East German city, Breslau, where she lived and her family had to flee on foot. My mother did talk to us about some of her experiences during the war but she mainly focused on telling us stories about her happy childhood before that period. 

Her family finally settled near Münster in North West Germany. My mother had studied English at university and was employed by British forces responsible for the repatriation of former German prisoners of war.  My father was one of those prisoners and the rest is history !!! After getting married my parents decided to leave the ravages of war behind them by migrating to Australia. 

The family enjoy a reunion in Chicago

What was Melbourne like during the 1950´s and 1960´s?

Melbourne was very different from how it is today. It was mainly populated by people of Anglo- Saxon descent, the level of culture was limited and the food was quite plain. Today the city is a thriving metropolis filled with people from all over the world. It has amazing restaurants offering all sorts of cuisine and culture abounds all around. 

Have you been to Montenegro where your father was born?

Yes. My mother died suddenly in 2005 and my father became very depressed. They were lifelong soulmates. As a surprise we flew from New York to Niksic, Montenegro where my father was born and I phoned him from there. It was a special moment for us both. 

Sahara safari

You have enjoyed a long career as a librarian, what was it about law librarianship that appealed to you? 

It brought an excitement to my work as a librarian that I had never experienced before. Loads of interesting and challenging legal research and pressure through deadlines. I loved it all!!!

Your first overseas posting with your husband was in New York, how did you find life over there? 

New York is an amazing city to visit and it literally never stops. But trying to live a normal life in Manhattan did have its moments!!!

Angela´s daughter

You then moved to Washington, how did that posting compare to New York?

Washington is also an amazing city but it was difficult for me to meet people and to feel like I belonged. Lots of networks exist but mainly in the sphere of foreign affairs and the military. 

Angela´s son

 What brought you to Madrid?

My husband jokingly says that he is a “failure at retiring “!! He has had a few attempts. For a couple years he has been on the board of a Spanish company and he had recently even been considering attempting retirement once again. However, following a twist of events at a board meeting in Madrid in October 2019 he unexpectedly became the company’s full time CEO!!! 

What’s unmissable for you in Madrid?

I love everything about Madrid and Spain. But more than anything I am very attached to Meninas in all shapes and forms. 

Up close and personal with a moose in Northern Sweden

Name a book that has inspired you and why?

“Spain” by Jan Morris. This beautifully written book is filled with heaps of interesting information on the history, geography and culture of España. 

We are both keen linguists, what is it about languages that you love in particular?

Learning other languages opens up your mind to other cultures and gives you the ability to embrace and to feel part of them so much more.

Daley family fun time in Melbourne

What is Angela Daley’s motto for life?

Each day is precious!! Enjoy it to the full!!!

Spotlight on Malin Garemo

Originally from Sweden, we take a peek at the varied life of INC president: Malin Garemo, mother of 3, who despite having left school with no desire to continue further education, went on to acquire a PhD in Nutrition and has made a career out of it in Denmark, Abu Dhabi and now Madrid as well as trekking across deserts and mountains, cooking up a storm and devouring copious books.

You have made a career out of nutrition, what prompted you to study Nutrition at university?

I am fascinated by the power of food and its capacity to prevent, cause and heal diseases. Studying nutrition gave me a chance to learn more about the interaction between the body, the mind/brain and food, all equally important for our health.

Colourful food is healthy food

You are originally from near Malmo and in your 20s you moved to Denmark, are the two countries less similar than outsiders think?

On the surface Denmark and Sweden are very similar but the more I got to know the former the greater my appreciation of their differences became. Both the Swedes and the Danes are grounded, genuine and sensitive to the environment and once you have made a friend, that person can easily become a friend for life. When we left Denmark, I felt we´d really had an expat “living abroad” experience.

What did you learn about women´s and pediatric health when you set up a health consultancy in Denmark?

Loads! Women are powerful and the impact mothers have on their children’s life is immense and vice versa.  What we know from research today is that children who grow up with mothers who have a positive body image are happier with themselves, if a mother is doing sports it has a more positive impact on the children than if their fathers are doing sports. By empowering women we give children a better chance to thrive. For me it is a privilege to support and enable women and children to be their best.

Malin in action

After 9 years in Denmark how did you find life in Abu Dhabi?

Super interesting. The desert is beautiful and people are friendly, curious and generous. I was lucky enough to work at the university, teaching young women from a very different culture than my own. I think I learnt more from them than they did from me.

Malin heads for Paris

Do you have any stories about adapting to life here in Madrid after 9 years in Abu Dhabi?

Moving here I could only say Hola and Gracias. Getting help from my children (who knew some Spanish) to sort out the internet, deliveries etc was a pretty humbling experience. It really reminded me about the power of knowledge (and innovative speaking J).  I was very happy when I found INC- a tribe that understands my language.

Malin´s family improvise some dining tables before their furniture arrives in Madrid

As an expert in nutrition and holistic health, do you practise what you preach?

Well, yes to the point that my children once asked the host at a party why she was serving Coca Cola and then promptly informed all the children there that Coca Cola is a medicine that is only fit for consumption when you have a stomach bug at both ends!

On a bit more of a serious note, yes, I try. I am lucky to be surrounded by people that I admire and love. We eat with joy, I have been meditating for many years and I also move a lot in my daily life. All of those ingredients are important for a happy, and thus healthier life.

Summer life in Sweden

What research papers are you writing up for Zayed University in Abu Dhabi? Why did you choose that particular field?

Right now I are working on 3 projects all related to children: one focusing on infant feeding, one about pre-schoolers and their overall heath and finally young athletes, their performances, drivers and how they can be utilised as role models in their social circles.

As a specialist in paediatric nutrition I want to understand what is happening with kids when they are young in order to support them, and their mothers, to create healthier family units. Working with kids is fun-they are completely honest and that has always appealed to me.

Asia is a key member of the family

Not content with your PhD, why have you decided to study world history at Gothenburg University?

It is something I have wanted to do for a long time and coming here, the stars finally aligned-I have the time and Spain reminded me about how little I know about this country. The course is a way to help me learn more.

You are a keen hiker and traveller, across mountains and deserts – tell us about any interesting stories on your trips

Early on I got a taste for travelling and my kids came too since a very early age.  I remember once, on our way to the Philippines, carrying my youngest in a Babybjorn sling , while asking the boys to be patient and wait for our luggage. All of a sudden one vanished into thin air, until my eldest, then 6 years old, delightfully pointed him out “ Mummy, look, Wilhelm is whizzing around on the luggage belt”. Fortunately I managed to get him off the belt before he disappeared with the luggage… There have been times when I wished I was an octopus.  

Exploring Siem Reap, Cambodia

What other hobbies do you enjoy and how do they enrich your life?

Reading, puppy training, gardening, summer house DIY, running and doing nothing …Does that qualify as a hobby? I am very good at spending time with family and friends doing absolutely nothing!

Reading has always been a big part of my life. I am now a member of the INC area 1 Book Club, coordinated by Irlanda. We have read some great books and the meet ups afterwards are always equally stimulating. We are honestly having a real blast!

Crossing the desert between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi

I am keen hiker and one of the most memorable experiences was to cross the desert between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi together with 40 other women –walking 30-35 km a day in 40-55 degrees Celcius in the sun and no shade. Talk about girl power!

I have also been on a lot of hikes with the children and it is such a great way to hang out. You talk, you are silent, you are together and the pace is soothing, once you get into it. And of course, a nice picnic along the road is the big reward. I have also done some amazing hikes around Madrid and can’t wait to do more together with INC.

What´s next for Malin Garemo?

Short term I want to improve my Spanish, get back to running nutrition courses, and run a half marathon with my son. Long term I am dreaming about my own retreat place with hikes, meditation and nutritious food.

Malin never shies away from adventure

What do you hope to bring to INC under your presidency?

The success of INC is built on team spirit and enthusiasm for the club.  In my opinion the stability by long-term members is crucial, as is the inclusion and diversity. By always being equally welcoming and grateful to new members and their ideas INC remains dynamic as well. Isn’t that a great cocktail?

As the president I will always have a listening ear, an open mind and I will also back the team. I will strive to bring out the strengths in each of the board members to ensure that we can build continued success both by our traditions and also by incorporating new events that are relevant and interesting to our members.  I am utterly grateful for all the support offered by everyone. It means a whole lot when you embrace on a new journey.

Face to Face with Cristiane Azem

Susannah Grant comes Face to Face with Cristiane Azem, acclaimed Director, Dancer and Artistic Producer. Originally from Sao Paulo, Cristiane weaves her oriental heritage into her love of belly dancing and explores movement from a fascinating anthropological standpoint.

How old were you when you first started dancing?

I started out with modern ballet and contemporary dance aged 10. Later, aged 15, I was introduced to Flamenco and Spanish folkloric dance for the first time and I instantly fell in love with it. My love of Oriental dance came to me through my family as my father was Lebanese.

You have three strands to your business. Tell us more

Yes, I do. I have had a Dance School in the centre of Madrid for 15 years, where I teach and direct various artistic training projects for professional and amateur students and we put on several artistic productions every year.

In addition, I am a stage director of projects of other professional artists such as the great Flamenco dancer Manuel Reyes or the creator Lenna Beauty from Brazil, as well as international artistic events, mainly in Turkey.

Finally, the third strand of my work is focused on me as a dancer in my own shows, and also as a guest dancer for musicians such as Eduardo Paniagua, Emilio Sanz, Efren Lopez and Misirli Ahmed among others.

What is it that makes your dance school different from others?

Before opening my own school, I taught for 10 years, focussing not only on the dance technique itself but also on the importance of the anthropological and historical features of Eastern culture.

When I opened my own school, I pioneered a method that I call TRANSVERSAL DANCE whereupon I incorporate the experience of literature, the arts, philosophy, anthropology and history into the very heart of teaching of dance. In this way I don’t categorise the students by their level, we practise more of ” a vertical-style learning”, just like it is done in the Eastern way.

Is there a huge difference between the different countries well-known for belly dancing such as Turkey and Middle Eastern nations?

Whilst there is a great variety of styles, there isn´t a huge difference because the steps and movements are similar. However, the way of performing them is the differentiating factor and it is very enriching to study the Oriental dance of each particular region, as well as the different periods and the personal style of the great dancers of the past.

Some of the 25 dancers at the show, NIGHT, in the Teatro Galileo, Madrid

What is the history of belly dancing?

The history of Belly Dancing goes back to the history of human mankind. Starting with the first sacred dances to goddesses and gods and then social dances as a means of communal identification which later became engrained in folklore.

And then came the artistic phase that we know more superficially as “Belly Dance” which was popularised at the beginning of the 20th century by Egyptian cinema. Today belly dancing continues to evolve, often far beyond its origins or its artistic purity.

What is the knack for mastering those tiny, impressive shakes of one´s stomach area?

The first thing is to recognise your own body as having different parts, yet one energy flowing through it.  Then you start to investigate the specific movements of each zone in order to isolate them. This way the “shakes”, “shimmies”, “snakes” and “ondulating movements” gradually appear as something powerful, pleasurable and sensual.

Billowing silk at Cristiane´s dance school

What do Flamenco and Belly Dancing have in common?

Both Flamenco and Belly Dancing have long historical roots that stem from our need to connect with the forces of nature and pass down a cultural legacy to generations to come. Flamenco has a particular musical rhythm that the dancer has to master in order to dance it well. Whereas belly dancing, at first sight appears more subtly sensual and graceful. Both invigorate both body and soul and are very restorative!

What advice would you give to anyone who thinks they have 2 left feet?

Everybody in the world is able to dance. Dance is a gift we all have and if you are shown the doors, you can walk through them without fear and feel all its magic.

Night – a show encompassing both dance and literature at the Teatro Galileo

What is your secret Madrid?

My “secret Madrid” are the windows of my School which are very close to the sky of the Plaza de Tirso de Molina, in the city centre. There I can see wonderful sunsets and the moon… and the trees changing according to the season, I love that.

Ziryab show in the Teatro Compac in Gran Vía

What´s next for Cristiane Azem?

I have three new dance plays about to be released in theatres:

JAMSA dedicated to the Woman of the Orient.

METÁFORA PARA FRIDA dedicated to the work and life of Frida Kahlo combined with women’s poetry.

And the other one, BOHEMIAN VINTAGE, is a show dedicated to an imaginary oriental café in the 30s.

I am also developing a project about García Lorca with important flamenco musicians where we will incorporate the Japanese Butoh technique into flamenco and Lorca’s poetry.

And as on top of all of that I’m preparing the edition of my first book on the anthropological evolution of dance. So lots to look forward to!

Tel 649540067

Email – azemcristiane@gmail.com

www.cristianeazem.com

Ziryab show in which rose petals rain down from the roof of the theatre

Face to Face with Perla Gomes

Sapient samba dancer, Perla tells us how dance has opened numerous doors in her life and those of others in her native Brazil.

How old were you when you first started dancing?

I was 5 years old when my aunt taught me my first Samba steps. By 7 years old I was entering Lambada competitions and by 11 I was choregraphing my own dance routines and I got into traditional folkloric dancing which is huge in Belem, my birth city. At 16 I formed a dance group for lambada, mambo y folk dancing. I am actually self-taught, learning by osmosis from all the influences that surrounded me.

What does dance mean to you?

Dance spells freedom! In order for one to dance you have to shed lots of beliefs, prejudices and fixed mindset. Despite studying IT, in the end dance won me over and took me to Spain aged 22 with 200 euros in my pocket. This is where I really felt fully free to dance.

Perla puts some Belem university students through their paces

What is it about teaching dance that you like especially?

I like to emphasise to my students that anyone and everyone is able to dance any kind of dance, as long as you feel liberated. And also teach them to feel free to dance so that they feel that sense of freedom for themselves!

We´re never too young to dance

Tell us about your charity, Perlas da Amazonia

 Everything I do both professionally and personally is related to the cause of promoting the Amazon and its people. It´s a lifelong passion of mine and involves two-way cultural, touristic and sustainability programmes to promote the Amazon to those outside and help those within. It´s very exciting to watch it thrive and grow.

What sort of events does your company organise?

Prosperity Art Production organises shows and cultural workshops; audiovisual productions including digital marketing, editing and recording as well as event management (both corporate and private fairs etc) We have worked in Tourism Fairs in Madrid, Lisbon and Berlin, put on a Christmas Show for the Prado and a charity event for Circo Price amongst other activities.

What is the history of Samba?

Samba has a long history of amalgamating sounds from Europe, Africa with local indigenous rhythms. The strong drum beat is similar to one´s own heartbeat.

You´re also a trained pilates teacher, is dancing samba helpful for pilates?

It helps as good coordination and body sense is fundamental but it´s not strictly helpful as such.

What advice would you give to anyone who thinks they have 2 left feet?

Shut your eyes, feel the music and let your body flow. Tell yourself you can dance and the power of your positive mind will enable you to do it!

Perla in an Amazonian communities

What´s next for Perla Gomes?

To grow my business digitally and to carry on with Perlas da Amazonia until it´s up there as one of the most important charities in the world!

Perla Gomes

Perlarj@gmail.com

Tel +34 690 38 28 96

Instagram: @perlagomesworld

www.prosperityart.es     www.perlasdaamazonia.com

Spotlight on Irlanda Gutiérrez

This month the Spotlight falls on new INC member, Texan-born tennis star who gave her life a volte-face when she left her corporate career to practise Swedish and sports massage, Irlanda Gutiérrez.

You climbed up the corporate ladder of a male-dominated business. What was it like to be one of very few women in Senior Management of Enterprise Rental Cars?

In those days men made up 90% of the workforce in that sector so it was certainly a challenge for me as a woman. I felt I had to prove myself more than a man in the corporate world in terms of knowledge, efficiency, capacity and putting in the long hours.  Having almost exclusively male colleagues was novel and on the whole pretty smooth. I´d say men are generally very rational and mathematical in the way they operate.

What tips would you give other women juggling careers and children?

Some days were 12-14 hours long so I´d have to race to day-care to breast feed during my lunch hour and run back to work in heels.  Those days were truly insane.  It’s tough to give advice because in hindsight I should have worked less to create a better balance.  However, as  women in the workplace we do have a tough time of it because if we request to work shorter hours it is seen as a sign of weakness. There is definitely no harder job than properly raising your children and upkeeping a home.

What was it in Guadalajara, México that prompted you to delve in massage therapy? 

When I was forced to leave my corporate career because of my husband’s move to Mexico I had to re-evaluate my life and think.. Do I ever want to do that again? The answer was no… it was too high of a price not to be able to give my children and home some of me.  Guadalajara was ahead of Texas in terms of yoga, organic food and meditation and I literally dove in.  When I returned to the States 2 years later, I went back to school in Laredo and Austin to qualify as a Licensed Massage Therapist. After that I did several specialization courses over the world such as India and Switzerland and my particular area of expertise is working with Athletes. I was lucky as with all my sports contacts my practice in Texas was booked solid year-round. I am now practising here in Madrid.

How did you develop an interest in food and what does it mean to you today?

I’m not sure I´m a great cook but I do love to eat, especially the organic fruit and vegetables that I discovered in Mexico.

What was it like working as the official massage therapist for rockstars and celebrities at a concert arena?

I was fortunate to land a fascinating job as the Laredo Arena Therapist as ZZ Top came into town and took my predecessor on tour with them.  So I would be in charge of the singers, dancers and VIP’s for event and concerts.  My kids thought it was so cool that I would attend a rap star or any number of famous people.  They would look larger than life on stage and yet off stage they are just as human, fragile with the same stress and laughter like the rest of us.

Ready for the Nationals!

Tell us about the role competitive tennis has played in your life.

I was very happy being an amateur tennis player and played competitive tennis with my Texas team. We would travel all over the place in competitions and had just the best time.  Team sports and competition give you life for sure, mentally and physically.

Irlanda holds steady

Why have you decided to specialise in sports massage therapy? 

I love being an amateur tennis player and yogi. I understand athletes and their needs. It took me a while to get here but I am now doing what I love the most.

 Has anything surprised you about Spain and its people?  

The way they honor and respect meals and mealtimes is something I am not used to yet rather admire.

What dish would you dream about if you were cast away to a desert island?  

Definitely Thai food and Tacos too!

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in life?  

I´d love to open my own health and wellness center.

Spotlight on Isotta Peira

Isotta´s social suppers

This month we dive into the life of Savonna-born, former travel operator, juvenile butcher extraordinaire, volleyball player and duelling fanatic, Isotta Peira who now runs her own food experience company in La Latina.

Having studied French and Spanish, you first came to Spain in 2013 to work in the travel industry. Tell us about what that period of your life. 

It was a highly frenetic, crazy few years. Italy was deep in recession so I moved to Madrid to take a telemarketing job selling cruises.  I ended up sharing a flat with two other Italian friends and we were all working hideously long hours, 6 days a week. Life was pretty intense as the job was highly competitive and we partied about as hard as we worked. Later on, I got to travel frequently to France, Morocco and India which was a definitely plus point.

Isotta´s legendary Nonna

You started helping out at your grandparents´ butchers´shop when you were 6, how did that prompt you to make a career out of food?

That was a truly memorable part of my life. I became transfixed by the magic of transforming ingredients from one state to another and also by the respect a butcher has for the animal. My passion for food and minimising waste definitely stems from those days.

What was it like working as a chef in an Indian restaurant in London in 2009?

At first it was quite hard as I discovered I had a minor intolerance to coriander which appeared in every single recipe! Fortunately I´ve got over that now.

Isotta teaches the art of homemade pasta

A lot of people think that the Spanish are very similar to the Italians, what similarities and differences have you noticed?

That’s true! We are like cousins ahah. Of course, depending on the region we come from, there can be more similarities or differences.  Both nationalities are fiercely proud of our cultures and talk very loudly! I see that Spaniards are better at switching off after work, something I´m trying to learn!

Isotta and her wife Andrea have some Ratatouille-themed fun

Tell us about the supper club dinners you organised before the pandemic.

Andrea, my Bolivian wife and I hosted our first social dinner in November 2018 with a view to offering authentic home-cooked food in a cosy environment where people from different cultures could comfortably socialise. It was a huge success so we created the brand Eatsperience Madrid, and it is now my fulltime job.  We have organised many a themed evenings such as gnocchi nights and unusual pairings such as artisanal gelato with savoury food.

Female team spirit

What part has sport played in your life?

When I arrived in Madrid I played for an amateur women´s volleyball team which was great fun and very social. Hopefully, I will have more time to join up again after Covid. As a child I took up fencing seriously and became a teacher myself until I went away to University.

Eatsperience goes online

What is your secret Madrid?

When I feel homesick, I go to Mangitalia: an Italian Shop in Calle Galileo. The Italian and Spanish owners have treated me like family from the moment I set foot in the place.

Tell us about your charity work with the elderly in Madrid

My close relationship with my grandmother instilled deep admiration for the elderly and I was introduced to the Fundación Alicia y Guillermo by one of my volleyball team-mates. I have been keeping a lady in her late 80s company for several years. She loves to recount the time when she, as RENFE (train) employee she met the former Queen Sofía of Spain.

Rocking and rolling

What ingredients would you take with you if you were confined on a desert island?

Mangos – I could eat mangos all day! Raw meat with parmesan, followed by carrots and fennel and heaps of pasta on the off-chance I could boil up some water!

Spotlight on Evelyn Nackman

This month the Spotlight falls on seasoned lawyer, amateur flamenco dancer and budding novelist, Evelyn Nackman who is also a Lieutenant Colonel with an artistic flair and a mother of 3.

Tell us what prompted you to pursue a legal career within the US Military

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., one of the most politically charged places in the USA. Where some people grew up with favorite sports teams, my world was divided by political parties. I’m a believer in being the change you want to see. After attending law school in Chicago, I joined the military, and became a lawyer.

The law and the military are two institutions that have traditionally been dominated by men. Women have a powerful stereotype-defying perspective to bring to all institutions. I have been a part of that institutional change within the US military and globally as the US forces interact with the forces of other nations for peacekeeping and coalition building missions. The military’s rigorous professional training helped launch my legal career in the civilian sector.  

Flying high

Are you still involved with the Armed Forces? 

Public service has been an important aspect of my life. I continue to serve my country.  

The strict lockdown in Madrid gave you an opportunity to complete your first book, what prompted you to write a novel? 

My family’s numerous postings meant that I needed to reinvent my career. As an English major in college and a lifelong reader, I’ve always wanted to write fiction. My time in Spain has given me that opportunity.  

Walking like an Egyptian

You have 3 daughters, including twins – how does your husband cope with so many females in the household and are any of the telepathic myths about twins true? 

My husband is one of those rare men who has the gift of charm and grace when it comes to dealing with personalities. At home, he’s treated like a celebrity, so it’s a win-win for him. 

The twins have whatever the opposite of telepathic connection is. They couldn’t be more different. They look nothing alike and act different. They have separate interests, etc. That said, my three girls are best friends and fiercely protective of each other.  

Do you have any stories about adapting to life here in Madrid?

Americans use imperial measurement for the most part and all of our produce, in the US, is weighed at the checkout till. So I have no idea how much a gram of anything is or how much a banana (or anything at all) weighs in either metric or imperial. During the pandemic, I used Hipercor’s online order service which proved just how little I knew.

The metric system drives Evelyn a bit bananas

How has painting been a creative outlet throughout your life? 

Art is just another language trapped inside you. Everyone has art in them of some sort whether your medium is words, paint, clay, or performance. Just like you can say some things better in Spanish or Greek to express yourself, the arts are another way of communicating that which can’t be spoken directly. As such, the best art makes you feel or remember or understand something better about life, as well as being a release for the artist.  

Alexander the Great

I use all types of mediums: pastels, water color, oil paint, etc. Painting is another way of capturing how I see the world, like writing. The creative process connects parts of my brain that were never connected before and expands my understanding of the world.  

I spend as much time as I am able in art museums absorbing the messages and language in the works there. I’ll photograph a painting that strikes me and go home to recreate it with my own colors. Going through another artist’s creative process helps me understand what they’re saying in a way that simply looking at a painting can’t. In this way, Goya and other infamous painters and I have spoken to one another. In the process, I create something new and improve my own expression.  

The Belle at the ball in Vienna

As someone who has been in Madrid for a year how has being a member of INC been beneficial to you? 

INC has been a great way to connect with other women, professionally and personally.  

What is your secret Madrid?

I love finding nooks, interesting views, one-of-a-kind artisanal products, and meeting people in their element. Not the easiest to do right now, but rewarding when I am able to do it. Some of my favorite place are: My art class held in a studio on Calle de Fucar, the view from the RUI Hotel rooftop, Ferreterría by EGO (a restaurant with yummy jamón) anything in Mercado de Paz, and my flamenco classes in Pozuelo. 

Fun times in Santa Barbara

If you could go anywhere, where would you like to live next? 

I’d love to live in France or Italy next. I studied French for years and love both countries. 

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?  

I waved it! My wish was granted! I’m starting my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with NYU in Paris this January. I’ll be on my writing journey for a while, hopefully capitalizing on my experiences since I left full time legal practice.  

Brihuega – enveloped in the heady aromas of lavender, larger than life Hobbit caves and some Guinness record-holding miniatures

“And if you don´t come out by 1 pm I´ll be putting you through the mince grinder” quipped the seasoned butcher-cum-custodian of the Arab caves to my daughter who was dawdling in the labyrinthine tunnels under the main square.  Visitors to the sprawling caves have to negotiate the swinging carcasses in his shop next to the main entrance in order to request the key.

Hide and seek in the Arab caves

Images of 7-year old Claudia being ground into Anglo-Spanish meatballs prompted me to give her a prod as I checked my watch anxiously. The children had been spending a merry hour scampering through the 8 km maze of tunnels dating from the 10th Century.  Originally built to provide sanctuary from invaders and religious persecutors, the constant temperature of 12 degrees had also rendered the caves under the main square a convenient storage facility.

The Main Square

The medieval-walled town of Brihuega, at only 90 km from Madrid makes for an interesting daytrip. With only 3000 inhabitants, the population of this historic town in Guadalajara is swelled by visitors flocking to admire the local lavender fields that bloom in July. The rest of the time you can enjoy most of the venerable sights without the ubiquitous crowds more commonly found in Segovia or Toledo. Lavender features heavily in the local economy and its heady aroma is used in soaps and sweets in and around the town´s bustling market and shops.

Another unusual highlight on offer is the world-acclaimed Miniatures Museum* that houses over 65,000 tiny replicas of anything from hats to palaces; dogs; suitcases; cities; shops; furniture and even “The 7 Wonders of the World”, the latter of which are painted onto lentils. A feast for all ages of eyes and definitely a contender for “Most Unusual Museum” prize with its chewing gum sculptures and matchstick paintings. And there was me expecting an aeroplane-size bottle of Beefeater.

San Felipe Iglesia

Brihuega also boasts several notable examples of historic architecture such as the Romanesque Iglesia de San Felipe; the Castle of Piedra Bermeja whose origins date back to Arab times, a 17th Century convent and Textile Factory offering impressive views across the Tajuña Valley. It was at the castle cemetery that we stumbled across some charming Romanians. After a short exchange about our elusive bear tracking exploits there a few years ago and the underwhelming promotion of their country´s fascinating sights beyond Dracula and Transylvania we established that, coincidentally, they were huge fans of my brother´s TV documentary series on the bears and medieval communities in the Carpathian mountains which was took us all rather by surprise.  

Searching for burly bears in Romania

All this talk of Romanian sausages gave us an appetite and if you´re after some authentic Alacarreñan cuisine there are plenty of restaurants with wood-fired ovens serving roasted pork, lamb and fish dishes to choose from. However, if you´re looking for the full gourmet experience then head to Michelin-starred Doncel where you can dine out on Black pudding chips, 4 x 4 Pork scratchings (evenly crisped up on all four sides) and Venison carpaccio with Thyme ice cream. On my next visit I will just have to borrow a concoction from Alice in Wonderland to shrink the kids and donate them to the Miniatures Museum so as to indulge myself on Bambi and fries uninterrupted.

Queen of the Castle

A mere 10 minutes by car from the Brihuega centre takes you to the Tolkienesque abandoned village of Cívica. There is a charming outdoor café at the river´s edge opposite the ruins where you can recharge after exploring the tangled web limestone hidey-holes that may have hosted many a retiring monk or Sephardic Jew according to local legend.

Find Frodo

All in all, Brihuega and its environs make for an enchanting peak into Castillian history against an intriguing backdrop of fantasy and myths.

*Museum opening times may be affected by Covid-19