Monday, June 29, 2015

Venice Biennale Dance 2015 - Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and The Golden Lion

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Tale Dolven in FASE - La Biennale Danza

(Venice, Italy) Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, the Belgian dancer, choreographer, and founder of the Rosas dance company, was the recipient of this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for Dance awarded by the Venice Biennale. De Keersmaeker is so original that Beyoncé "borrowed" some moves to create the dance steps for her Countdown video. Here are the two dancers side by side:


When De Keersmaeker got a Facebook message about the Beyoncé videoclip -- which is the way she learned that her work Rosas danst Rosas had zapped its way into pop culture -- she commented:

...People asked me if I’m angry or honored.Neither, on the one hand, I am glad that Rosas danst Rosas can perhaps reach a mass audience which such a dance performance could never achieve, despite its popularity in the dance world since 1980s. And, Beyoncé is not the worst copycat, she sings and dances very well, and she has a good taste!

On the other hand, there are protocols and consequences to such actions, and I can’t imagine she and her team are not aware of it.

To conclude, this event didn’t make me angry, on the contrary, it made me think a few things.Like, why does it take popular culture thirty years to recognize an experimental work of dance? A few months ago, I saw on Youtube a clip where schoolgirls in Flanders are dancing Rosas danst Rosas to the music of Like a Virgin by Madonna. And that was touching to see. But with global pop culture it is different, does this mean that thirty years is the time that it takes to recycle non-mainstream experimental performance?And, what does it say about the work of Rosas danst Rosas?

In the 1980s, this was seen as a statement of girl power, based on assuming a feminine stance on sexual expression. I was often asked then if it was feminist. Now that I see Beyoncé dancing it, I find it pleasant but I don’t see any edge to it. It’s seductive in an entertaining consumerist way.

Beyond resemblance there is also one funny coincidence. Everyone told me, she is dancing and she is four months pregnant. In 1996, when De Mey‘s film was made, I was also pregnant with my second child. So, today, I can only wish her the same joy that my daughter brought me.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Tale Dolven

De Keersmaeker's extraordinary performance on Saturday night, June 27, of her 1982 piece FASE, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, received a standing ovation. According to Biennale, "this piece exploded onto the scene and is still considered to have been the starting point of the contemporary dance movement that developed in Flanders during the eighties."

De Keersmaeker was born in 1960, which made her about 22-years-old when she created Fase 33 years ago (when Beyoncé was about one-year-old:). Fase is a sophisticated masterpiece, danced to complex phasing music created by minimalist pioneer, Steven Reich.

Before the show - Outside Teatro alle Tese, Arsenale

To appreciate how extraordinary the evening was, we must first understand what phasing means when applied to music. According to Wikipedia:

Phasing is a compositional technique in which the same part (a repetitive phrase) is played on two musical instruments, in steady but not identical tempi.

Steven Reich experimented with this technique back in 1967 to create the first piece of the evening, Piano Phase, which is easier to define by listening, rather than explain with words, but the folks at Wikipedia give it a shot:

Reich's phasing works generally have two identical lines of music, which begin by playing synchronously, but slowly become out of phase with one another when one of them slightly speeds up. Reich had previously applied this technique only to sounds recorded on magnetic tape, but experimenting in his studio, he found it was possible for humans to replicate the effect.

In Piano Phase, he has the two pianists begin by playing a rapid twelve-note melodic figure over and over again in unison (E4 F4 B4 C5 D5 F4 E4 C5 B4 F4 D5 C5). After a while, one of the pianists begins to play his part slightly faster than the other. When he is playing the second note of the figure at the same time the other pianist is playing the first note, the two pianists play at the same tempo again. They are therefore playing notes at exactly the same time, but they are not the same notes as they were at the start of the piece.

The process is repeated, so that the second pianist plays the third note as the first pianist is playing the first, then the fourth, and so on until the process has gone full circle, and the two pianists are playing in perfect unison again. The second pianist then fades out, leaving the first playing the original twelve-note melody. They then seamlessly change to a similar melody made up of eight notes. The second piano fades in again, only this time playing a different eight-note melody at the same time. The phasing then begins again. ...

Anne Teresa De Keermaeker, Dance Director Virgilio Sieni, Biennale President Paolo Baratta - Golden Lion

Now just try dancing to that. De Keersmaeker and the more-than-20-years-younger Tale Dolven started off in unison as if they were both pendulums on two different clocks, perfectly in sync. As the dance progressed, the women spun in a circle, skirts twirling, moving slightly out of sync, as did the music, until they were directly facing each other... The mathematics and skill involved were riveting. They never missed a beat. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is a woman who is tapped into the mystical, sensual female energy that never grows old, but teems with eternal life. No wonder Beyoncé stole her moves.

Dirty Hands and Beauty by Cesc Gelabert in Campo Sant'Angelo

Meanwhile, throughout Venice, Virgilio Sieni, the Director of the Biennale Dance Section, scattered the Biennale College of Dance in strategic campi, allowing tourists and locals alike to stumble into performances choreographed by masters on the international scene. I was impressed with the quality of the students -- I thought most of them were not only talented, but daring and courageous.

Tiny dancers

But what moved me the most was the amount of children -- the under 5-set -- that spontaneously moved into the empty campi just before the shows, in front of the eyes of the adults, and simply started dancing.

Ciao from Venezia,CatVenetian Cat - The Venice Blog


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Melissa Conn Honored with Titian + Michelle Obama in Venice

Melissa Conn & St. Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas & Damian, Rocco & Sebastian by Titan
(Venice, Italy) Michelle Obama and the female contingent of her family were here in Venice on Friday, June 19, 2015, the same evening that Melissa Conn, Director of the Venice Office of Save Venice, was honored with a Titian that had been restored in her honor.

Saint Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas and Damian, Roch and Sebastian was one of Titian's earliest works, thought to be his first independent commission (1508-9). The great Venetian artist lied about his age, so we are not exactly sure how old Titian was when he painted it -- he was born about 1488, so around 20-years-old, which seems astonishing given the sophistication of the work. At that time Venice was worried about being stricken by the deadly plague, which was viewed as divine punishment, so not only was Saint Mark the Evangelist evoked, but also four other saints whose super powers include their ability to ward off illnesses. The painting was originally executed for the Church of Santo Spirito in Isola, but in 1656 it was transferred to the Madonna della Salute, one of Venice's most spectacular votive churches.

Who are the Five Saints?

Saint Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas and Damian, Roch and Sebastian by Titian (1508-09)
Saint Mark the Evangelist

Saint Mark, of course, is the patron saint of Venice. He is one of the four evangelists, and the author of the Gospel of Mark. He founded the Christian Church of Alexandria in 49AD, which displeased the pagan leaders, so they tied a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he died. Saint Mark's symbol is the winged lion, which is also the symbol of Venice. Venetian merchants stole his body from Alexandria in 828, and brought his relics here to Venice, where, according to legend, an angel had declared his body would rest. Today you can find Saint Mark's relics on the high altar inside the Basilica of San Marco.

Saints Cosmas and Damian - the Doctors

Saints Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers. Both were doctors and, more importantly, Christians -- Christians who worked for free -- "unmercenary physicians" -- around the year 300, during the time when the Emperor Diocletian was targeting Christians who did not comply with Roman religious practices. Diocletian was a conservative right-wing Roman who was determined to crush the expanding infidel, which, at that time, were Christians. Refusing to recant their faith, Cosmas and Damian were tortured: hung on a cross, stoned, shot with arrows and then beheaded.

Cosmas and Damian
Saint Sebastian - Undercover Christian Bodyguard

Saint Sebastian lived around the same time as Cosmas and Damian, and was known for his miraculous ability to heal -- he's the go-to saint in times of sickness and pestilence. Sebastian was the commander of Emperor Diocletian's bodyguards -- the emperor obviously did not know Sebastian was actually a Christian. So when Diocletian would haul in someone who would refuse to sacrifice to the Roman gods, Sebastian would convert them to Christianity on the sly. When Diocletian found out one of his own guards was converting prisoners to Christianity, he had Sebastian shot full of arrows, which is how he is often portrayed in works of art.

However, Sebastian did not die. He was rescued by Irene of Rome, who nursed him back to health. Sebastian then went straight back to a staircase where Diocletian was passing and condemned the emperor for targeting Christians, which did not go over too well with Diocletian -- not only was Sebastian not dead, he had not learned to keep his mouth shut. Diocletian had Sebastian clubbed to death and thrown into a sewer. As the centuries went on, people would pray to Sebastian as a defense against the plague, which is why he is in Titian's painting with the doctors.

Roch and Sebastian
Saint Roch - the Governor's Son

Saint Roch did not come along until about a thousand years later, around 1300. He was a French nobleman from Montpellier, the son of the governor, who gave up his worldly goods to tend to the sick. He came to Italy during the plague, and could heal the ill with just the sign of the cross or the touch of his hand. When he himself became ill, he went to the forest, where he was tended by a hunting dog who brought him bread (and eventually his owner).

When he became well, Roch returned to incognito to Montpellier, where his uncle, now the governor, (not knowing who Roch was) threw him in prison for being a spy, where Roch died. But Roch, too, had become a popular figure invoked for deliverance from the plague -- even though he was not a proper saint. The Venetians brought Roch's body to Venice in 1485, where a church, hospital and confraternity were erected in his honor. Roch was not officially canonized until Pope Gregory XIV came along in 1590, so when Titan painted him in this painting around 1510, Roch was a saint-in-waiting. His body is here in Venice in the Church of San Rocco.

Melissa Conn Honored with Titian at Salute
Saint Mark Enthroned was restored "thanks to a contribution of David and Ellen Rosand in honor of Melissa Conn with an anonymous contribution in honor of David Rosand." David Rosand was a revered art historian who died last August, as well as the project director of Save Venice, Inc., an American organization that restores precious works here in Venice. Rosand's specialty was 16th-century Venetian art; Titian in particular.

That David and Ellen Rosand have honored Melissa Conn with the restoration of a Titian in her name illustrates the high esteem in which she is held not only within the organization, but within the city of Venice. Melissa herself selected the painting that would be restored, which she said was a "tremendous responsibility." The powerful Saint Mark Enthroned was a wise choice -- a compelling votive painting inside a formidable votive church. With such illustrious saints watching Saint Mark's back, the freshly-restored painting should hold the Lord's attention for another thousand years.

The Female Obama Contingent in Venice 

First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in Venice

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama, daughters Maila and Sasha, and mother Marian, arrived in Venice after a trip out to the U.S. military base in nearby Vicenza. After visiting the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale in Piazza San Marco, apparently they had to hole up in the Molina Stucky Hilton due to a glitch in the satellite signal that provides security for the First Lady.

However, on Saturday morning (after a hearty breakfast of cereal:-) they did manage to make it out to the Biennale International Contemporary Art Festival, where they met Joan Jonas, the artist of the award-winning United States Pavilion, and curator Paul Ha. Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, accompanied them across the bridge for an impromptu visit to the pavilions of Syria, Egypt and Poland. Michelle exclaimed that she thought the exhibition, "amazing." She said that a lot of her friends told her that she had to see the Venice Biennale, and that she was very happy to be here.

Joan Jonas with Michelle Obama & the gang at Biennale
Next it was out to Murano to visit the Cenedese glass factory, and lunch at B Restaurant (the former Vecchia Pescheria) where they enjoyed a fresh, healthy meal of local Venetian delights. Because of another satellite glitch, they were not able to go to the lace-making island of Burano, or the Giorgio Cini Foundation, or the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, but returned to the Molina Stucky Hilton.

Michelle Obama at Restaurant B
Also on Saturday, I saw a superyacht named Limitless in the lagoon, docked over by Giardini where Michelle and the gang were visiting La Biennale. Limitless was flying a large American flag and creating an extremely high profile. Curious, I googled the owner, who turned about to be Leslie Wexner of The Limited and Victoria's Secret fame, and the richest man in Ohio. One could spend hours reading about Les Wexner's activities, which are related to Israel, strong support for the war in Iraq, fund raising for Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign and long ties to Jeffrey Epstein -- in other words, he did not seem to be in the Barack Obama camp. Perhaps his superyacht just happened to be in the neighborhood...

Superyacht Limitless in Venice lagoon
Saturday night, June 20th, was also Art Night Venezia, a glorious night when many of Venice's museums and art galleries remain open late, and the town is filled with vibrant energy. Then, Michelle and the gang did manage slip out of the Molina Stucky to take a night ride on the Grand Canal, and visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection after it had closed to the public, where they had a chance to view the superb Jackson and Charles Pollock exhibitions now on show.

Michelle Obama Leaving Venice
After sprinkling American goodwill all over Venice, on Sunday morning, Michelle and the gang hopped back on Air Force Two, which was parked out at Marco Polo Airport. Michelle Obama declared that she had fallen in love with Venice, and that she would be back soon with Barack. The energy she left behind was so dazzling... it gave me a new appreciation of what subtle power the First Lady of the United States of America can wield.

Here is one of my favorite Michelle Obama moments: the #GimmeFive dance challenge with Ellen DeGeneres. How great is it that we have a First Lady who can dance?

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

THE RAPE OF VENICE + Create Your Own Scent at Palazzo Mocenigo

Rape of Venice

(Venice, Italy) The strong words: THE RAPE OF VENICE is the title of an installation by the Venetian multi-media artist Andrea Morucchio on the ground floor of Palazzo Mocenigo, the former residential palace of the San Stae branch of the prolific Mocenigo family that gave Venice seven doges. Opened to the public in 1985, Palazzo Mocenigo is now part of the Civic Museums of Venice, and is dedicated to fashion, fabric and fragrance. The elegant palace was completely restored two years ago, in 2013, with the enthusiastic assistance of the Venetian Vidal family and Mavive, their international fragrance company.


Mavive uses provocative marketing to sell some of their brands like Police, Replay and Zippo Fragrances. Mavive is also the sponsor of The Rape of Venice by Andrea Morucchio, who was inspired by words from Joseph Brodsky's Watermark: "To be sure, everybody has designs on her, on this city. Politicians and big business especially, for nothing has a greater future than money. [...] The goal of all that is one: rape."

The installation bombards the senses. It features actual headlines like VENICE IS SINKING UNDER A TIDAL WAVE OF CORRUPTION from international newspapers that stream by on two large screens, accompanied by a cacophony of underwater recordings of maritime traffic in the lagoon. The ancient tiled floor of the Basilica of San Marco has been reproduced and recomposed with disjointed elements. The air is filled with the scent of the Essence of Venice especially created by Mavive for the installation, inspired by Brodsky's description of utter happiness after arriving in Venice, which radiates "the smell of freezing seaweed." (I am wearing the scent right now, and it is bewitching.)

Mavive's own Marco Vidal has written an excellent essay for the slim catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, which powerfully clarifies the situation Venice finds itself in today. Here it is in its entirety:

"I have always thought that Venice could become a model city in the world for its quality of life and a human and social dimension now lost in most modern cities, where meeting in the street and sharing public spaces has become something rare and sought after.

Marco Vidal


Having the chance to travel I have often had confirmation of this. The most advanced cities try to create pedestrian and social spaces within them. The more enlightened public administrations and town planners tend to try to create residential areas where social life is encouraged, with meeting places often enriched by fine architectural surrounds, offering museums and green 'lungs' where the external noise, pollution, advertising pressure and chaos are neutralised.

Thirty years ago this could have been the starting point for a new Venice projected toward the future; a place where this dimension already existed, enriched by a unique architectural and artistic heritage and an absolutely extraordinary environment, its lagoon.

The challenge was economic, to give the resident population prospects in terms of jobs, differentiated work sectors and fast connections with the surrounding district compatible with the speed of modern life.Thirty years ago, for example, it would probably have been possible to convert the Porto Marghera area in such a way that it could have accommodated the many extraordinary, non-chemical production plants that were scattered throughout the Veneto region in those years of economic growth. An economy related to Venice as its vital heart, in a few words, could have been able to present us as an advanced city.

This was a big lost opportunity for Venice. The political choices of the last thirty years have focused on an economic and social model contrary to what I have described above, a model based solely on the uncontrolled exploitation of Venice's land and beauty.

The only economy to which Venice opened its doors was tourism, but without any organisational or management plan that would draw on its proper value. Year by year the uncontrolled flows have grown to a level that seems to be 30 million visitors. I say 'seems' because not even the statistical analysis of the flows has been institutionalized, perhaps to arouse less concern.

But in these last twenty years as tourism grew to the point of reaching 30 million visitors, what happened to the city of Venice? Did the tourist economy correspond to any wealth for Venice?In the same years as the tourist boom there was a drop in the resident population from 93,000 in 1981 to 56,000 in 2014: about 40% fewer residents in the last thirty years.

Entire generations of young people born in Venice, or who have graduated from the prestigious Venetian universities, have been forced to pack their bags to find a job and a house to build themselves a future, away from Venice. Here there is no work outside the tourist sector, and the property market has surged due to the demand for holiday homes and space for tourism.

Every year tens of thousands of square metres of residential space once intended for residents have been the subject of a change of use allowed by the city council for tourist reception activities, room lets, B&Bs and hotels.

In the last three years the Venice city council has accumulated a budget deficit of several hundred million euros against the growth of the tourist economy, necessitating the cutting of some fundamental services and an increase in council taxes, which are now among the highest in Italy. The city council has for years not had the money to maintain Venice and its monuments, and has been obliged to sell its own prestige property holdings to cover only part of the hole in the balance, and to use the facades of the most significant monuments for advertising campaigns that can sustain restoration costs.


In addition to the flight of the resident population, thousands of historic Venetian activities and public and private offices have moved or closed down: all unable to maintain their base in Venice because of the property prices swollen by tourist demand and the pool of users now cut to the bone.


Alongside, commercial activities are now in the hands of big brands owned by luxury multinationals on one hand and of souvenir bazaars on the other, defined as Venetian but made in third world countries. Neither of these kinds of activity leads to any extended redistribution of local wealth; most of the goods sold in Venice to the 30 million tourists are not made in the area, residents are seldom employed in their sale and often their owner is not even a physical person.


The land is then exploited without any logic of organisation or flow distribution, with the result that Venice suffers overcrowding at various times of the year, while other parts of the council's territory have been completely forgotten: the Lido di Venezia, antique pearl of elite international tourism, is in a state of abandon; Porto Marghera, which was one of the biggest industrial areas in Europe, is now empty, does not offer jobs and is a decaying industrial desert. After thirty years Mestre is still in search of its own identity.

These are the results of political choices made and supported for decades in Venice by a local political class that has been distinguished by numerous corruption scandals, the squandering of public money on pointless public works, favours in exchange for patronage votes and insufficiency on all sides.

This political class is certainly supported by a population that is in some cases compliant, in some myopic and in others resigned, but certainly needs replacement with new lifeblood from outside.

Because of the active rejection I feel towards this model that is killing Venice, as an entrepreneur and citizen of Venice I support Andrea Morucchio's work and his political message.

It is a message that starts with the hundreds of articles in international papers dealing with Venice that genuinely report the outrage every person feels in knowing the condition towards which the most beautiful city in the world seems destined.


An exposé of the shame we feel at having to read all over the world about scandals that concern us directly, from the big ships that continue to sail undaunted through St. Mark's Basin, to the corruption of a political class that in any case continues to govern the city, and the depopulation of a city that is becoming a themed amusement park.


Venus Anadyomene by Titian (1520)

But it is not a resigned message. Together with the artist, it is precisely the path of smell that marks a call to what is the essence of Venice and around which the future of the city must be built. This primordial perfume, extrapolated from a passage by Brodsky defining the essence of Venice as that of algae frozen in winter, a mixed green and vegetal perfume, takes us back to the natural and primordial essence of the 'Anadyomene' city, born from the water like Venus Anadyomene.


In order to create this essence we made use of a great Italian 'nose,' Maurizio Cerizza of AFM, a highly experienced master perfumer who has created hundreds of successful perfumes during his professional career. On a winter's day we accompanied him by boat to immerse himself in the smells of Venice and the most unpolluted part of the lagoon in order to perceive the same smells that inspired Brodsky's piece and recreate them for our installation. We then made a very limited production of it for those wishing to possess the 'essence of Venice.'


Morucchio's work is intended to recreate a synaesthetic atmosphere that envelops the visitors' senses, striking their sight in strong tones with the shocking headlines of international papers exposing the speculation on Venice, and their hearing with the sound of underwater recordings of maritime traffic in the lagoon. But finally, through smell, the visitor is recalled to the primordial essence of Venice, a smell that leads the mind to its water, its vegetation, its delicate and most real dimension.

And with respect for its natural dimension and appreciation of this unique heritage, the artist and all of us who worked on the project entitled The Rape of Venice want to attract the attention and active involvement of all those who will synaesthetically experience the work in favour of Venice."

Inside Palazzo Mocenigo
Inside Palazzo Mocenigo

Now, this is Cat: In 1900, Marco Vidal's great-grandfather, Angelo Vidal, created a small perfume laboratory at San Stae, in the center of Venice. He began by manufacturing household products, then went on to create soaps, and finally perfumes and cosmetics. In keeping with tradition, Mavive is offering 2-hour perfume composition courses inside the majestic Palazzo Mocenigo, where participants will learn the basics and then create their own scents. The €80 price of the course includes the kit and perfume, requires a minimum of six participants, and can be held in Italian, English or French. The link to book doesn't seem to be running yet, but it will be found at

Venice Lagoon Bird Strikes "La Fenice" Pose

Like Marco Vidal, I, too, have always thought that Venice could become the model city of the world, with solar-electric hybrid boats inside the lagoon, and green areas where people can relax, children can play and dogs can romp -- even a baby park like the one in the Hudson River Park in Manhattan. If the State and the City of New York can work together to create an immense 550-acre park which transformed the decrepit area along the Hudson River into something splendid, then surely the Region of the Veneto and the City of Venice can do something similar here in Venice.

I recently attended a Webinar conducted by the International Center for Climate Governance entitled Impact of Climate Change on the Venetian Lagoon. I was amazed to learn that Venice could have the capacity to produce its own energy due to the natural gasses produced by the salt marshes in the lagoon. Venice could even sell the energy for a profit:) The focus of the conference was:

"The importance of protecting and restoring coastal wetlands and specifically salt marshes, mangrove forests and seagrass prairies will be discussed during the seminar, using the Venice lagoon as an example. These ecosystems have a direct ability of mitigating climate change since they are able to sequester large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store it in the soil (blue carbon) as organic matter and peat. Once the peat is stored underground, the preservation of these reservoirs should be a priority, since these areas, once drained and cultivated, become an important source of CO2. The example of the Bacino Zennare, a very productive agricultural area in the South basin of the Venice Lagoon, will be presented during the seminar and the hypothesis of re-wetting the basin will be discussed, also showing the results of a costs-benefits analysis."

Joseph Brodsky also said that Venice is "the greatest masterpiece our species produced." Venice is a great work-in-progress, a masterpiece that needs to be restored, and then transformed into a shining example of a model city for all humanity.

The Rape of Venice runs through November 22, 2015. Click for more information.

CLICK to read the My Art Guides interview with Andrea Morucchio.

Ciao from Venezia,


Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hard Rock Cafe in Venice - Free food! World Burger Tour

Hard Rock Cafe on a boat - Free food!
(Venice, Italy) Hard Rock Cafe was giving out free food all last week in choice locations throughout Venice as part of their World Burger Tour. Hard Rock has 199 venues in 63 countries, and encourages each location to add local flavor to the traditional burger. Here in Italy, they hooked up with Piaggio Ape, the classic Italian three-wheel light-weight commercial vehicle, to take their food to the streets. Since we've got streets made of water in Venice, they came up with a Hard Rock Cafe food boat, which traveled to five different locations and handed out mini burgers, fries and a chocolate brownie to everyone who lined up to grab some free food.

Line for Hard Rock Cafe boat
I went to the venue over by Ca' Foscari, Venice's university. The line went all the way down the fondamenta. The mood was festive; the music of a local Venetian band, Pittura Fresca, cranked over the loud speakers. The cooks were whipping up their Local Legendary Burgers on a grill designed by Electrolux Professional, who collaborated with Hard Rock. 

The ingredients were local: Speck, Asiago cheese, and Radicchio from Treviso, or a tasty veggie burger with fresh toppings (I sampled both:). All the employees seemed to be from the Veneto. The only thing that wasn't local were the drinks -- Pepsi or Lipton ice tea -- but they did have an Italian beverage, Nastro Azzuro beer, who was their main partner. 

Chefs at work
So it seems that Hard Rock Cafe is actually continuing on its mission to support local businesses and encourage Venetian culture. It is a refreshing change from when Hard Rock first arrived in Venice on April 9, 2009. Back then, many employees were not Venetian at all, but from places like Naples. It seemed to be the Venice headquarters for the newly-expanded American military base in Vicenza, about 40 miles away. The United States was about to begin its surge in Afghanistan, and Venice was crawling with military personnel hopped up on warrior energy... it was drugs, sex and rock 'n roll with an added, dangerous element: soldiers. And the business of soldiers is completely different than the business of rockers. Think Altamont, when the Hells Angels ended up doing security during the Rolling Stones performance. Something like that, only with people armed with military weapons instead of knives...

Under the management of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, who had acquired the international company on March 11, 2007, the Hard Rock Cafe in Venice seemed to have gotten far away from the original inspiration of the founders, Isaac Burton Tigrett and Peter Morton, who created one of the world's largest collection of rock and roll memorabilia -- or perhaps HRC had just hooked up with the wrong locals...

Isaac Burton Tigrett & Peter Morton - Original creators of Hard Rock Cafe
After that dark beginning, the Hard Rock Cafe needed to work hard to change its image here in town. So, I'm happy to learn that they have make many positive efforts in that regard. To me, the greatest change has been in the staff. Everyone I met was charming and enthusiastic -- and from the Veneto! 

Seminole Tribe of Florida
The Seminole Tribe of Florida is the only Native American tribe who never surrendered to the US Army and never signed a formal peace treaty. The United States was determined to force the tribe out of Florida, and did manage to kill or drive the majority of Seminoles off their land. But a tiny group hid out in the Everglades swamp land, refusing to leave Florida. They have come a long way since then, earning revenues of $1.1 billion in 2005 after establishing tax-free smoke shops and high-stakes bingo. Their newspaper, The Seminole Tribune, is subtitled: "The Voice of the Unconquered."

From their website:

The Seminole Tribe is headquartered in Hollywood, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. It is a sovereign government with an elected Tribal Council of five members. Governmental expenditures are earmarked for police and fire protection, emergency medical services, education, health care, housing, water treatment, economic development, and parks and recreation.

More than 90 percent of the Tribe’s budget is currently derived from gaming revenue. The Hard Rock International acquisition will provide additional diversification sought by the Tribal Council. Its business operations currently include cattle ranching, citrus production, tourism promotion, sports management and tobacco sales.

Nearly 3,300 Seminole Indians live on and off reservations throughout Florida. Seminoles pay taxes, serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and vote in elections. They are descended from a few hundred Seminoles that escaped into the Everglades in the mid-1800s, when the U.S. Government attempted to relocate all of Florida’s Seminoles and other Indians to Oklahoma in what became known as “The Trail of Tears.”

Matthew Road and His Henchman
Venetians and Seminole Indians seem born of the same spirit, so it is no wonder that the tribe rapidly changed the way they do business in town. I was invited to an American 50s night last Friday, featuring Wild Turkey Bourbon and rockabilly band Matthew Road and His Henchman, who were Italian. (I was surprised to learn that Wild Turkey is now owned by the Campari Group, an Italian company! Talk about globalization...) I kicked back with a Mint Julep (I was born in South Carolina:) to enjoy the show. It is hard for me to resist old time rock and roll, and before I knew it, I was dancing with a group of much younger women to Elvis Presley and Jail House Rock. I had a genuinely good time, and it seemed that so did everyone else. It was some good ol' American rock and roll, Italian style.

Hard Rock Cafe - LOVE ALL. SERVE ALL.
Upstairs, over the diners' heads blazed the famous words: LOVE ALL. SERVE ALL, the words of Sai Baba, Isaac Burton Tigrett's guru, which the Seminole Tribe inherited when they bought the Hard Rock Cafe. Tigrett said that he ran the Hard Rock Cafe business not only on that message of love, but also on Sai Baba's teaching of the five human values: Peace, Love, Truth, Righteousness and Non-violence.

It feels like the Seminole Tribe of Florida has finally gotten on the right path. And if we have an American business like the Hard Rock Cafe right in the heart of Venice, it's fitting that it's owned by an unconquered Native American Tribe.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog