Anna Francesch, Singer
"You should probably just wear them yourself. My feet are so messed up from dancing," she says.
We're on a photo shoot for a magazine article I'm writing, but we're having trouble keeping our efforts serious. So many of the photos are rendered unusable because Anna's laughing, her wide smile pulling her eyes closed, the images mostly out of focus.
The article is a cultural piece about espadrilles, or espardenyas, as they're known here in Catalunya. Although I haven't quoted her in the article, I probably should have, because Anna owns more espardenyas than anyone I know. Most of them are worn with age, the way her point shoes are, a mark of love and dedication. Luckily the light is falling and the dirt scuffs are muddled by the shadows that fall over the small corner of Parc de la Ciutadella where we're shooting. There's something about the overgrown building and the chipping paint and Anna's dirt-scuffed shoes that creates a kind of poetic trifecta.
Anna's not a model, but she's certainly no stranger to performance. If you asked Anna what she does, she might say singer, or dancer, or a teacher, depending on the day. If you asked her what she wants to do, she would probably say she doesn't know yet. In the afternoons, she teaches piano at Escola Municipal de Música d'El Prat and gives lessons at home on the weekends. But lately, she's been experimenting with composing, filling page after page in her notebook with scribbled notations--simple melodies and snatches of lyrics that have come to her.
"It's really hard," she says. "I just don't know what I'm doing."
"Which part?" I ask.
"The lyrics. I don't know how to write. I've never been good at it, and to be honest I've really never liked it."
Lyrics, she explains, stick with her. They convey something to her that the music doesn't, or at least something different. It's why she wants so much to get it right. We spend the better part of an hour talking through the music she's written, the phrases she's been turning over in her head.
Composing, however, isn't entirely new to Anna. She also performs locally, singing in a show called Concert per Cine Mut (Mute Cinema Concert) that she conceived of and co-produced with her good friend pianist Max Villavecchia. Together the pair created an original soundtrack for three different silent movies. For Berlin, Symphony of a Metropolis, a work of German expressionist cinema by Walter Ruttmann, the pair selected ten songs, both reinterpretations and original compositions, which range in style from jazz to rock. The experience has been a great one for her, and has helped to shape her budding career as an artist in the local music scene.
Although she adores teaching, more and more lately, she's been feeling like she needs to move on to bigger things. It's partly this feeling which has driven her recent creative spark. Anna's also been offered a temporary position at a prestigious local conservatory, one which she applied to be on the waiting list for six years ago. Although the post is only for two months to cover a leave of absence, she thinks it might just be the push she needs to grow in a new direction.
We continue to set up shots until the light disappears entirely. We're tired and Anna's mussed from crawling in and out of bushes for the last two hours. We pack up the four pairs of shoes we've brought, the costume changes, and the camera equipment, filling her bike basket to overflowing, and head toward home in the growing dusk.
I ask her if her foot hurts where she broke it last winter. She laughs at the memory. "I've been dancing almost all my life," she says. "And then one day in dance class I break my foot, just standing there. Not even doing anything. It's unbelievable."