Mardi Gras 2004
|by Monica Conrady
Dance Kaiso, founded in 1987, first appeared in Carnaval San Francisco in 1988--a small group of percussionists and dancers wearing raffia and leopard. In subsequent years, Robbin and Wilfred played Carnaval, first with the group Mas Makers and then with All Ah We.
In 2002 they were back with their own contingent. Dance Kaiso's Bat Mas won several awards that year. In 2003, 62 students joined 70 adults to play Carnaval. Their theme: a "Mass Affirmation of Peace," aka "Make Art, Not War!"
When it comes to diversity, Carnaval San Francisco has no equal. All the famous carnavals of the world are well represented here: Brazil, Trinidad, Panama, Bolivia--you name it. This year we have an addition which will be familiar to everyone--a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras!
Mardi Gras! 2004
The idea of having Mardi Gras came to Dance Kaiso's directors--Robbin Frey and Wilfred Mark--a couple of years ago at carnaval time, when a participant asked if they could throw beads to the crowd. There was no room on the float to do so then but the seed of an idea was thus sown for the future...
First, the "float"--a horse-drawn carriage complete with a Southern belle, "Queen of the Band," to greet the crowd--will lead the contingent down Mission Street to a nostalgic rendition of "When the Saints go Marching In"--a tune which says "America!" around the world.
The Gumbo Band--a 13-piece Dixieland marching band--led by Big Chief Takawaka, resplendent in an authentic Mardi Gras Indian Chief costume. Chief Takawaka, aka Henry Clement, hails from Crawley, Louisiana but these days resides in Oakland.
Following on will be Mardi Gras jesters, both tall and short, wearing tri-colored tunics in the traditional colors of purple, green and gold. These colors were chosen back in 1872 by Rex, as New Orleans Carnival kings are called. Purple signifies Justice; green, Faith; gold, Power. The tall will be stilt-walkers and the short will be masses of students from three schools--Sanchez Elementary, John Swett Elementary and Meadows-Livingstone school.
Then come the French Quarter ladies--both the 'ladies of the night' variety along with a sprinkling of the proper, ladylike Southern belles. Expect a plethora of ruffles, lace, feather boas, and beads to adorn this group.
Purple velour pants, yellow satin shirt, purple and gold vest and a hat with a leopard band and green feather--no wonder they call the next character, Fancy Man.
Alas, one familar character not be parading with Dance Kaiso was Claude, the Fire-Breathing Dragon, a popular fixture for the last two years, is taking time off. Even dragons need a little R&R now and then!
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