Who's Who in Carnaval San
are the masterminds behind the gorgeous floats, attractive
choreography and the charisma to attract and keep hundreds of
people in their contingents? Although I know lots of the
Contingent leaders, I was in for a surprise when I conducted the
interviews for this article. Yes, I knew that they work their
fingers to the bone every year, pay big money out of their own
pockets, lose sleep,and use up their valuable time. I knew they
were miracle workers. They are artists and dreamers, and they
make their visions and dreams come true. Their concerns include
giving back, and improving their community. It's hard work, love
and commitment. And they do it every year.
One of our cherished Kings of Carnaval,
started dancing at the age of 5. He earned high accolades
dancing folk and modern dance, and eventually achieved elite
stardom as a soloist with the National Ballet of El Salvador. He
performed for several years as a soloist, and reminisces about
one of the most beautiful experiences of his life: the entire
theater full of people, the music of the Symphony, and himself
performing. He is from a country where there is Carnaval, but
it's celebrated on various Patron Saints days, in different
months. There are parties, festivities:
"One of the biggest is the Carnaval of San Miguel. Groups from other
countries were invited, and there was special music, dance, King
and Queen, parade, floats, for the whole week. The traditional
music, with rhythmic elements, is called 'Xuc'. One song goes
something like this: have fun, sing, dance; come to San Miguel,
everything is equal in Carnaval. Everything is equal because
everyone wore masks, so there was no difference between rich and
poor. The streets were for everybody."
When Jaime arrived in San Francisco, he
participated in the Carnaval, showing the authentic San Miguel
Carnaval. That was the year it rained like crazy! Another year,
he organized a huge float. He works so hard for the Carnaval,
with no sponsor. He does so much work himself, but he
appreciates the artistry of Carnaval. It gives him motivation to
create. He expresses an idea, puts it together. It's good to
spend energy on that. When he envisions something, he wants to
make it exactly the way he sees it. It's easy for him to go over
the bar, to achieve his dream. He's a perfectionist. Little by
little, he's learned to be more balanced, and learned to
organize and work with people. The shock comes at the end; all
that work, effort, realizing the dream, and then it ends so
Carnaval has changed his life by allowing
him to express his creative side. Although he has a dance
company, he doesn't do that many shows. His big event is
He is the owner of Latin American Workout,
and is celebrating its 16th year. He pioneered the concept of
exercising to Latin rhythms. He has found his niche, but at
times, it's difficult. He has training, certificates, 31 years
of professional experience, but he sees his job being taken over
by Americans. He laughs when he hears the comment that Latinos
are taking jobs from Americans.
He would like to correct a misconception:
Carnaval is not just bikinis and feathers, but a cultural event
that promotes enjoying your life, and having fun. He would like
to do some workshops to teach families what Carnaval is about,
and increase participation by the entire family.
Vela is the Ballet Folklórico dance instructor at
Monroe Elementary School in the Excelsior District. The 2007
Carnaval, will be their 4th Carnaval during which they have
received First Place in the Children's division!
"My favorite thing about Carnaval is the
image of clothing and ribbons all moving at the same time.
Crowds cheering, students expressing themselves, representing
their school and feeling completely supported. The students work
hard: learn steps, learn to smile, to bring joy to all those
people. After the effort of practicing, being focused, they
appear beautiful and appreciated. This year, I will be teaching
the kids to do more dancing. Elementary School children are such
a pleasure to work with. They have no inhibitions; They yell!
They dance full out! in the future, I would like to see more
kids dancing cultural dances of all ethnicities. I would like to
contribute. It's such an opportunity for them to express
themselves, and learn about their own and others' cultures.
"My first experience with Carnaval was as a
child, watching Carnaval San Francisco. Thinking back on that, I
feel a strong connection with my mom, who loves music. I was
born in Guatemala, and came here when I was 2. I started doing
folkloric dance when I was 14. I studied with Martín Cruz, and
now with Carlos Moreno. I have a degree in dance from SF State,
and have a teaching credential too. Besides Monroe School, I
teach folkloric dance in Berkeley and San Mateo.
"As a teacher, I encounter controversy.
There are parents who are not comfortable with the lack of
clothes in San Francisco's Carnaval. To me, that's a learning
opportunity. Children will be exposed to lots of things. Partial
nudity can be looked at as being free, dancing. Even when I take
off my shoes in class to dance barefoot, the students stare at
my feet. When they take off their own shoes, they feel naked and
vulnerable. The floor is cold to them. I have faced this
challenge by treating it as a learning experience for the
"Carnaval is lots of work, but it validates
something that I have loved for so long, and believed in so
strongly. The elements behind cultural dance say what that
culture is about without really saying it. It gives voice
without using the mouth. My family, who watched me studying
dance for years (you want to get a degree in WHAT??) now
see tangible results. What I spend my time doing now, is the end
product of long studies. They get the big picture of who I am
and what I am."
Gonzalez, who is the director of the Guatemalan group
PFG Xelaju, never participated in Carnaval until his performing
group was invited to join us a few years ago. He likes
everything about Carnaval: the meetings, the opportunity to help
out, and especially the parade itself. "I hope everybody has as
much fun as we do", he says. He appreciates all the work done by
the Carnaval committees and volunteers who make it happen.
His performing group got started ten years
ago. While he was celebrating the Festival of the Black Christ
of Guatemala, or Señor de Esquipulas, with his church group, he
noticed that there were Peruvian groups and Mexican groups
performing. The next year, he built his own folkloric group,
specializing in Guatemalan culture, music and traditions. PFG
Xelaju does charitable works in the community all year around.
At the moment, they are in the process of raising money for
people in Guatemala who lost their homes in the hurricane last
year, and are still homeless. They work with Habitat for
Humanity, and donate their time to help. He volunteers at a
school in San Mateo. His motto? Never say No.
As a child in Trinidad,
remembers his family walking behind a steel band, down to Sangre
Grande, about a mile away from home. He loved Carnival, and
never missed it. In town, they had Traditional Mas
(masqueraders), which he found scary. Some of the people painted
their skin black or blue, put a chain around their waist, had
someone behind them, holding the end of it. These Devils wore
horns on their head, and for clothing, wore only short pants.
They did a particular stomping kind of dance, using a long
pitchfork. Others, "Jab Molassie", coated themselves with oil or
molasses. Still others, called Jab-jab, wore a fabric costume,
and had a wooden stick used for fighting other Jab-jabs they met
on the road. The costumes were very padded, so although it
generated a lot of noise, it didn't hurt. Some people dressed up
like mock plantation owners, or made sailor outfits out of flour
sacks. There were Midnight Robbers, with elaborate hats, who
were actually rappers. But after hearing what the Midnight
Robbers had to say, today's rappers are a joke.
Pan wasn't that widespread in those days;
more usual was Tamboo Bamboo, which Stephen played in.
"The Tamboo Bamboo ensemble took
the place of African drums to provide rhythmic accompaniment for
the Afro-Creole street culture. Kalinda, Dame Lorraine and
carnival parades all swayed to the beat of the tamboo bamboo -
an ensemble made up of different lengths and sizes of bamboo
which simulated the four main voices of music, soprano, alto,
tenor and bass,"
according to Selwyn Taradath on
I have heard Tamboo Bamboo on occasion, and not
only is it intensely rhythmic, it has quite a unique sound. I
also read that in bygone days, each Tamboo Bamboo band had its
own distinctive identifying rhythm, in case they were interested
in clashes with other Tamboo Bamboo groups.
Stephen first put on a costume and joined
Carnaval San Francisco many years ago. He had a yearning to
produce a band as a way to get a bit of what he was missing back
in Trinidad. He then collaborated with David Williams and Lewt
Carrabon to form a small group; at one point, a reporter noticed
the costumes being constructed, and decided to write an article.
Since they were making Mas, they took the name Mas Makers and
Friends. As the years went on, Mas Makers grew, with as many as
500 people at one time.
The more he puts into his contingent, the
more satisfaction he gets. As a matter of fact, he is "100%
On one hand he is innovative, bringing out
different costumes, styles and scenes every year. On the other
hand, he keeps it authentic, so that the community can get
exposure to Trinidad and Tobago's rich culture. Our Carnaval has
also broadened Stephen's scope. He sees African culture in the
Brazilian, Mexican, Colombian, and other contingents.
The San Francisco Carnaval is only a small
part of what happens in Trinidad and Tobago all year. It is an
all-year endeavor. For example, research has to be done,
history reviewed, to decide on a theme. The music has to be
organized, for instance, this year he is bringing a famous band
from Trinidad. Costumes must be designed, budget calculated, and
public relations attended to. This all takes skill. Everyone has
to come together. The success of Mas Makers Massive is due to
all the people involved over the years, for instance Colleen
Tiffenson and many others too numerous to mention but too
important ever to be forgotten.
In addition to the work on their
contingent, Mas Makers Massive is committed to the youth of
Oakland, where they keep the Carnival legacy alive through their
work in various schools. Their efforts have been important to
huge numbers of children. For Stephen, "It doesn't matter what
band you play with, just so long as you play mas and join
MaraReggae was founded by
Wilson Low and Rhonda Stagnaro
Low. Wilson painted a vivid picture of Brazil's
Carnaval. There was never a first time for him; he was born into
carnaval. He discussed the various types of carnaval in Brazil.
The first kind is in the streets. It's so wild, that it would
never happen here in the USA; the laws here would never allow
it. People hang off trucks and buses. They throw water at each
other, paint their skin, go with few clothes, honk, walk around
with drinks all day long, make fun of famous people, and even
cross-dress. The second kind is a parade that people pay to
watch; it's a show. An example of this is the Sambodromo in Rio.
The third kind is inside a club. It's an all-night affair.
People come in bikinis, and act sexy and crazy.There is even a
fourth kind, in smaller cities; different again.
Rhonda feels that Carnaval changes the
individuals who participate. The challenge to be creative is met
head on by MaraReggae. Over the course of each year, she
envisions and brings a new vision to San Francisco. As the
years have gone by, there is a real progression of her themes.
"We are movement!" At the beginning of the season, people in
MaraReggae draw a card. Each character is developed.The
innovative spirit permeates every participant.
In MaraReggae, there is constant
reevaluation, and if certain things don't fit, they aren't used.
Unlike Rio and the traditional Samba Schools that faithfully
portray Rio's style, MaraReggae is innovative. For instance,
theirs was the first Brazilian Contingent that had stilt
walkers. Rhonda's thinking is in the present, but never
forgetting the past.
"We pay homage to the people who have gone
before us, sacrificed for us. We give respect to the Ancestors,
and the great knowledge that they have given us."
She sees value in this work. She started
doing Carnaval with Escola Nova de Samba. She was living a
mundane life, and wondered if there might be something more.
"When I found Samba, I wanted to live!" Her mission as a
leader is to change the American idea. Rather than "where's my
piece of the pie", she sees that each one of us has a passion, a
flame that never goes out. Let's get back in touch with it. When
there are thousands of people in the street, it's possible to
get back in touch with that. There is something bigger than
ourselves. There is a one-ness with the universe, and people can
On the other side of the rope, onlookers
are saying "I wish I could do that." She replies: "Come on!"
Garton is the Artistic Director of Hot Pink Feathers,
a performing group which does samba, cabaret, and burlesque. She
has appeared in Carnaval San Francisco with various samba
groups, and the very first time she experienced it, in 1997, she
was hooked. "I live for this!" she says. The street filled with
people parading, dancing and marching joyfully! Color,
exuberance: all this counteracts the images of doom and
violence that people today face, day in and day out. It can be
In February of 2005, Hot Pink Feathers
combined with Blue Bone Express, a brass band that plays New
Orleans style music, to appear in Carnaval San Francisco.
bring a different esthetic; New Orleans and Cabaret together.
One of our choreographies this year is a New Orleans jazz band
rendition of a Venezuelan folk song, in an Eastern European
gypsy band arrangement."
Biala, director of SambAsia, was born here in the San
Francisco Chinese Hospital. His parents are from Pangasinan,
Philippines. He started playing drums when he was seven years
old. He played mostly jazz and popular music on drum set until
at age 30 he decided to start studying Cuban music. He went to
Cuba to study at the University of Matanzas with master
musicians and dancers there, and that experience opened new
doors for him in terms of wanting to study more and more.
Eventually he made his way to Brasil. He studied in Rio de
Janeiro, Salvador, Bahia and also went researching to meet a
Taiko sensei (teacher) in Sao Paulo. He has also studied the
Kulintang gong music of the Phillipines and the music of the Ewe
people of Ghana, Taiko drumming of Japan and Pung'mul drumming
SambAsia is now four years old and
continues to function as a community music and dance ensemble
that acts as a real means of building cultural bridges between
the many diverse communities of the Bay Area across generational
"Carnaval represents the pinnacle of our
annual performing season. We bring all of our different dance
and music sections into one place to celebrate our hard work and
He feels the San Francisco Carnaval is
a very unique blessing to the communities here in San Francisco
and to the Bay Area and beyond.
In turn he is very proud for all that
SambAsia brings to the San Francisco Carnaval. He sees that
people are very receptive to their ensemble and recognize
SambAsia is something very unique in combining Brazilian music
and dance traditions with the folk and festival music and dance
traditions of Asia. he really does not think there is an
ensemble like it anywhere in the world!
Over the last several months he has had the
great opportunity to start establishing a sister SambAsia escola
in Shijhih City, Taiwan. he is also going to Beijing this month
to teach percussion workshops there, and will be in Taiwan from
June 2006 to January 2007 to really work hard to bring a
contingent of drummers and dancers there to the 2007 San
In establishing SambAsia in the fall of
2002 and bringing it to the 2003 SF Carnaval, he had to deal
with a lot changes in his life. He was still working hard as a
professional musician and collaborator and composer in many
different kinds of projects, but then had to dedicate a new
portion of his daily life to this new community music and dance
ensemble. he learned a lot from that first SF Carnaval
experience and strives each year to bring new and different
performances and challenges to all of the community ensemble
They are very lucky to work with many
supportive organizations and individuals. This is definitely not
possible as a one person operation! Everyday he is inspired by
all of what he's learned from his teachers and students from all
parts of the world that he has been. He hopes to continue to
respectfully bring all of their blessings to the community and
to the San Francisco Carnaval for many years.
Maria Souza, first
encountered Carnaval in her home town in Minas Gerais, Brazil,
when she was 8 years old. That was a great experience, all
family; cousins, brothers, mom, and she was dressed in a blue
costume with glitter and sequins on the skirt. In those days,
the street parades were on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday, with
the kids parading in the afternoon and the adults at night. The
music was called "Marcha". It had lots of instruments like
flute, saxaphone, and trombone. Actually, when I was in Recife
and Olinda for Carnaval, in the 90's, that's what I heard in the
She is the founder and contingent leader of
Aquarela. Nowadays her favorite part of Carnaval isn't just the
parade. It's getting ready. Thinking about the costume design,
concentrating, getting excited. Rehearsals. Waiting for the
parade to start. Then, dancing for the whole thing! Even with
the inevitable problems, it's as though nothing happened; only
fun. So enjoyable, but over too soon.
She feels that her contingent is very
professional, but at the same time, it's like an extended
family. Everybody is treated as equal. When someone has an idea
for the costume, it's taken seriously and used. The daughters
and sons of the contingent have become participants, and bring
that youthful excitement every year. As she experiences Carnaval
San Francisco, she has learned how to understand and be with
people. She is not affected by the inevitable politics, and what
she hears, she leaves it there. She doesn't let it get inside.
Her focus is to do her thing, make her people happy, and make
their dreams come true. She shows San Francisco what the true
Rio de Janeiro has about Carnaval. It's an authentic experience
including the float, the music, and dance routine. Maria herself
is not only is one of the Carnaval Queens, but she has
the most Queens and Kings of Carnaval in her contingent.
It is the Royal Family.
In the future, hopefully things will get
better, for instance maybe the City can help support
contingents. It's very expensive now, not just the parade
itself, but rehearsal space. Her dream is that one day, every
Samba School will unite into one big school.
"Just come to the street and have fun!" she
says. And one year, when the small group I was in disintegrated
because the musicians didn't show up, 3 of us found ourselves in
Maria Souza's family for the day. Even without previous notice,
she saved the day for us. Thanks, Mama.
of Islands of Fire, grew up in Trinidad, in the West Indies. He
first played mas as a 12 year old, along with his classmates in
Belmont. Their theme was "Day of the Races" and they dressed as
Trinidad’s carnival folklore, a donkey has been symbolically
freed from his labours and so is able to join in the
festivities. This donkey was constructed from bamboo in a way
that gave the
illusion that the dancer was riding a small "burro" or donkey,
when he put his
through the hole in the
donkey's neck and the body of the animal fitted around his hips.
The donkey's head was made from coloured paper on a wooden
frame, while the body was covered with a satin skirt with a hemp
tail. The 'rider' wore a satin shirt and a large matador's hat
or straw hat and danced making the donkey caper and bow to the
accompaniment of guitars, cuatros and shac-shacs",
Carnaval of his youth, he remembers lots of people in the street
on Carnival Monday, dressed as Midnight Robbers and Devils.
Others carried clever, humorous signs commenting on important
social or political themes. These signs used to have a big
effect on everybody.
came out to the streets in partial costumes, but unlike today,
there were large amounts of beautiful and regal materials such
those days, things were stricter: everyone left the streets at
midnight. it was a time of gangs and fighting: Desperados,
Invaders, and other Steel Pan groups from "behind de bridge"
marched on the road-- but had to either avoid each other, or
favorite part of Carnival was playing Drunken Sailor Mas, a very
popular mas. It was a performance! Not only donning a costume,
but also performing specific dance steps! He had a walking
stick, and used to dance around it. Appreciative onlookers were
expected to pay. (A custom true not only in Trinidad, but also
Haiti, Panama, and other countries during Carnaval.)
When he was
in his early twenties, he became the lead male dancer in Julia
Edwards' Dance Company. He traveled all over the Caribbean,
Africa; performed for the Queen of England, at Carnegie Hall,
and the Ed Sullivan Show. But he had a hidden quest, he jumped
ship, and went looking for his daughter. It turned out to be
quite a quest: it wasn't until 1984 that he finally found her
and established a loving relationship with her. 1966 found him
in Buffalo, and then he volunteered for the armed services.
During those 8 years, he still entertained by dancing to keep up
the soldiers' morale, and found himself traveling again:
Vietnam, Germany, Thailand.
discharge, he went to Letterman Hospital, and found the Bay Area
to his liking. Not only was his sister living here, but also the
weather was very good. In the late 70's, he found himself in the
first Carnival parade here-- it was in the Western Addition,
with Connie Williams, Val Serrant, Gloria Toolsie (one of the
coordinators), and Pete and Harry Best. Subsequently, Carnaval,
as it is called now, had a jam session in Precita Park with
Marcus Gordon, Jose Lorenzo, and others, which then moved to
Civic Center for a few years, then into the Mission.
he will join Mas Makers Massive, and next year, bring Islands of
Fire to the streets of San Francisco again, with noted world
renowned band leader/ costume designer Stephen Derek. The
Stephen Derek Mas Band celebrates 30 years of producing costumes
and presenting their productions in Trinidad and Tobago
philosophy has always been to give somebody something. That's
how you get back. You come away satisfied. That's how he started
out, and that's how he was when I first met him. One year, in
Carijama, Oakland, I appeared, heard the music from his truck,
and realized that I was desperate to join, so that I could
parade to that beautiful Soca music. When he understood this, he
stapled me into one of his new costumes, even refusing money
when I returned the costume. I stand in a huge group of devoted
fans of Tomi Seon.
is about fun!" says
has been a contingent leader off and on for the last 25 years.
Her contingents bring Haitian music and dance to the streets of
San Francisco. This year, she is choreographing one of the
groups within the Haitian Contingent "Rara Tou Limen", led by
greatest expertise is choreography, in my opinion. She believes
that "short and simple" is better; for instance, if you have 102
steps, you will get tired, and you will forget. If it's simple,
it's possible to play with the audience.
"When you dance, you don't just dance for yourself, but for everybody
else too. That's part of Haitian culture."
on spaces, and tries to convey strong emotion. She always moves
in a forward direction. She allows improvisation in her
choreography, and believe me, that makes it fun. Even if you
don't know how to improvise, it's constantly amusing to watch
the antics of those who do.
year that I participated in her group, she had 3 signals. One
whistle blow was the slow choreography. Two whistles was the
dancing while not moving forward, and there was lots of
interaction with the audience, and 3 whistles was for the faster
clip. There was no rushing, and no standing around. No matter
what our speed, we were looking good! It was no trouble to keep
up, and the variation in tempo made it interesting.
remembers the very first time she did the parade, when she was
at Third Wave. Her group only had a pick-up truck, with a
generator for the sound. She still remembers the fumes from that
generator. Everybody had their own costume. It felt authentic,
and there was lots of freedom in the choreography. She says part
of the culture of Haiti is that carnaval is small.
have to spend a lot of money, or rehearse a lot. The parade
route started on 14th Street and went up Mission to 24th!"
later, her contingent had a big sound system, and was much more
elaborate. There was so much work to do. She was up all night,
before the parade. It rained, and everybody looked like wet
chickens! Needless to say, she decided never to do it again.
contingent is massive amounts of work, that can't be done
without help. A costumer must design and make the costumes. A
technician must be responsible for the sound system. Blanche
really admires the schools, like Buena Vista. People work so
hard. It's really nice to see.
Reminiscing, she says that there have been so many good
carnavals. Each has its own emotion. Her own greatest pleasure
in carnaval has been dressing up. One year, she joined
MaraReggae, and that experience stood out for her. That was the
year that Milanda Moore (a Queen of Carnaval and now director of
the Baby Buggy Brigade) and Roger Delahunty (King of Carnaval)
were MaraReggae's Queen and King.
her favorite part is dancing, Blanche has experienced Carnaval
in many different ways: as a judge, on the steering committee,
on the advisory committee, to name a few. Being a judge was
particularly nice, since she was able to see all her friends,
and all the floats.
How did she
get started in Haitian music and dance? Well, she was attending
SF State, taking dance, and once she encountered Haitian
movement and drumming, she fell in love. Opportunities happened,
doors opened. She went to New York to study. "I didn't choose
it; it chose me!"
Carnaval changed Blanche? " It has enhanced me, and allowed me
to perform without a lot of pressure. It's about fun!"
are here to say that youth can make a difference! They
are led by a remarkable trio of teenagers, Merissa Lyons, CEO,
Valencia Newton, COO, and Kianna Rachal, CFO. Their manager is
Anabelle Goodridge, Merissa's mom, who is originally from the
Caribbean. Through her, they learned about the culture and music
Merissa was little, she participated in Mas Makers Massive. When
the other girls got a taste of that beautiful Trini music and
dance, it was just a matter of time before they decided to start
their own group. Once a year was just not enough. They enjoyed
it so much, that they founded the Caribbean Folk Performing
Dance Company when they were 9 and 10 years old. They now teach
dance at six different elementary and high schools in Oakland,
as well as classes every Saturday. They have the kind of
commitment and focus rarely seen in kids that age. Last year,
they launched their contingent, Sistas wit Style, and won prizes
for costumes and performance.
handle every aspect of running their contingent, although they
are quick to name the many people who have given them support.
They all agree that there is lots of work, but they each have
their own part to do. They work as a team, helping each other
out when necessary. And the work pays off for them. Part of
their motivation is the wish to give back to the community.
There is so much negativity, and they want to turn it into
something positive, and spread the word. They accept donations
for the kids who can't afford costumes.
self-esteem is bolstered by working with people; they are role
models. It motivates them to keep going. It reminds me of the
feeling of dancing in a contingent, on the street, to beautiful
music. There's no stopping, even if you want to. It's like
magic. "As long as you can walk, you can dance", they say, and
every one is welcome to dance with them.
Leader of Bay Area Caribbean Connection, started out as a steel
pan player when he was just a child. It was a great experience,
he feels. The band (panyard) was just two minutes from his
house, in Arima, Trinidad, and was called Melodian Steel Band
Orchestra. Back in those days, Steel Pan was not
respectable, and children were strictly prohibited from
frequenting the Panyards. Hence, all of the musicians I have met
from that era had to sneak to the practices. As time evolved,
the instrument, as well as the crowd, became more refined, and
presently, there are Steelbands all over the world. It is the
only musical instrument invented in the twentieth century!
Three years ago, wanting to introduce his
nieces to the beauty of Carnaval, he took over BACC. He figures
that since he is good at getting people together and making
deals, he would give it a go. Carnival means many things to many
people, but for every Masquerader one sentiment is
universal.....it's a time to have FUN, a time to forget the
cares and frustrations of the real world, a time to jump, wine
and wave with total abandon. He appreciates that fact that here
in San Francisco, everyone comes together for Carnaval.
year, his contingent is drawing people from as far away as
Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, and San Diego to participate.
There will be people representing other islands, like Grenada.
His costume designer, Kojo Mason, is a noted artist from St
Vincent, who has won top honors in St Lucia, St Vincent and
Brooklyn Carnivals. His Choreographor, Oneida Maria Cordovia,
from Oakland, is known as the Panamanian Princess. He is also
bringing a Steelband, called La Horquetta, fromTrinidad and
Tobago. (They placed second in the Single Pans Panorama Finals,
2006.) His favorite part of Carnaval is getting together, seeing
people enjoying themselves and letting go of stress. His goals
for the future are to involve younger kids and schools. He wants
to "show the world what we do, and especially give the kids a
chance to experience it." Carnaval is a beautiful thing. Every
year, he is encouraged to do it again, and keep it going. His
nieces love it!
Energia do Samba was founded in 2000 by
Maisa Duke, the
director and choreographer of the group. Maisa was born in the
Americas' capital of the African Diaspora, Salvador, Bahia
Brazil. While most people are familiar with the Rio style of
Samba, Maisa demonstrates a more playful and joyful samba,
without the lyrics found in Rio that tend to be serious social
As far as she can remember, dancing is what
she enjoyed most. Maisa started entering and winning dance
contests when she was ten years old. Her ability to move her
perfectly toned body to the complex, frenetic polyrhythmic
beating of samba music is wonderful to see. She brings explosive
energy to the dance floor!
Maisa immigrated to the U.S. in 1998. She
has been teaching dance for over 10 years. In 2000, she founded
Energia do Samba Dance Company. Her dream is to promote and
share Brazilian culture and carnaval through music, dance and
colorful costumes. She attracts experienced dancers as well as
live musicians to her group. The name Energia do Samba (The
Energy of Samba) was chosen by Maisa because it is the positive
energy of Samba, that she believes is the essence of Samba.
Energia do Samba's dancing is the embodiment of that energy.
Maisa has performed with many dance groups
in California, including including Robin Williams' 50th birthday
and events for the late Christopher Reeves, and former San
Francisco Mayor Willie Brown at City Hall, Warriors basketball
team, San Francisco Giants games, Academy of Sciences in S.F.,
California Music World in Oakland, the San Francisco Ethnic
Dance Festival, The Queen Mary in L.A, and for Pele, the most
famous soccer player in the world.