May is the month for street parties in San Francisco. First there's Cinco de Mayo, a Mission District perennial, then Bay to Breakers for those who prefer to run or walk, and last--but certainly not least--Carnaval! What started in February with the Carnaval Ball at the Galleria has gathered momentum. Carnaval fever is setting in.

Cesar's Latin Palace was the venue April 30 for the important task of selecting the King and Queen of Carnaval '97. It was a hard call, since all the contestants were great. Milanda Moore and Roger Delahunty were proclaimed the winners, to much applause. Ms. Sweet Waist did her thing as DJ, Aquarela Dance Ensemble did a samba that sizzled, Foga Na Roupa gave one of their electrifying drum performances and the All Ah Wee Dance And Drum Ensemble treated us to a taste of Trinidad.

King and Queen Milanda and Roger make a great team. They first got together last year in the group Mara Reggae and clicked immediately. They danced well together and had a great time, so entering into the King and Queen competition was a natural. For Milanda, a native San Franciscan, this will be her seventh Carnaval. She originally started with the Escola Nova de Samba--"Josephine and Chalo were the ones who got me going," she says. Roger, who was raised in Los Angeles, has been teaching around the Bay Area for about 18 years--at Third Wave Studio in the Mission for 12 years--as well as at U.C. Berkeley, Cal State and the San Jose Civic Light Opera.

They would both like to promote more unity between the different groups-- to bring San Francisco to Oakland and vice versa. To this end they plan to attend as many functions as they can. It's all about having fun and it's a great way for people to connect with each other, they say.

Becoming Carnaval royalty calls for some new finery. Wendy Miller, the costume designer extraordinaire who will be making their costumes, is also the costume person for Mara Reggae. Apparently there are over 175 people in this group, so she'll have her work cut out for her.

There's a slew of Carnaval benefit parties coming up in May. Ginga Brazil kicks things off Friday May 2 at the International Center, 50 Oak St with Grupo Entre Nos and Ginga's own bateria. Information: (510)428-0698.

Mas Salsa is one hot salsa group. They're having a party Saturday, May 3, from 4 to 8 p.m., at El Rio, 3158 Mission St. Information: (510)562-6713.

Saturday, May 10 is when Mara Reggae will combine their party with Vivendo de Pao's record release at the Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St. Information: (415)587-1453. Also partying May 10 is Aquarela Brazilian Dance Ensemble with Grupo Entre Nos at Bahia Cabana, 1600 market St. Information: (510)548-1310.

Foga na Roupa and Samba do Coracao will join forces for a big bash Sunday, May 11 at Bahia Cabana. Information: (510)464-5999 or (415) 826-2588.

Moving right along--on Friday May 23, Mas Makers Massive will present a calypso show and dance at the California Ballroom, 1736 Franklin St., Oakland with guest artists Leon Coldero and Lady B, direct from Trinidad and Tobago. Saturday May 24, from 2-5 pm, they will conduct a workshop entitled, "Mama Dis Is Mas," at the Oakland Museum, James Moore Theatre, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Information: (510)534-6331.

Two balls will take place Carnaval Eve, Saturday. Aquarela Brazilian Dance Ensemble and Banda Constelacao of L.A will be at Bahia Cabana while the Cathedral Hill Hotel, 1101 Van Ness Ave., is the venue for the official Carnaval Ball. Information: (415)826-1401.

And, for the truly dedicated and those who can still walk, there'll be two Balls Carnaval night--Foga Na Roupa will be at Bahia Cabana and Aquarela will be the Coconut Grove on Van Ness Avenue. Can this town party or what?

Let's extend a warm welcome to the San Antonio Street Dance & Drum Company and to Bella Naturaleza of Stockton. Other first-timers include the Taiko group Rolling Thunder, the Soccer in the Street group and La Sirena of San Francisco.

Mayor Willie Brown has been invited to be Grand Marshal of Carnaval, 1997, but it was not known at press time if he had accepted. Here's hoping.

Also not known at press time was whether or not Kip Ferris and Batu Pitu would be participating. If not, it's Carnaval's loss. His high spirits, energy and creativity will be sorely missed.

Missed, too, will be Chalo Eduardo, now living in L.A., and busy recording and touring. Also, Betho Filho who's in Germany and Rosie Lopez More who moved to Hawaii, where she's probably introducing some of that Cuban hip motion to the Hawaiians.

Congratulations to the Escola Nova de Samba for their 13th consecutive year in Carnaval. The Escola, under the direction of Josephine Morada, is currently the longest-lasting samba school in the area. Greetings too, to Rudy Ortiz as bateria director.

Wedding bells '96 dept: April, Eva Martinez and Walter Mackins; July, Rhonda Stagnaro and Mestre Low; December and Maria Souza. Congratulations!

"Bugs don't bug Us" is Buena Vista School's theme this year. Look out for lots of little butterflies, ladybirds, etc. of the rainforest.

Chris Collins traveled to Aruba in late April to attend the FECC (Federation of European Carnival Cities) Convention. A Caribbean island as a Convention venue sounds pretty good to me.

Samba Do Coracao plans to introduce the Afro-Bolivian rhythm and dance "Tundiqui" this year. Appropriate, since Fernando himself hails from Bolivia.

To chase away the post-Carnaval blues, or to get a headstart on next year's Carnaval, consider participating in the California/Brazil Summer Camp '97, under the direction of Dennis Broughton and Marcelo Pereira. The venue is the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp, located on August Creek near the Russian River, Sonoma County. Various styles of Brazilian Music and Dance, and Capoeira workshops are offered. The instructors are world class. Lodging, meals, tuition, activities are all included. Beginners, professionals--everybody's welcome. Information: (510)655-8207.

When Ilka Williams, who takes Mary Dollar's class at UCSF and is five months' pregnant, said she was still doing the samba, her doctor was delighted. It seems Ilka is right on target, weightwise and healthwise. So you see, gang, there's no excuse to not do the samba--it's good for whatever ails you!

I once read something I loved about the Hopi Indians. They say that to be a useful Hopi is to be one who has a quiet heart and takes part in all the dances.

On that note I'll leave you. Happy Carnaval, everyone.

Carnaval San Francisco is just around the corner. With less than eight weeks to the Big Weekend, May 24-26, the pace is really picking up. Individual themes have been chosen, costume designs are taking shape and dance routines are being worked out. The heat is on.

Have you participated in Carnaval yet? Maybe this is YOUR year to join in. Watching from the sidelines is all very nice but taking part gives you a whole new perspective and is much more fun, as any of the legion of dancers and drummers for whom Carnaval is a yearly ritual will tell you. Carnaval is for everyone - young or old, tall or short, plump or skinny. Size and shape don't matter (unless, of course, you've set your heart on wearing a thong and little else) - it's the spirit that counts!

There's plenty of groups to choose from. The following are some of the Brazilian and Caribbean contingents. Space is limited here, so call the groups for detailed information.

Aquarela Dance Group, with Maria Sousa (Carnaval Queen '95) and Mestre Beicola, will be rehearsing at The Finnish Hall, on 10th Street in Oakland. There'll be an Aquarela dance party Saturday, April 19, at Bahia Cabana, 1600 Market St., San Francisco. For more Information: (510)548-1310.

Samba do Coracao, with Mary Dollar and Fernando de Sanjines, has Workshop classes at 50 Brady St., San Francisco on Tuesdays, 7:30 to 9 p.m., preceded by a 6:30 p.m. percussion class, and Saturdays, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Children's classes start April 12, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Rehearsals in Golden Gate Park start April 13 , 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The first Carnaval party is Sunday, April 6 at Bahia Cabana. Information: (415)826-2588.

Foga Na Roupa holds Percussion workshops Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Alice Arts Center, 1428 Alice St., Oakland, followed by a Carnaval workshop, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Caribee Dance Center, 1408 Webster St. Rehearsals are held at the Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission St., Tuesdays, 8 to 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. There's a dance party at Bahia Cabana on Saturday, April 12. Information: (510)464-5999.

Rhonda Stagnaro of Mara-Reggae and Blanche Brown of Group Petit La Croix are joining forces. Brazilian and Haitian music and dance combined will make for a dazzling contingent. Rehearsals are at Rhythm & Motion Studio, 1133 Mission St., Sundays, from 1 to 3 p.m. then in Golden Gate Park starting April 27. Information: (415)587-1453.

Ginga Brasil, is holding bateria and dance rehearsals at the International Center, 50 Oak St., 3 to 6 p.m., on Sundays, and at the Third Wave Dance Studio, 3316 24th St., Saturdays 1:30 to 4 p.m. Conceicao is just back from Brazil with some new dances under her belt so things should sizzle. Information: (510)428-0698.

"I am The Amazon" is the Escola Nova de Samba's theme this year. They'll be joined again by Longfellow Elementary School. Rehearsals are Thursdays, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Ave., and Sundays, 1 to 3 p.m., outdoors in the BHNC playground behind the Library, on Cortland. Information: (415)661-4798.

The above is a taste of the Brazilian offerings; now we head to the Caribbean.

DJ Sweet Waist (a.k.a. Suzanne Ludlum) reports that the All Ah Wee Dance and Drum Ensemble are going great guns and are planning some Carnaval dance classes at the Alice Arts Center in Oakland for those who want to limber up a little. Information: (510)832-8110.

"Tribes of the Rainforest" (as in Trinidad's rainforest) is Mas Makers Massive's theme. Drop by, lime a little, work some at their Mas Camp, 5425 Ignacio Ave., Oakland. Information: (510)534-6331.

The Bay Area Caribbean Connection (BACC) Mas Camp will be in East Oakland, says Celisse Johnson. Peter Durrant will do costumes. Information: (510)653-7582.

D'Midas, three times Grand Prize Champions, are gearing up to make it four. Their theme is ''D' Lost Realms" and their Mas Camp is at the Thunderbird Inn, Fremont. Information: Tomi Sion, 510-436-2443.

And if your thing is salsa, Kimball's Carnival in Emeryville is where Mas Salsa rehearsals are held Sundays, at 1:30 p.m. The music is hot, and so is this group. You don't need a partner to join but you should know how to salsa. Information: (510)562-6713.

By the way, anyone interested in combining a week's vacation in Mexico's Yucatan with an in-depth music and dance experience should consider joining Carlos Aceituno's "Roots of Samba" Retreat, April 21-27. A beachfront hotel and trips to Mayan ruins and local nightclubs are included. For information call JG at (510)655-2137.

By the time you read this, Carnaval San Francisco will have a new King and Queen, unfortunately too late for this article. The word on Carnaval Balls was pretty sketchy at press time, as was the identity of the Grand Marshal. Stay tuned.

Ciao until May. And don't forget to keep those hips moving!

San Francisco's Carnaval season got off to a rousing start with the 28th annual Friends of Brazil Carnaval Ball at the Galleria in early February. As usual, Foga na Roupa with Carlos Aceituno, and Aquerela with Maria Sousa delighted the standing-room-only crowd with their dazzling floor shows while the indefatigable Celia Malheiros led the Brazilian All-Stars Band for the twelfth year running. Singers Lisa Silva and Roberto Lima were joined by special guest singer Sueldo Soares, from Bahia. If you can't make it to Rio, the Brazilian Ball at the Galleria is the next best thing. Besides, someone has to win the trip to Rio, and it might as well be you.

Some people got into the mood even earlier in the year. Samba do Coracao was a star turn at the Embarcadero's huge New Year's Eve bash while the Escola Nova de Samba joined Carlos Santana in steaming up The Warfield.

Speaking of Brazil, mark your calendars for the Brazilian Cultural Movement's 3rd Brazilian Arts Crafts & Video Festival to be held Sunday, March 2 , at Fort Mason Center, Bldg. A. Admission is $5. Arts & Crafts from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m; Video Presentation from 6 to 10 p.m. There'll be Brazilian music, food, a performance by Birds of Paradise, and plenty of free parking.

As per usual, Carnaval San Francisco will be held Memorial Day Weekend, May 24 and 25, with the Grand Parade on Sunday. Oakland's Carijama, held the following day, Monday, in Mosswood Park, is always terrific and worth getting up for, even if your feet are killing you and you ache all over.

"Rainforest Fantasy" is the theme of this, the 18th annual Carnaval San Francisco. With all the talent and imagination going around in the Bay Area, we can look forward to some wild and wonderful variations on a theme.

According to DJ Sweet Waist (a.k.a. Suzanne Ludlum), the All Ah Wee Dance and Drum Ensemble have already chosen theirs - "Under the Forest Canopy: a tribute to Papa Bois and Mama D'Glo." Sounds great to me. Information: (510)832-8110.

Mas Salsa, first place winners of Open Dance last year, are rarin' to go again too. Rehearsals are on Sundays, starting March 9, at Kimball's Carnival in Emeryville. The Bay Area's Gary and Isobel are the choreographers and the group will salsa down Mission Street to Jose Alberto's "A La Hora Que Me Llamen Voy!" Hot stuff. You don't need a partner to join but you should know how to salsa. Information: (510)562-6713.

Every Parade needs a King and Queen and ours is no exception. This year's Contest will be held Sunday, March 30, at Cesars Latin Palace, 3140 Mission Street (between Cesar Chavez and Precita Streets) from 7 to 11 p.m. It's always a lot of fun so come and cheer on the 1997 contestants as they show their paces. Admission is $5. For an application and/or information: (415)86-1401.

Another event guaranteed to draw an enthusiastic crowd was the auditions for the Ethnic Dance Festival, held each year in January. Every sort of dance imaginable is represented in the Bay Area, and nearly 100 companies or soloists auditioned for roughly 40 places. The19th annual Ethnic Dance Festival will be held three weekends in June, from June 13 through 29. Some Carnaval participants auditioned, but the results were not known at press time.

One of the entries was Jose Francisco Barroso and Obakaso, a celebration of Afro-Cuban culture. This company will present two shows at the Alice Arts Center in Oakland, Sundays March 2 and 16, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 advance, $10 at the door. Last year's shows sold out, so get your tickets soon. Information: (510)238-2106.

To get you into the carnaval mood, and to get those hips moving and toes tapping, the following are some classes and workshops available from March onwards.

Carlos Aceituno, of Foga Na Roupa, is holding Percussion workshops every Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Alice Arts Center, 1428 Alice St., Oakland, followed by a Carnaval workshop, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Caribee Dance Center, 1408 Webster St. Carlos also teaches in The City at the Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission St., Tuesdays, 8 to 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Information: (510)464-6999.

Rhonda Stagnaro and her group, Mara Reggae, practice at the Rhythm & Motion Studio, 1133 Mission St., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 to 9 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Ginga Brasil, with Conceicao Damasceno, will hold bateria and dance rehearsals at the International Center, 50 Oak St., 3 to 6 p.m., beginning Sunday, March 2. Information: (510)428-0698.

Josephine Morada and the Escola Nova de Samba can be found Thursdays, 6:30 to 9 p.m., at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Cortland St. Information: 661-4798.

Samba do Coracao, with Mary Dollar and Fernando de Sanjines, practice at 50 Brady St. on Tuesdays, 7:30 to 9 p.m., preceded by a percussion class from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Information: 826-2588.

Regina Calloway, who dances with Foga Na Roupa and who subbed for Mary Dollar while she went to Brazil, will hold a Carnaval Dance Workshop Saturday, March 29, from 11 a m. to 1 pm. in San Francisco - location to be announced. All levels welcome. Information: (510)464-5999.

The above is just a preliminary list to get you going. Watch this space in April for more classes and workshops.

Among the lucky people who actually went to Carnaval in Brazil this year were Beicola, Mary Dollar, and Chris and Wendy Collins. Jan McDermott headed for Trinidad once again - she's crazy about their Blue Devils!

Ciao until April.

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