Event Review: SF Carnaval Parade!

Henna On Our Hands
Photo by Aya
As I looked out at the sea of swirling color in both directions, I thought to myself:  "Damn!  I wish I wasn't dancing and instead brought my camera!"  I was standing in the staging area for the SF Carnaval Parade, with 100 dancers from ODC in swaths of red and blue behind me and what could only be described as "jungle-cat-S&M-kitties" in spotted tails and not much else in front of us (thank God our float driver was the only one who had to endure that view all morning).  Carnaval, an annual parade down Mission Street, is one of the quintessential San Francisco experiences, replete with scantily-clad samba dancers and an overabundance of sketchy older men with expensive telephoto lenses.  Luckily those cameraed older men largely left us alone, distracted by the many samba girls in the midst of "glittering up."  

The Green Line In Action
Andrea, Judy, me, and Shab
Photo by Darcy Gill
We were part of the Bissap Baobab contingent, with Haitian, West African, and bhangra/Bollywood (that would be us) dancers (article in SF Chronicle about our group).  We also had a fabulous group of drummers who lead the Haitian and West African routines, as well as our bhangra routine when the music went down.  Many thanks to Bongo for breaking out the dhol so we had something to dance to, and props to Joti for figuring out Bollywood routines work great with Haitian drumming.  The parade itself was fascinating- at times just a scattering of people, at times folks standing 10 deep on the sidewalks.  The biggest thing I learned about dancing in a parade... be prepared to run!  At times we were able to dance behind our float, and at times we literally put our hands up and sprinted so we wouldn't be left behind.  And we did all of this dancing/running while wearing fluorescent green pants.  Oh yes.  We called them "poison green" but really they were more like a 80's neon flashback.  I challenge Shahid Kapoor to break out some Bollywood gangster dance steps in those pants while looking serious!

A great time was had by all, and we were happily tired and sweaty by the end of it.  Thank goodness for sunshine and sunscreen- it was pouring the day before the parade.  As we settled into some much deserved Mexican food and even more deserved margaritas after the parade, we caught up with Darcy, who traveled from Fresno to catch the performance.  She easily agreed that we were, of course, the best performance in the entire parade and well worth waiting through, as she put it, "a whole lot of ass I didn't necessarily want to see" until we showed up in the middle.  Props to Darcy for her patient endurance and her picture-taking skills.  I suggest next time she strategically close her eyes when she knows it's going to be bad.

Our Contingent After The Parade
Photo by Aya