Friday, April 25, 2008

Conga 2008

There was the happy sight and sound of conga dancing around the streets of San Fran today. Over 100 people gathered in Union Square and then some wiggled and jiggled in traffic-stopping merriment to launch the Bay Area National Dance Week with the West Coast's Longest Conga Line.

They were led by Hot Pink Feathers, girls in red plumage and a guy in red and gold costume, accompanied by jazz brass band Blue Bone Express.

From the flat to fleet footed, they left Union Square at midday and circled nearby streets before returning to the square for an hour of entertainment. Some in the conga were in their own dance costumes, especially groups of Scottish and English country dancers.

This is the 10th Anniversary of the dance week, and the third year of the conga.

Afterwards, Everett of Hot Pink Feathers, said: 'It has gone very well. I think for us it's the day being beautiful and all those people out there. This is the day for people to express themselves.

How many days do you get to stop traffic because people are dancing around!'

En route, I met 70-year-old Christine, who nearly stopped traffic by herself as she paused half-way across a road and continued to dance while being filmed and interviewed by a camera-girl.

'My doctor said 'No dancing,' she told me when I caught up with her later in the square. 'But I love it!' she said, and assured me that her health was improving.

I also spoke to Lou and Victor. They had emerged from the Apple store, seen the conga and joined in.

'I love the spontaneity,' said Lou, who describes himself as someone who has lived in San Fran 'for ever!'While Victor enthused: 'I've just read a book called "Dancing in the Streets." This is what should be happening in the world,' he said.

Back in the square, where dancing displays had continued during the conga, we watched Alseny Soumah and Lahydi from Guinea, West Africa, who danced with vitality and acrobatic agility, Funkanometry, a Hip Hop group, a young modern dance troupe from Creative Arts Charter School, and another performance from Hot Pink Feathers who attracted some unexpected show-stealers.

The music, the gaiety, the colour proved too enticing for three-year-old Jules, four-year-old James and two-year-old Andre. With no hint of self-consciousness, they jumped onto the stage to pirouette, twirl and bow to the delighted bemusement of on-lookers.

Does Jules like dancing? I asked her nanny.

'She loves it. She dances all the time,' she said.

While Andre's mum said, 'He saw the girls go up and chased after them. He loves to dance and play with other kids his age.'

Around the square, tables were set up to advertise dance groups and for the handing out of leaflets. Aside from the conga and entertainment, the event is a ten-day showcase for all styles of dance around the Bay Area. Advertised as 'over 300 free events - all dance, all free, all week,' it ends on Sunday, May 4. The festival includes performances, classes, workshops, open rehearsals, festivals and lecture demonstrations. Details can be found on BAYAREANDW.ORG.

The Dancers Group have also published a summer guide to dance performances in the Bay Area up to the end of August, and this can be found on

As compere Carla, of Carla Service's Dance-A-Vision Entertainment, said: 'No matter what's going on in the world...still try to find time to dance. Find that space of happiness!'

Click for pics. Click to enlarge.

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