Tag Archive | carnavalescos

Pre-Carnaval craziness

Several years ago, I wrote about the blessing of a busy schedule (La leyenda de SuperMama) and how it positively affected my mental health. Fast forward to the present and many of these ideas hold true. While time management usually presents challenge, it  feels like a blessing during Carnaval season.

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Baby queens practicing for Carnaval 

Some may look at my schedule during Carnaval prep season and think that I’m insane. Sunday, we had our usual 2+ hours practice in addition to the additional choreography practice several of us have been doing.  I also had a meeting with my dance sisters to rehearse a number we are preparing for my daughter’s school.  That meant 4 hours of dance. Monday, M has 90 minutes of dance class every week. She also was rehearsing for the school event.  Tuesday, M has 30 minutes of piano followed by 45 minutes of dance. That week, I stayed at work a little later due to a management meeting. Wednesday, I had an event committee meeting and then a 90 minute class with Bay Area Flash Mob in San Francisco. Thursday, I go to boot camp, M has another hour-long dance class, and then I have a samba workshop.  Friday is the special event where M and I will each perform with two different dance groups. Saturday is Carnaval rehearsal followed by church ministry at evening Mass. Some might ask why I would do this to myself and my child. This is part of the Carnaval lifestyle. We haven’t participated in the weekday practices or any of our samba school’s performances this Carnaval season. It is a very busy time. Somehow, we have to squeeze in costume work and typical errands.  I have never been this far behind in preparing my costume and makeup. As a 5th year OG, I feel like I can handle what little time I have left. It’s an exciting time.

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Tools of the carnavalesco trade 

As exhausted as I am, I am truly grateful to be able to express myself in this way. It’s a celebration of my new job, the end of another school year, and our communities. This is our life. Beautiful memories are made. These experiences feed our souls.  Carnaval soon come!

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Carnaval soon come!

I’m going into my 5th San Francisco Carnaval. Being a carnavalesco has been transformative; it has made me more attuned to fitness, culture, and community.  Our Carnaval always falls on Memorial Day weekend due to the weather. When it began, San Francisco Carnaval was held around Mardi Gras time as it is in most parts of the African diaspora. In the tropics, the weather is beautiful. It’s a time to enjoy festivities and fatty food in preparation for a season of silence.  That timing doesn’t work in the Bay Area; the fog has even resulted in gray and cool Carnaval weekends. So in the Bay Area, Carnaval preparation takes place during Lent.

In every other aspect of my life during Lent, I am paring down to simplicity. For Carnaval, I am ramping up in terms of color and intensity.  I am creating characters. I’m working on costume, makeup, props, set design.  I am preparing for a street theater performance.

There are people who do Carnaval as a bucket list milestone and those of us who choose to make this a way of life. I have nothing against the bucket list folks. Everyone should perform onstage or take part in a creative activity at some point in life because of what it does for your self-confidence, discipline, and fitness. That could be just me since I gravitate towards the arts. For those of who become lifelong carnavalescos, Carnaval is an essential part of the yearly cycle.

A lot of people think performance means solo artist. When you’re in a Carnaval contingent, even if you’re a sambista or passista, you are not the star of the show.  As cute as you might think you are, Carnaval is about your community and comparsa. You are moving together as a unit.  Showboating diminishes the team effort. I may have to get Uncle Brooke on y’all this year (In The New Edition Story, choreographer Brooke Payne breaks down the importance of unity when you’re part of a group. He also gives Bobby a hard look).

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You tell ’em, Uncle Brooke

I share this critique because my Carnaval experiences have helped me better understand the value of community, both in dance and in spirit.

During Carnaval, I tap into several aspects of myself that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. What SambaFunk has offered my family in terms of friendship and dance is priceless.

Carnaval has become our way of life.