But Sunday’s the real thing. By 10:00 am in Santa Lucia Park, people are beginning to gather and claim their seats in the audience, most dressed in their Sunday best. The band sets up and starts to play. At the first organized note, couples step on the bandstand stage and join the rhythm, each in their own style. The tall lady in green and her taller husband are the first on stage — not a moment’s reticence. Theirs is a stately dance, with economy of motion and slow, regal turns. Others are right behind them, with lighter, quicker steps. A few are pretty casual, but just as comfortable. For several moments between dances, couples stop to greet each other or chat, but they don’t linger when the music starts again. They’re here to dance.
One woman arrives alone, clearly ready to find a partner, and it doesn’t take long. She and her partner dance in the corridor behind the bandstand, less conspicuous but with lots of company from others who came for a more private dance.
Wander several blocks south to the Plaza Grande, and there’s more. Here there’s a clown for the kids, an announcer, and one performing group after another. Traditional dancers do Yucatecan jarana dancing, in white huipiles and guayabara shirts… a Maypole dance, a bullfight dance, dances with bottles and trays on their heads, all of them couples dances, in a variety of formations, with clean footwork.
Dancing and music alternate throughout the day, with a little lull in the heat of the afternoon. [It’s over 100 degrees F.] Come back to Plaza Grande at 9:00 pm, and there’s been a shift again… bandstands on both ends of the street, and a crush of dancers end-to-end and curb-to-curb. This time, no audience, but hundreds of couples, all ages, younger now, and maybe a few tourists.
This Sunday menu of music and dance happens every week. It’s a regular schedule, faithful to the notes in the guide books. There are additional events on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… and street-dancing isn’t even the whole picture — there’s a concert hall with a series of dance performances onstage, which I’d like to check out on my next visit.If I think of other cities & towns I’ve lived in, similar events are once-in-a-while, once-a-year, once-a-lifetime — not weekly! What’s with a culture that schedules dance every day and all day Sunday?! I have to think it must be a different adventure to teach dance in the public schools, in a culture that dances!
On the other hand, do I take for granted what’s available in my own hometown? When I think about it, there are a lot of dance events in Seattle… am I too tired at the end of a day to take in what’s happening nearby? Why is dance so marginalized here and seems so central there? What would it take to bring dance to the center?
Food for thought. Feel free to give some comments to chew on.