A Day at HemisFair Park

[Written Nov. 1, 2010.]

Oh, November. The beginning of the bullshit holidays and the coming of the dreaded winter. I’m not much of a fan of Halloween. I think I should be. I have always loved the whole;e morbid graveyard motif. Maybe I just feel it’s embraced by a bunch of fucking amateurs.

Anyway, I managed to keep a low profile during Halloween on my block. I received a text message from Mistress Kat, my dominatrix friend with whom I used to celebrate Halloween. But she fell in love, went off and got married. Probably divorced by now. But what do I know. Love rules supreme…for some people.

Here are my neighbors on Halloween with a Wizard of Oz motif.

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This morning I got up and hammered out some questionable verbiage….I’m doing the National Novel Writing Month thing again.

And then I headed to URBAN-15 to pick up Catherine’s Flip-Camera and so I could borrow her monopod. I was asked to video tape their November 1st performance at the Instituto de Mexico in HemisFair Park.

A busy day for me and HemisFair Park. I had that 4pm press conference under the clock tower. Me and my Luminaria brethren were there with our mayor explaining to god and everyone why this new improved 2011 Luminaria Arts Night in San Antonio would make all our whites whites and our colors more colorful.

As press conferences go, it seemed quite successful. Some members of the press showed up. Maybe four. And we had so many more artists than for last year’s press conference (when we had, what, one?). Anyway, we had some great entertainment. The very talented and very young dancer and aerialist Julia Langenberg. She did an ariel dance performance on silks hung from the clock tower. I spoke with her afterwards. She’s an amazing and articulate young woman.

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We also had, as entertainment, Hyperbubble, a high-energy retro future duo who should be the soundtrack to the brilliant Paleo-Future blog.

I was happy to see so many artists there. Many of my friends came down to fly the flag of San Antonio arts. Film was well represented by Victor Payan, my co-chair in the film / media committee. He was chosen to speak. Veronica Potter-Hernandez, wonderful filmmaker and my Luminaria co-chair in 2009 was present. We also had one of our film committee members, the very talented Jessica Torres, who, though still a teenager, has won many awards with a series of weird and wonderful and very smart short films. When Susanne Cooper (co-chair of Luminaria) asked for committee members to come and stand in front of the stage, I was proud to be up there with my fellow co-chair, Victor Payan, as well as committee member Jessica, both whom I consider to be my colleagues and friends.

After the press conference, I headed home to take my laundry off the line.

And then, a couple of hours later, I was heading back to HemisFair Park. URBAN-15 was preforming for the Instituto de Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.

I parked just south of Durango Street in front of my office. I grabbed a shoulder bag with my camera, batteries, a couple of lenses, and a monopod. It was starting to get dark, and I was afraid I might be running late so I hurried to the meeting place.

I join the URBAN-15 dancers and drummers in the parking lot of the Magik Theatre. I pulled out my camera and shot some footage of the troupe suiting up in their elaborate costumes–the women were in white full skirts decked out in flashing LED lights and glow sticks. The drummers favored black suits, spats over shoes, and fedoras.

Once the performers had secured their calaveras masks–the ones who didn’t have their faces painted as skulls–we all walked to the pedestrian concourse in front of the Instituto de Mexico. (I had been in that exact place just three hours earlier for the Luminaria press conference.) I shot some more scenes of the performers going through last minute instructions. They would be following a more traditional folkloric dance group from the Guadalupe Cultural Center. I broke away and went to shoot some of their work–the performances were outside, in the Plaza de Mexico. But I wasn’t there just to watch the other folks, I also planted Catherine’s little Flip-Camera on a tiny tripod hidden on a statue. The audience was smaller than last year. But then I remembered, tonight wasn’t the Day of the Dead. It was tomorrow. And there is be another performance then. I’d be there. I just hoped a larger crowd would as well.

When the Guadalupe group ended their story of life and death and the dead behaving as the living, I pushed the start button on the Flip, and marched into the middle of the Plaza to shoot URBAN-15 as the marched upon us with swirling taffeta, flashing lights, and hypnotic drumming, loud and urgent. You heard it your chest, with your feet and fingertips answered back that primal call.

They played four pieces. The first two were intense, with the dancers moving in a large circle as the drummers stationed themselves along the back wall of the Instituto. The next two numbers were intense, in a different way. More Dionysian, more inclusive. This is when the dancers began approaching the audience and dragging them into the circular dance. It’s mainly kids and women. But some men. Before I began working with URBAN-15 I recall having been pulled up on my feet on a couple of occasions.

After the show in the Plaza, the dancers and drummers headed into the Instituto’s galleries. I followed along, smiling at Gabriella, the director of the Instituto. She’;s a wonderful and warm woman who still manages to run a tight ship. Her eight employees–all Mexican Nationals like her, I presume–seem to adore her. URBAN-15 moved through all the galleries, on both floors, and they must have performed and addition four musical numbers. I was exhausted just watching them.

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