Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Brazen Squaredancers Take the Streets

The Brazen Squaredance Association and Free Skool Santa Cruz host this sporadic Santa Cruz event, in which scores of squaredancers take over public space, moving to increasingly brazen locations, eventually taking over the streets, literally. A kind of movable feast of old-timey dancing. Fliers and posters circulated around town promised rollicking live music, dancing in the streets, and reclaiming public space.

This time well-loved caller Mavis McGaugh stepped up to call and Karen (of Amy and Karen) played with a rollicking old-time band including musicians from Blackbird Raum and Curse Is Cast. Mavis provided squaredance instruction before each dance.

Dancers gathered at 5:30 on a Friday evening at the top of the River Street parking garage (violating the absurd 15-minute parking lot trespassing law). As a stop-gap between the arrival of the caller and all the musicians, the author stepped up to run the many new dancers through some of the basic squaredance and contra dance calls and moves. Alamand left your neighbor, do-si-do your partner, all join hands and circle up left.

Mavis arrived and charmed us through two or three dances on top of the parking structure all lit in golden sunset light. Then we moved the dance to our old Brazen standby Cooper and Pacific. There a Santa Cruz cop stepped into the middle of a reel and we hooted and hollered and danced around him thinking for sure, seeing all the fun, he just wanted to join in.

Turns out, no, the police had gotten complaints from O'Neil's Surf Shop who couldn't stand to see people dancing outside for free when they should be inside the store buying overpriced surfwear. After the cop explained this, we offered a rousing chorus of boos to the killjoys inside the store. We turned one of the sets 90 degrees to avoid the 15 feet no-go zone in front of merchant doorways (another repressive Santa Cruz law) and continued the dance.

After a few dances, we moved to our next increasingly brazen location at Lincoln and Cedar. We walked through the dance in the (soon to be doomed) Farmer's Market parking lot. Then when the band and the dancers were ready, we moved to the middle of Lincoln Street and began dancing. At first drivers were confused, then frustrated, then resigned all in quick succession, like stages of automobile-bound grief. After that, dancers formed a de facto street barricade.

A patrol car showed up and a uniformed officer shouted that we had to get out of the street. The musicians on the sidewalk kept playing and the dancers kept dancing. Our cop-tamer went over to serve his role as police liaison only to realize that the uniformed man was merely a security guard feeling some sort of duty to keep his city's streets free of cavorting, frolicking dancers. After that, the rent-a-cop's protests were largely ignored. However, he continued to block all approaches to the intersection with his car while he made frantic calls on his radio. Dancers thanked him afterward for providing an effective roadblock.

Several waltzes later back in the parking lot, we called it an amazing evening.


Wes Modes on May 30, 2007 at 2:38 PM said...

We are still looking for Brazen Squaredance photos. So if you have some, send them our way. Thanks.

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