Saturday, January 15, 2011

California Institute of the Arts Rememberances


I could hear a sound coming from deep within the building, boom, baboom. At first it sounded like I would imagine my heart would sound after a hard jog around a track for a mile or two, but I knew this wasn’t my heart, after all I was setting quietly in my office, at my desk, in the building where I had worked for the past four years.

I looked out my third floor window to see if it could possibly be thunder, but, even as I turned I knew that thunder was rare in Southern California, besides the sky was its usual pristine blue, or it would have been pristine if the smog hadn’t been hanging over the mountains.

Baboom, boom, boom, the sound was coming steadily up the stairwell from the lower floors of the building, gradually snaking its way up toward my office.

Boom, another one!! I could tell the noise was getting closer and closer to where I was sitting, I could now make out loud yelling voices, and odd rattling sounds, It wasn’t an earthquake, at least I didn’t think it was, even though I could almost imagine the floors shaking every time I heard another baboom.

Now I heard what sounded like a thousand feet jumping and stomping in wild rhythm on the rose colored tiles in the hallway just outside the office door.

As I stood and prepared to dive under my desk for protection from whatever was now lurking outside in the hallway the door suddenly flew open, slamming against the inside wall. With a loud yell a wild eyed man, his dark face painted with intricate white designs, his body dressed in a long mustard colored robe with a leopard’s skin draped over one shoulder burst screaming into my office. Grabbing me by the arm he dragged me out into the hall to stand behind my co-workers who had also been pulled from their offices.

My heart was pounding as I leaned down, took off my high-heeled shoes and threw them back into my office at his hollered instruction. There, standing in my stocking feet I raised my arms up over my head.

I looked at the faces around me and suddenly grinned and yelled out gleefully as I continued down the hall with this entourage of strange people, stopping only to collect other workers and students along the way.

We were all now officially a part of the Cal Art’s African Dance Ensemble. The colorfully dressed men and women from the Ensemble carried drums, symbols and gourds that rattled. They had decided that today was the perfect day for a festival and there could never be a better time than now for a parade. Of course to have a parade you needed dancers and people, so you just went down the halls, closed all the offices and created your own parade, after all everyone should be included when it was time for a wonderful festival.

Soon we had the “Conga” line to beat all “Conga” lines going, at least a hundred people snaking down the halls and out onto the grassy quad. The fencers from the Acting Department put down their epees and came in full fencing regalia, there were dancers in tutus and tights, painters dressed, as artists have dressed for centuries, in their dark, torn, paint covered shirts, trying their hardest to look poor and homeless. Professors dancing alongside secretaries, even some outside visitors were now all a part of the whole, one large dancing mass, twirling, turning, stomping, dipping, shouting, laughing, following the drummers and the other African musicians who led this wave of humanity.

Here beside me were members of the Sequoia String Quartet from the music department, looking so unlike their usually stoic selves when they performed Bach or Vivaldi, actors from the theater department, some in Shakespearian costume, custodians, musicians from the Asian Gavalon band, all dancing as one.

As I danced along with this river of humanity on this wonderful day I was reminded that this is the way we should all live our lives. Every now and then, taking our shoes off, throwing our arms in the air, shouting gleefully, and dancing through the hallways of our worlds collecting everyone we come in contact with, and never forgetting it’s festival time!!!

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