Tuesday, August 15, 2006

08-15-2006 Festidanza 2006 - Great Parade of Arequipa 

Arequipa celebrates its 466th anniversary. The people of Arequipa joyfully celebrate its Spanish establishment anniversary. Love of spectacle unites all Peruvians. The parade starts about noon and finishes late in the night.


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"Knock, knock, knock.” I was awakened by the fluctuating noises on the door produced by none other than the triple A’s, ... or perhaps Indiana Jones (as we soon found as a reference for Pan Andrzej). The day started like every other, a hectic mess- or as some liked to call it- chaotic beauty. Breakfast in the small Arequipen hotel was followed by anxious guardians encouraging the dancers to get ready for the big parade, at which point we knew nothing of. On with the eyelashes, eyeliner, blush, and lipstick; I had to put a jump in my step to not be late for the bus that was already waiting outside. Struggling to button up the vest of my costume, I ran down the slippery steps and into the light of the Peruvian sun. The bus departed and took the dancers to a place so far unknown to them. The dancers were dropped off on the corner of a narrow street, trucks and cars zoomed past beeping their horns as if always in a hurry for something. In one eye, I saw banners, floats, and dancers dressed in ornate costumes of gold and silver. In the other, I saw crowds of observers lining up to find their places on the street. As we walked to our place in the line of the parade, we were surrounded by other dancers actively dancing to the rhythm of their native music. Polonia waited in the blazing sun trying to save their energy for the 4 km walk, soon to become a 4 km dance-a-thon. The scorching heat beat upon our faces as we began the procession. Following the bus that played our music, we were conducting the steps that we had practiced the day before: “walk, walk, step, cross over.” All of a sudden, from the depths of the crowd we hear, “baile! baile!” We all knew what that meant; it was the start to our 2 hours of non stop dancing. I remember seeing the faces of the bunches of people: smiling youngsters, buzzed adults, groups of friends, families. This sight encouraged me to give everything I had. When I took a look in the greater perspective, I realized what our dances meant to them-something foreign, something great that millions of people have gathered to see- forming in front of their eyes. We probably went through the Polonia Ensemble CD a good 3 times. The melodies were unforgettable as well as the expressions on the faces of the observers. To this day I remember the clapping, gestures, and roaring noises that soon blended into the music that I was trying to follow. Our procession from a small corner of Arequipa to the main square was something unforgettable, a memory etched into each tact of music that we will hear in the future. 
--Joanna Tomaszewski