Thursday, April 8, 2010

American Hat Dance (Richmond, VA)

Richmond's Easter Parade is fun even when it rains. But this year, it shines, and approximately 40,000 people and thousands of dogs turn out to roam up and down Monument Avenue, listen to bands, and people- and dog-watch.

There is no dress code, however, there are contests for best bonnets for humans and canines. You can see who's out to win: the decked-out transvestite and the yappy little lapdogs prance past, sporting outlandish hats. This year the male humans seem to be more into it than the females. The dog genders seem about evenly divided when it comes to dress-up.

I arrive about 15 minutes before the "official" one-o'clock start time. For the first time, I'm wearing a hat (for sun protection) and a springy dress (to usher in the season). It seems like old home week; every ten steps or so, I run into an acquaintance or a friend.

Catherine and Lilly are among the about-to-perform Morris dancers, dressed in knickers and colorful tatters. Both women are accomplished ballroom dancers, and I'm sure that they're equally proficient at Morrising, but this type of dancing leaves me cold, even as the temperature starts to climb.

I see one of my oldest Richmond buddies, Ken of the classic European race and sports cars, sail boats, an adventurer up for any new restaurant. We chat as we turn to walk against the rising tide of people and animals.

My Colombian daughter eventually finds us. It's her first Easter Parade, and she is struck by the crowds and enchanted by the sociable canines. We end up in front of Evalia's house, where Ban Caribe plays salsa on the porch and members of the Latin Ballet sway on the steps.

As far as I'm concerned, the day is now perfect. I dance with some of my favorite partners, David, Marcos, Keith, Fernando, and some guys I don't know. Suddenly it's 5:00p.m.

My feet are aching as I limp car-wards. My hair is plastered to my head, my head is baked, and I remember that I rarely wear hats precisely because I feel that they fry my brain.