Friday, June 25, 2010

Dancing Down the Street: The Ottawa Jazz Festival

The call came out late Tuesday: Propeller was invited to street dance in the opening day parade for the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Mike Essoundry—esteemed percussionist and composer, and one of the musicians working with Propeller—needed more dancers to accompany The Mash Potato Mashers (his jazz street/marching band) as it lead the parade out from City Hall and wound its way down Elgin Street (one of our major downtown streets) and through Confederation Park to the main stage of the Jazz Festival.

Jess was psyched. “Of COURSE I want to do it!” Dancing, as I noted before, and in public, as I alluded to before, is the way life plays itself out. And so who am I, really, to try to persuade her that it isn’t so, when life’s circumstances and our community keep presenting her with opportunities to dance through life? At first I thought of working on those “independence skills” and getting her to figure out how to get there and take the bus on her own (she’d certainly be able to do it). But then I figured, who would want to miss a parade? As you can see, I am easily sidetracked from some of our goals, but Jessie just knows the most interesting people who invite her to some of the best things going on in the city, so I often find a way to go along for the ride. It may be years before she masters the bus!

Only two other members of Propeller were able to go at such short notice, Shara and MH, but there were other dancers from The School of Dance, and banner holders, and of course the musicians! All decked in red (right down to Mike’s funky Canadian red plaid Elmer Fudd hat) and silver and gold (the instruments). As they marched down the street, with police escort to close off the intersections, people began to join in and dance with them. (See video, just a few clips strung together, I figured it out! Notice how much slower the dancers are moving at the end.)

Jessie, as you can see, was in her element. MH catapulted her electric chair over curbs and grassy hills and spun and intersected with the other dancers and musicians. At one corner the group stopped and formed a circle and Shara delighted audience and musicians alike with some African dancing, inviting others into the circle.

When it was all over and we were sitting together on the bench waiting for MH’s paratranspo bus, the sousaphone player stopped to talk. “Like a Disney parade!” I said. “Not quite,” he said, “While they are fun, they leave no room for mistakes and so no room for being human.” “I like this kind of parade,” he continued, “it’s much more fun and I feel like I want to dance and march along. I’m not just watching, I’m participating.”

I thought about that on the way home. One, how Jessie has invited me into a community that is so open and full of life and creativity, and two, how Jessie (and her peers) invite others to be full participants in a joyful life. Now that is a great gift!

(Photos and video © 2010 Nancy Huggett and not to be reproduced or shared without consent)


Anonymous said...

I could feel it too. I wanted to get up and dance! It's exciting and the skies couldn't have been more blue!

Nan, I emailed you. :)

Anonymous said...

Me again...I sent you an email about the "filmpossible" project at Holland Bloorview. I'll post it in a comment in case any of your readers want to check it out too! It's such a great idea!

The link to the contest is right on the main web page.

Alex's Mom said...

Hi Nan, Thanks for the note on my story - "the ordinary life of an extraordinary girl" I too love reading about other young adults..I see you are on FB - so I will follow you there! Thanks again..

My name is Sarah said...

Hi Nan, This is Joyce. I am so HAPPY to have found your blog. One of our great followers sent us over here. I have a daughter who will be 21 in a few short weeks. Most of our writing is done from her perspective but every so often I throw something in. Would it be alright if we do a post to introduce you to our blogging family. There are so few blogs about teens and young adults out there.

Nan said...

Hi Joyce! Great to meet you and I look forward to meeting Sarah through the blog! Yes, please do a post to introduce me to your blogging family! Wow, I might have to give up my day job to keep up with all this reading!!!! But its fun too. Just getting ready for girls coming over for pizza then off to a movie. So better go supervise the cutting of vegies before a finger or two falls off!!!