Last weekend, maiki and susan invited me out with emma clover for a walk to the berkeley marina. Even though I’d lived in Berkeley for like nine years, I hadn’t actually walked all the way there from anywhere inside of Berkeley. I’d always taken the bus or gotten a ride in. There’s a bunch of new construction and a pond and it was nice to see the other side (namely, the top side) of the foot bridge that you always see when you drive between the university st exit and the bay bridge.
I brought my props from when I did red ribbon dance ~fifteen years ago. When we did it, we only had red ribbons, so I’m partial to that setup (rather than the pastel ones in the video). Maybe one of these days I’ll find a glorious, glorious recording on vhs buried in a box somewhere in my parents’ house. I loved Chinese dance. I loved the golden hoop dance, which I did in third grade–the golden hoops were cardboard or something, were big enough to reach 3/4 of the way to my elbow when I held them in my hands and twisted them back on my arm, covered in gold fabric, with bells attached at three-inch intervals around the loop; we had a red costume with a knee-length flared red skirt and black leggings with a red ribbon wound up over my calves); I remember the black ribbon edging with small gold marks. I loved shan di wu, which I did with Amy and Cathy when I was in kindergarten or first grade and they were even younger–again with a red costume, again with bells but this time sewn directly onto the costume, lining the hem of my skirt (so you’d have to be REALLY careful when the dance required you to kneel down: kneeling on those bells really hurt!) and several lines of bells going across my torso (no wonder I love the dangly coins in my belly dance costume so much). I remember the yellow contrast edging made from that stuff that was all over fabric stores in the 80s–the sort of wavy edging that you could stitch on to your fabric that looks almost corrugated. And again there were black leggings with red ribbon tied up our calves, starting from our dance shoes and going up. I remember struggling to tie it not too tight, but tight enough so that the top wouldn’t sag down. You’d have to knot it at the top and then tuck the knot in, and do it all at the top of the calf (not the middle, or it would sag), so that the smaller circumference at the top of the calf would be something for the ribbon to hang on to.
But my favorite of all the dances was the red ribbon dance. Like I mentioned, our troupe only used red ribbons, but hilariously in Chinese the dance was referred to as “彩帶 ” — “colored streamer dance”. cai means “variegated colors” but I guess red is a color, and we knew that other troupes that did ribbon dances did them with lots of colors, so I’d always noticed that. But we only used red.
Maybe there’s a reason my favorite color is red. Or maybe I’ve always loved red and that was an added bonus in Chinese dance. Red’s a lucky color in Chinese culture, anyway.
I need to iron my ribbons, and also, my ribbons actually say “Annie” on them, so they’re really my sister’s. I wonder where mine are. Sorry, Annie. Do you want them back?
In retrospect, it might have been nice to give clover a little bit of time to sit quietly with her family on the bench at the marina, but I was excited, so I took my ribbons out right away. I’d never tried playing with them in the wind. It was ridiculous.
Susan got some pretty fantastic pictures:
clover watches carefully and learns so fast. The first couple of times we put the handle in her hand, the wind snatched the ribbon away, squiggling along the concrete into the grass. Soon enough clover held on fast, and watched the ribbon stream away from her. She tried to chase it, sort of, and the wind took it away, of course, and we called her back to us. She looked up at us, and I was making a big circle with my arm, holding the ribbon, so she didn’t hesitate at all and made the biggest circle she could too, with her little arm, and away the ribbon went, in tiny circles, rippling in the air.
I do miss chinese dance, but unlike ballet, I feel like I’d be hard-pressed to find a studio where I could do it as an adult. I guess I just have to teach a bunch of friends. xD