1 In North America

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans

“Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour – but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who knows what to do with it?” –Tennessee Williams

New Orleans is my favorite city in the world. My first time there was the summer of 2015, having been invited to perform as a guest artist with New Orleans Ballet Theater, along with other professional dancers from around the globe. Only a couple of hours after arriving, New Orleans had already entwined itself deeply into my soul. Since then I’ve returned to dance for three consecutive summers. I was obsessed on day one but after spending more time there, I can’t get enough of this strange town that is in the South but actually a whole world of its own.

Second line parades- passed down from traditional African American jazz funerals still party each Sunday throughout the season.

It’s a complicated city that’s been through a lot yet still feels so vibrant. People are full of the joy of life but it retains an aura of mystique that is somewhat darker and gritty. Maybe it’s the voodoo influence or it’s legacy of poverty. But so much of what New Orleans possesses can only be found here- in this town built on a swamp by a unique merging of French and Haitian cultures. It’s the town that inspired the likes of William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Louis Armstrong.

Parades are a part of public policy.

Beads in the trees, vestiges from Mardi Gras past, never cease to delight me.

Many houses are covered in beads year round.

 

Bodies are buried in mausoleums due to rampant flooding.

The past is present in New Orleans. Ghosts are part of everyday lore.

 

The French Quarter- the heart of New Orleans with its beautiful wrought iron balconies and street musicians.

The infamous Bourbon Street should be done once and only once.

From the colorful characters to the great food to the big brass sounds that are blaring out of every open window and every street corner, any time of day or night- New Orleans feeds all my senses. Everywhere there is music. Everyone knows how to party. Everything in New Orleans revolves around the past or the present. The future just doesn’t seem to matter as much as it does anywhere else. You go at your own pace. Sitting out on the porch, someone is always ready to tell you their story of New Orleans, or offer you a snow ball, or become your new dance partner.

Mardi Gras Indians- a mysterious part of the New Orleans culture.

A praline hawker probably in her 70s named Tee Eva, a self-proclaimed “city icon” and Queen of her Krewe, told me about what makes New Orleans special to her, “You bored or asleep I say wake up! Put some pants on! I’m fixin’ to have a party. There’s always food, bring your drums- I looked out my window yesterday, there was a parade just like that. No reason. Close up your shop, bring your keyboards, bring your drums, call a friend, I’m cooking up some beans and rice, I got crawdaddies and sno cones. We fixin’ to have a party.”

These two street musicians and long time New Orleans residents have been partners in music and life for 60 years. They will be happy to tell you the story of their love and how they fought against American miscegenation laws in the 1960s despite fear their children wouldn’t have parents afterwards.

It’s hot sweaty loud colorful magical fun beautiful and tough in equal parts. In spite of the poverty, racial divide and violence that the city is also known for there is a palpable sense of collective unity. The people have a fierce, strong pride in their city. As well they should. Festivals are a way of life. Great literature and new genres of music have grown up through the swamp here to become part of America’s cultural fabric. Old shotgun houses painted bright colors stand next to crumbling mansions. Life here seems just a little more bright, people seem somehow a little more alive.

The city motto “laissez les bon temps roulez” -which translates to Let the Good Times Roll- is emblematic of the place that has overcome so much and still retains its unique identity. From the music to the food to the street dancing, from the beads to the gorgeous cemeteries to the beautiful architecture, from the old oak trees to the local people that both have deep deep roots, this city has my heart.

Music education starts young!

My patron saint of New Orleans.

Some of New Orleans is up to 7 feet below sea level.

Who says NOLA doesn’t have vegetarian food?!

Everyone has an instrument.

The past meets the present.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Rachel L Van Buskirk
    August 31, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I love this so much!!!!

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