Upon moving to Oakland, CA, my wife and I tried resting easy in a 100 year old CraftsmanNouveau. The renovations were ongoing and we spent most mornings down the block sippigc coffee. We had set a deadline for the work— we had planned a house warming and sent out invitations. The fiesta was planned for the the first of November, All Saints Day, the day afterHalloween. In the Bay Area, people have become well aware of the cultural significance of Dia de Los Muertos. The sizable Mexican population have made their holiday an ever-present celebration
that embraces all.
The timing of our housewarming allowed the gathering to take on multiple purposes. It presented our new home to friends and family. It celebrated the holiday. It celebrated our impromptu wedding two years before (and love)! And it addressed the loss of close family and friends. It also celebrated the fact, that after so much movement, after a near traumatic loss of life, we simply were ALIVE.
One morning I heard Victor playing accordion on the sidewalk outside the local cafe. I enjoyed the ambiance the music created. In an area full of musicians, many of whom are “buskers, ” this music really stood out. The subtle tone and natural sway that songs created were engaging, I imagined this music at party and thought of the unique dynamic that would be created. I learned that Victor and his wife, Marlet, were in town from Guadalajara. They were in the US for art performances. Their group, Alariete, were here for a performance in Oakland.
I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to ask Victor to play at our party. He agreed and added that after playing accordion for an hour, he would like to work with Marlet to demonstrate their creative blend of music and dance. We agreed and looked forward to the night (though we were uncertain exactly what to expect). Many of the best things in life happen without really planning. We had spoken with the pair for 1/2 an hour about the previous stressful four years of our life. Meanwhile, they helped us out moving drywall in our yard. What the pair did in there performance was truly amazing. They converted memories and thoughts into a brilliant narrative that was woven through an engaging dance motion.
Victor had opened the evening on accordion that, to the crowd, rivaled the score to Amelie. Yann Tiersen is after all the most widely known accordion player in the states. With the music and back door open into the yard, the the party took on a very comfortable, international feel. As the night proceeded, drinks were served and the crowd’s conversations were reeling. Then the time for the dual performance arrived and the group of 50 + formed a circle around Alariete in the wide open living room. Many of the guests and us ourselves were in costume. Anne and I were dressed as an undead bride and groom as we sat and the
What we watched was a breathtaking piece of work that left the crowd at first jawdropped in tears, and then sitting in with warmth and appreciation. Tough we didn’t feel we had explained our story in so much depth. Victor and Marlet developed the story so well. Victor spoke us through our own tale and Marlet used her soft step to convey the story in motion and present us with memorable pictures that captured our lives. The story developed so well and the nature of their words, words written in their second language, created such an intricate tone. We were captured by language itself.
Alariete have an amazing ability to understand humanity. Whether it is hope or loss, love or fear, they are able to translate the emotions and mentalities into a captivating art. It was through their work that our own lives were given a frame: all the motion, all the memories, all the loss, all the pain within. It captured all the people and places, hope and aspirations. Perhaps most of all it captured our love. It is through the work of Victor and Marlet that we came to fully see, to truly understand, our own lives.!
And it was from here that our new lives began.