The Performant: The accidental tourist

Pub date October 20, 2010
SectionPixel Vision

Intrepid travelers always get a bit of a bee in their bonnet when you mistake them for tourists, but tourism doesn’t have to be a dirty word. All it really means is the act of traveling for recreational purposes and as such, can be applied to even the smallest of pleasurable jaunts. Saturday morning, I went on a tour—replete with guides, maps, wristbands, a short jaunt by MUNI train, and a chaos (as opposed to a gaggle or a horde) of dancers. Yes, it was the 7th annual San Francisco Trolley Dances, and this year’s chosen line was the N-Judah.

There’s nothing affected about the workaday N, the busiest line of the Metro system, and you wouldn’t normally find a whole embarrassment (as opposed to a herd or a murder) of art-loving tourists hanging out on it, but there we were. Chatty, consolidated, in motion: heading chummily from Duboce Park to Golden Gate.

At the Harvey Milk Recreational Arts Center, the pink and blue garments of the celestially-clad Sunset Recreation Center Chinese Folk Dance Group, the cotton-candyesque pouffs of pink afro wigs worn by the Joe Goode Performance Group, and the shiny red bullseye of a large round suitcase passed around by the performers of Christine Bonansea’s 2 x 3 project, all caught the eye, while the dexterity of the dancers further held the attention.

After hopping the N-Judah and trundling en masse to 9’th and Irving, our tour guide, Mike, promised us some wildlife—and there she was, behind the display window of Osso and Co, a lady (Phaedra Ana Jones) dressed like a leopard, dancing fluidly with an acrylic “crystal” ball.

Arriving at the Botanical Garden, we trooped through the gate to watch pieces choreographed by Sara Shelton Mann, and Japanese folk dance troupe, Ensohza Minyoshu. But the pièce de résistance was Epiphany Production’s contribution “Sonic Dance Theatre”, whose grand yet playful vision took over an entire meadow with Hank Williams songs and gospel lullabies, taffeta skirts, masked wildlife, a didgeridoo, a bride, a ballerina, and an make-believe picnic.

If you’re traveling for work but your work is a pleasure, does that make you a tourist? I wish I’d thought to ask Lynda Barry that when I chatted her up at APE after her spirited presentation of her brand-new Drawn and Quarterly book: Picture This, The Near-sighted Monkey Book. Comics scribes are often fairly introverted individuals (go figure) and their presentations can be rather stilted affairs, but Barry is a natural bon vivant, and her anecdote about trying to pick up cute guys at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence by weeping in front of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus had us in stitches.

The Near-Sighted Monkey Book (sub-subtitle: Learn How to Art) is a guide to creating visual art—a sequel of sorts to What It Is (Drawn and Quarterly, 2008) which was about writing. If all goes well, maybe in the future we can expect a third book on public speaking, because on that particular subject, Barry has plenty to teach.