Mardi Gras Indians, street dancing, hot grilling and tight community on Super Sunday in Central City (photos)

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Thousands flocked to Central City for Super Sunday, the annual gathering of the Mardi Gras Indians sporting the new suits they debuted on Mardi Gras last month, this time on Sunday (March 19) as a part of St. Joseph’s Day at the epicenter intersection of Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street. Photographers amateur and pro jammed streets, sidewalks and stoops jockeying for position for a snap at a festival that turned into an almost informal parade up LaSalle Street.

It was a delight to watch Chief Howard Miller and Queen Rukiya Brown of the Creole Wild West make their entrance, taking time for residents and especially children to get some quality for a few photos and, in one instance, explain the tradition and culture.

There were some pretty wild sights aside from the Indians, including rows of food trucks cranking out soul food and drinks, residents forming impromptu dance parties, NOPD officers and residents  riding on horseback — and one bizarre instance, an entire group of people riding in what appeared to be a makeshift party bus in the form of an open-air U-Haul van.

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Krewe of Zulu parade: Before, during and after, all along the avenues (photos)

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Watching the Krewe of Zulu along Orleans Avenue is a study in New Orleans street culture, complete with huge crowds gathering on the streets, along the sidewalks, and up on porches while barbecue pits billow with smoke and speakers blast with music to help along the marching bands that are dotted along the parade.

I had the honor and privilege of helping to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bunch Club, many of whom are in Zulu, and I also got to interview the Zulu king and queen — both for the New Orleans Advocate. Here are visual highlights the corner of Orleans Avenue and Miro Street, and trots along Esplanade and Claiborne avenues.

Krewe of Endymion parade sets off from Mid-City (photos)

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What started out as a typically crazy and out-sized Krewe of Endymion parade became a sad night of pain for many parade-goers when a driver plowed into the route at the corner of Carrollton and Orleans avenues in Mid-City on Saturday (Feb. 25).

The parade started out innocently enough, having partially loaded in on Friday to get a head start, and, while many respected the new rule about keeping the neutral ground clear at the outset, plenty others jumped the barricades and enjoyed the fun — not learning until later what had happened further down.

We will share information as we get it, and also add more photos later.

Krewe of Nyx owns Wednesday night, and Ancient Druids (photos)

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Krewe of Nyx is now considered a super-krewe, and the members pretty much proved the point with their “Dancing the Night Away” parade that rolled through Uptown and into the CBD on Wednesday night (Feb. 22), owning the night as well as its preceding, so-called rival, the Ancient Druids.

There’s really no need to rehash Druids, which, while not nearly as offensive as in previous years, still continued its clunky deliver of its version of satire — which included a rather transphobic appraisal of Caitlyn Jenner. (This appeared to pull a page from satire better suited for a 2016 parade, but Druids has rarely been known to keep up with the times.)

Regardless, Nyx rolled behind, saving the best for last. I wasn’t wowed by the parade theme or some of the float execution, but others on social media theorized that Nyx’s emergence has also surprised in quality its most commonly referred-to all-female peer, Muses. You be the judge on this one.

 

 

 

Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade: No bone of contention on a fun day in the French Quarter (photos)

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Hundreds of dogs and their escorts promenaded through the French Quarter as tens of thousands cheered on in the annual Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon (Feb. 19).

This year’s theme: “Pirates of the Crescent City: Barkus Tells Tales of Jean Lafleabag.” Several venders supporting everything from shelter to animal rights were on hand as well.

I was given the opportunity to follow along with the Disco Amigos, the popular dance group, that literally brought up the rear of the parade, which started and ended in Armstrong Park. I’ll have some videos up later.

Krewe of ’tit Rex Trumps hate but hates Trump in Mardi Gras parade (photos)

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Well, he had it coming. And with at least one float, you could make the argument he came close.

The tiny Krewe of ’tit Rex was big on satirizing our golden new president, Donald J. Trump — the “J” apparently stands for “Jesus Effing Christ a Lot of People Don’t Like Me Down There” — in a parade held Saturday (Feb. 18) and starting on St. Roch Avenue. The parade itself in some ways feels like it’s out-grown itself. The overflow of humanity makes it difficult to appreciate the intricately lit and designed shoebox-size floats, with amateur and professional photographers and videographers jockeying for position alone the sidewalk of the neutral ground.

But in skewering the new president (and many others), the krewe proved once again that big things come in small packages.

 

“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 16: Will Coviello on Krewe du Vieux, Leslie Castay and John Pope on “Sweeney Todd” and Alison Logan on “The Original Classy Broad”

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We had a lot of fun on Saturday’s (Feb. 11) episode of WHIV (102.3 FM), in which we welcomed a wide range of guests:

Will Coviello, arts and entertainment editor for Gambit, as Krewe du Vieux prepared to roll in the Marigny and French Quarter that night. (Coviello also is a member of the sub-krewe Spermes).

Leslie Castay, who played The Beggar Woman in the New Orleans Opera Association’s staging of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” and writer John Pope, who offered his take on the blurred lines between opera and musical theater for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

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“Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” puts women at the forefront of Mardi Gras history at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere

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“IRIS AND THE GODDESSES OF CARNIVAL”
WHAT: Louisiana State Museum presents an exhibition celebrating the history of all-female Carnival krewes as Iris marks its centenary
WHEN: Opens Fri. (Feb. 10); runs through December 2018
WHERE: The Presbytere (751 Chartres St.)
MORE INFO: Visit the Louisiana State Museum website

One of the most anticipated features of the 2017 Carnival season will examine the feminine mystique when the Louisiana State Museum (LSM) opens its “Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” exhibition on Friday (Feb. 10) at the Presbytere.

Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival Exhibition from LaStateMuseum on Vimeo.

The exhibition, produced with the support of krewes of Iris, Muses and Nyx, will, among other things, use the centennial commemoration of Iris to explore the evolution of female krewes, from the 1890s to contemporary Carnival — which has seen an explosion of the concept over the past two decades. There will be rare artifacts from the LSM’s vast collection, but also will include pieces from outside lenders, including what is considered the earliest-known existing queen’s dress of Iris that was worn in 1941 by Irma Cazenave — spouse of Count Arnaud Cazenave. The dress has been provided on loan from Arnaud’s restaurant.

“The Krewe of Iris boldly paved the way for other women’s krewes,” said Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said in the press release. “The tremendous surge in participation in Mardi Gras by women is a testament to their success.”

Iris is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. When it was founded back in 1917, the women’s suffrage movement was in full swing, and the right to vote was just a couple years away. The emergence of Iris came after two decades of New Orleans women’s work to establish Carnival organizations. Les Mystérieuses, the first of its kind, premiered with a ball in 1896. While the more recent emergence of such noted all-female krewes as Muses, Nyx and Femme Fatale will be noted, “Iris and the Goddesses of Carnival” will fill in the major gap in between — including a look at the first women’s parade, held by the Krewe of Venus in 1941.

(Check out images and other artifacts from the exhibition here.)

There also will be references to long-lost krewes such as “the Mittens, the Mystic Maids, Empyreans, Titanians and more,” the press release noted. “Long-lived parading krewes such as Shangri-La, Rhea and Cleopatra will provide another important part of the chronicle of women and carnival. Original tableau ball artworks executed by Spangenberg Studios; paintings inspired by the Iris, Muses and Nyx parades; and the very first Muses shoe from their inaugural 2001 parade will make this exhibition sparkle with the spirit of the many women’s krewes that have left their mark on carnival history.”

Some of the fun facts and highlights of the exhibition, courtesy of the museum, include:
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“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 11: Kim Vaz-Deville, Virginia Saussy, Wayne Phillips on women and Carnival

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Carnival season is upon us, and I thought this was a good opportunity to discuss some of the more intriguing aspects of Carnival culture with some of its most notable figures. Because that’s a lot of ground to cover, I hope to dedicate the next two shows on this subject. That starts off with today’s guests. Joining us:

Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at Xavier University and author of the 2013 book, “The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the Mardi Gras Tradition.”

Virginia Saussy, marketing consultant and charter member of the Krewe of Muses, whose landmark debut in the early 2000s helped spark a massive influx of women participating in Carnival on a more formalized structure.

Wayne Philips, Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum. Wayne’s here to discuss an upcoming exhibit at the Presbytere celebrating women’s Carnival krewes (and that’s just this week!). So you can call today’s show our “Estrogen Fueled Carnival Episode.”

SEGMENT ONE: KIM VAZ DEVILLE, AUTHOR, “THE BABY DOLLS”
I was really excited to welcome our first guest. Kim Vaz-Deville, Ph.D. is professor of education and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her book, The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2013 and was the basis for a major installation, “They Call Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition” at the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere unit in 2013. It is the 2016 selection of the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans’ One Book One New Orleans. Vaz-Deville guest-curated with Ron Bechet, Department Head and Victor H. Labat Endowed Professor of Art Painting, Drawing, and Community Art at Xavier University of Louisiana, an art exhibit titled “Contemporary Artists Respond to the New Orleans Baby Dolls” which showed work about and inspired by the tradition in Spring, 2015 at the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art in New Orleans. Normally photographed on the streets of New Orleans during the ritual times of Mardi Gras, St. Joseph’s night and Super Sunday, photographer Phillip Colwart invited maskers to take stage portraits. Vaz-Deville curated these in a photography exhibit, “Philip Colwart’s Studio Portraits of the Baby Dolls of New Orleans”, on view 2015-2016 at the Shreve Memorial Public Library, in Shreveport, LA.

SEGMENT TWO: VIRGINIA SAUSSY, KREWE OF MUSES
Virginia Saussy has been a part of one of the most fascinating developments in Carnival culture in the past two decades. The emergence of the Krewe of Muses on the parade routes back in 2001 signaled the beginning of a massive influx of women into more formalized Carnival activity even though the first female Carnival krewe rolled 100 years ago. (More on that later in the show.) We now have Muses, and Nyx, and the predominantly African-American krewe Femme Fatale, and of course myriad marching and dancing troupes as we previously discussed. Virginia Saussy, a marketing consultant who’s an original member of the krewe, is here today to talk about how Muses helped alter the Carnival scene, and what we might expect from female krewes.

SEGMENT THREE: WAYNE PHILLIPS, LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM
Finally, welcomed Wayne Phillips, who has served as the Curator of Costumes & Textiles and Curator of Carnival Collections at the Louisiana State Museum since 1998. Wayne is responsible for a collection of over 30,000 artifacts, including historic and contemporary clothing, accessories, and textiles of all kinds, as well as an encyclopedic collection of artifacts documenting all aspects of Louisiana Carnival celebrations statewide. Wayne has made strides in expanding the State Museum’s holdings documenting the LGBTQ community in Louisiana, with particular interest in gay Carnival krewes. In 2014, Wayne served on the Steering Committee that founded the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and he serves on the board of directors for the organization today. For this segment, Wayne discussed an upcoming exhibition at the Presbytere focusing on women and Carnival, tied to the 100th anniversary of the Krewe of Iris.

I want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks again for joining us. I want to remind everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going. Happy Carnival, y’all.