After plans to meet a friend fell through Saturday afternoon, I began my third date by myself at the Midsummer’s Dream festival of colour, in Hamilton.
According to its website, the festival was inspired by the principles of an ancient Hindu festival called “Holi,” intended to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and the renewal of spring. From where I was standing, it seemed like an excellent excuse for a lot of people to get extraordinarily dirty. Sign me up.
I quickly got my bearings and wasted no time jumping into the mess. Armed with six small bags of coloured powder, I pushed to the middle of the large crowd. As the first musical guests chanted in Sanskrit, we pressed together and waited for the countdown. When it happened, it didn’t matter that I was wearing sunglasses or that I’d pulled my scarf over my face, that shit got everywhere. It was in my eyes, ears, mouth, and up my nose. It found every crevice. Eventually, of course, I had to use the ladies’ room and then the powder got… everywhere else.
This colour-throwing ritual, which represents how different cultural backgrounds can come together as one, repeated every half hour. Here are some photos of me gradually acclimating to my surroundings:
Aside from music and colour, there was plenty more to see and do. I contentedly explored the tea lounge, the craft vendor market, the do-it-yourself creativity tent, and the large yogafest.
In the creativity tent, I sat and made myself a brightly-coloured ankle bracelet while chatting with a woman and her daughter. “What do you think this festival represents?” I asked her. “I think it’s just a celebration of love and friendship and equality,” she replied. Yeah, I can get behind that.
I somehow managed to score a free coconut by flashing my brightest smile and asking the man how much it was for pretty girls. Wow. I’m embarrassed how easily that worked.
I don’t particularly like yoga, but I did enjoy the soft music and the soothing voice of the instructor, so I laid next to them under a tree and drank my coconut. Life is good.
I wandered around aimlessly, occasionally engaging in playful colour fights with strangers, spontaneously plopping my ass on the grass to chug water, and randomly contributing to passing conversations. “Am I pink, orange, or blue right now?” A young girl asked her friend. “All of the above!” I shouted.
Overall, my experience was very positive. I was alone and yet felt very much an accepted part of the large faceless group of awesomeness.
There was just one thing that troubled me. I didn’t dance. Not even when a great DJ put together a series of tracks I’d normally shake my ass to. I love dancing. Whether I’m any good or not has never concerned me; I’m an uninhibited dancer. But I still didn’t dance. I couldn’t.
Come to think of it, I’ve never danced by myself in public. I’ve always been among friends. What’s more: it was always with the underlying agenda to either entice or impress someone else. I did not like this revelation at all.
I began looking closer at the moving crowd of brightly coloured people, young and old, and I began to see it for the smaller groups it comprised. Everyone danced with someone else. Sure they were dancing freely, but only with the familiarity of someone they knew. Dancing is about the music not the people; isn’t it? Or maybe it’s both?
I may not have joined in the dancing, but I also didn’t run from my discomfort. While these questions tumbled around unwelcome in my brain, I stood amid the dancers and felt it.
It is now my goal upon completing this project to be able to dance by myself and feel great about it.