Nola & DC: A Musical Tale of Two Gentrified Cities

Published

My family spent Christmas break in New Orleans. We were in the French Quarter on New Year’s Eve. We’d just dined at Mr. B’s, wandering among the daiquiri-clutching revelers competing for Mardi Gras beads along Bourbon Street when we ran into one of our favorite street dancers. His face was covered in metallic gold paint matching a metallic outfit and mechanical robot dance moves. He has a small battery-powered speakers blasting popular radio hits. He accepted small donations from the crowd of tourists.

A nice crowd had surrounded him to watch his performance. He was in the middle of an industrial interpretation of Sai’s “Gangnam Style” when he was rudely interrupted by a pack of New Orleans police officers who ordered him to move because he did not have a license.

When the crowd started to “BOO” the police, the dancer cut them off. “They are just doing their jobs,” he cautioned, diffusing the situation but leaving more than a few of us still miffed at the police. As my daughter remarked the next morning: “They really know how to mess up a good time.”

I made parallels to the crackdown on indigenous culture in Washington, D.C. last last year in a 2012 essay about the war on New Orleans street performance art, “Are Gentrified Cities Too Greedy?”

I quote a Nola radio call in listener who called into a show on which I was a live guest last summer. The caller was furious about the police crackdown. “They want to turn this place into a big ole Disney Land,” he thundered. ” They can’t do that. That’s our blood that spilled on Congo Square!”

I am still trying to find a name for this talented street dancer from NYE 2012.  But I was able to find this youtube video below, you can see him performing another date and time but also it looks like he’s in the French Quarter)