I first heard about Aurora last time it happened, but was out of town that weekend and couldn’t make it. Then, on the way to a play at the Wyly theater, I saw a preview of Aurora – specifically an installation of giant red floating jellyfish.
So, as Aurora 2013 approached, I circled my calendar. Then, I found that Bike Friendly Cedars, along with other Dallas cycling groups, had a a ride planned. The idea was to put lights on your bicycle, then meet up at Main Street Gardens Park and ride down together.
The last few weeks have been very busy and stressful for me and I didn’t have time (or money) to properly decorate my bike. This sort of thing is, especially right now, beyond my abilities or resources. It was stressing me out a little bit. The only thing I could do is to go to the Dollar Store with a five and a one clutched in my sweaty fist. I bought a couple LED lightsabers, a little lighted pumpkin, and some packages of glowy bracelets.
I gathered up everything in my house with a battery powered light and roll of duct tape, and, after work rode down to Lee Harvey’s – where I taped everything to my bike in a pretty much random fashion. I felt like an idiot – but it worked. Especially the lightsabers. I might try and find a way to more permanently hold those on my bike – they would be useful to increase the visibility for night rides.
Nothing like big, glowing, flashing, green cylinders to get the attention of motorists after dark.
Everybody met up and we set off in a glowing, flashing mass – down around downtown
Dallas, into Deep Ellum, then back into the Arts District.
I was immediately surprised and shocked by the crowds. The original idea was to ride through Aurora as a group, but the streets were packed with thick throngs of people and we were immediately split up. I locked my bike up and began to explore.
Aurora was amazing. I kept thinking, “Is this really Dallas?” There were hundreds of artists and installations covering the entire spectrum spread across the vast area from One Arts Plaza, down Flora Street past and including the concert halls and museums, across to Klyde Warren Park and even down towards the Perot. That’s about two square miles of area.
The crowd was huge. I was so glad I had ridden in on a bike and had a DART pass in my pocket. People were calling in on cell phones – the traffic across the city was at a standstill and there was no parking to be found anywhere.
I spent hours walking around. There is no way to see even a fraction of everything that was offered up, but there were a few items I really wanted to take in.
First, the dancers that I had seen at the Patio Sessions on Thursday were performing on a little grass patch between the Opera House and the Symphony Hall. Through dumb luck I arrived a couple minutes before they started and talked to a parent of one – I told him of their enthusiasm and skill that I had seen the evening before.
The description of their performance:
Ruddy Udder Dance by Claire Ashley
This performance uses a large-scale, painted inflatable sculpture as a prop worn by twelve dancers. A choreographed sequence unfolds. Ashley is interested in both the high-brow aesthetic pleasure found in the painterly abstraction and monumentality of the object itself, and the absurdly low-brow, playful, high-energy, ecstatic dancing experience and pop culture references that ensue as the object moves in space. Directed by Linda James and Kate Walker and performed by the Repertory Dance Company II from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
The dancers were arranged as the “feet” or maybe the “udders” of a stylized giant inflatable cow-balloon and danced to a country music tune – throwing the enormous bovine around as handlers held guy ropes and a bank of black lights made the scene glow. It was pretty cool.
Next, I wanted to see the Wyly Theater. I had seen a preview and knew I had to check out the real thing. Several banks of incredibly powerful video projectors were trained on the wall of the Borg Cube – shaped Wyly. The genius is that the program started with an image of the Wyly projected on itself, which then was moved, shifted, deconstructed, and modified until the thing was transformed into a giant 2001-style cube monolith – “It’s full of Stars.”
I found a spot and sat and watched the cycle. Then I realized that viewing it at an oblique angle was even better, so I watched it again. Really cool stuff.
Finally, I wanted to see something inside the Dallas City Performance Hall. Shane Pennington is a local artist that I have been a huge fan of ever since I spent a few days going down to the arts district to watch his ice sculptural exhibition melt into nothingness, releasing the stones contained within. I had read about the screen, a transparent curtain, he made for the Performance Hall – with consists of a grid of computer controlled lights that illustrate shapes moving across the mouth of the theater.
Inside the theater they had the screen up and running. People walking, riding bikes, or pushing carts moved across the screen in a ghostly crowd. Behind the screen a jazz trio performed retro music – a beautiful contrast to the high-tech images they were immersed in.
Midnight approached, and I had to leave – I was a long way from home and I didn’t want to miss the last train.
I did have one last discovery. I didn’t do enough research before Aurora about the nature of the Ciclovia that I was a part of. I didn’t realize that the lighted bike ride was actually a part of the Aurora itself and the ride even had a plaque that spelled that out.
Seeing Aurora, I wondered what it would be like… how cool would that be?.. to actually be a part of it – to be an artist in the event itself, no matter how small or insignificant. Until I found that plaque, I didn’t realize that for the small effort of six bucks and a trip to the dollar store – I was one.