Dressing Up to Honor Ancestors and the Black Lives Matter Movement

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Dancers in 'Ethos de Masquerade,' the new production from Campo Santo and Global Dance Street Masquerade. (Photo: Joan Osato/Campo Santo)

It's hard to know exactly what to expect at Ethos de Masquerade, even after attending a rehearsal of this dance-theater piece. But one thing is sure: it will be beautifully colorful.

Ethos de Masquerade is a co-production of the theater group Campo Santo and Global Street Dance Masquerade about the Black Lives Matter movement, the taboos placed on women, and the AIDS epidemic. There are screen projections of starry nights and pulsing blood cells. There are monologues by Campo Santo members Sean San Jose and Starr Finch, playwright Luis Alfaro, poet Chinaka Hodge and others. And then there are dancers in elaborate full-body costumes that harken back to the ancient African masquerade tradition, designed by Global Dance Street Masquerade member Rashad Pridgen and Mary Hogue.

The costumes, Pridgen says, conjure the ancestors or call forth the elements: “The Ethos de Masquerade is us bringing back this traditional element into urban society," Pridgen explains, "and telling stories to express what’s happening to the community that can’t be said with words." This week's Do List co-host Marc Bamuthi Joseph says the rich art of Campo Santo and Global Street Dance Masquerade marks them as civic leaders, "creating context for ritual, and helping us see how we can transform our lives through music, movement, and the magic of the mask." Ethos de Masquerade runs Aug. 16–27 at The Strand in San Francisco; details here, and tickets here.