Hot! Hot! Hot! or Not! Parade Entry Has Town Abuzz

“Well, it’s not every day you see a bunch of women walking down the middle of Park Street at 10 a.m. wearing thong bikinis,” said one parade spectator.

It was a Mayberry meets Mardi Gras moment.

Island parade watchers Monday got more than the usual eyeful as the Hot Pink Feathers, a professional Carnaval Burlesque dance troupe, traversed the 3.5-mile route displaying what some said was an attitude a bit more "cheeky" than they expected. 
Over post-parade barbecues and in Facebook posts, texts and tweets the Hot Pink Feathers were the talk of the town. Their appearance in the parade elicited a range of responses — from wide smiles of absolute delight to surprised gasps.

“I thought they were phenomenal,"said one Harbor Bay 50-something mother of a teenage son. “There was absolutely nothing offensive about them. They had dance hosiery on and behaved completely appropriately. I found them a refreshing change of pace and enjoyed watching them.”

The group, composed of five professional corps members as well as student dancers, are in their 20s to 40s and come from all walks of life and a range of professions, from banking to medicine.

One of the dancers just moved to Alameda this weekend, and two of their band members, Kevin Brunetti (born and raised on the Island) and Brian Montone, live here.

The troupe’s director, who goes by her professional name Kellita, says the group is all about tolerance and love. “We’re committed to our core message to spread joy and delight and express that through the celebration of the female form with exuberant movement," she said.

Kellita says she often sees a palpable transformation in the troupe's audiences. “If someone has deep and painful issues with their own body, I think there is potential for them to heal when they see how we move our bodies,” says Kellita.

Indeed, the dancers in the group are not the airbrushed, stick-thin figures so often seen in the media. Some female parade watchers expressed awe over the chutzpah they displayed in showing off bodies that looked like real women.

“We’re not Barbie dolls,” explains Kellita. “We have all body types represented.”

Unfortunately, Kellita says, for the first time in 10 years of the troupe performing, within hours of the Alameda parade concluding, she received a couple hate-filled emails criticizing the group's costumes and appearance.

She says parade planners saw a video online of the dancers before the parade and notes one of the organizers even commented that some people might be taken aback a bit by their thong costumes, but seemed excited, nonetheless, they would be marching.

"They didn't tell us to wear something different. We have skirts we could have worn and would have happily done so had we been asked,” she says. “We would have figured something out.”

"I think there must have been a misunderstanding," says Barbara Price, chair of the parade committee, when asked to give a response as to why she did not specifically request they wear skirts instead of thongs.

"I did call the troupe director in advance and explained to her that I had seen a video of them performing on the Internet and that we were a family-friendly parade and inquired what they were going to wear — since I did see that they had costumes of different types, including ones with skirts," said Price. "They chose to wear what they did on their own having been told it was a family parade." 

"It is a public event," explains Price. "We cannot not pick entrants or censor them as long as they are not doing something illegal."  
Price says she did receive a few calls from people upset about the troupe's attire but redirected them to the troupe itself and suggested the callers politely voice their displeasure and gently recommend that they consider wearing something less revealing next year if that is how they felt. 

"There are no tryouts for the parade," says Price. "we never know from year to year exactly how it will look." 

Kellita takes the troupe’s work very seriously. She herself was the 2008 San Francisco Carnaval Queen and sits on the Bay Area National Dance Week Steering Committee. Her dance school, located South of Market in San Francisco and called the Hot Pink Feathers Show Girl Academy, trains performers who dance in hundreds of venues for young and old, indoors and outdoors.

She equates the troupe with Busby Berkeley and old movie musicals. “We dance to music like Rhapsody in Blue,” she explains. “We are not brazen floozies.”

Response from parade-goers on the sidelines was positive, as far as Kellita could discern. “All I heard were cheers,” she says, “no boos." She says some in the crowd watched in silence and she has no way of knowing what they were thinking. 

Would she bring the troupe back to Alameda’s parade next year for a second performance? “Yes, I would,” she says, “but next time I wish it would slow down. The parade moved very fast — at vehicle speed —and it was hard for the dancers to march that long distance that rapidly on foot. I also would request that we dance ahead, rather than behind, the horses next time.” (A sentiment undoubtably shared by many other marching contingents bringing up the rear of the parade.)

In addition to performing all over the Bay Area at special events and in parades, the troupe has a regular gig nearby. If you missed them in the parade, or want to see them perform again, you can catch them the second Saturday of every month at Café Van Kleef in Oakland. Music begins at 9:30 p.m. and they perform three sets between then and midnight.

Wiley July 06, 2011 at 03:58 AM
Thanks Hot Pink Feathers for livening up the parade. I thought you guys were great! Please come back next year.
Monty J Heying July 06, 2011 at 05:30 AM
Horses belong at the rear of a parade, for obvious reasons.
Audrey July 06, 2011 at 06:01 AM
There is a great thread on this going on Alameda Parents Yahoo! Group. I'd say 95% supportive, many women very supportive of the non-Barbie-but-happy example. Some good points made about the NRA entry being questionable to some people, but everybody would prefer to be open and inclusive. This mom of two girls (who didn't bat an eye -- who's not naked when it's this hot?) will be glad to see them next year.
LL July 06, 2011 at 06:18 AM
Thank god it was HOT PINk and not CODE PINK. I had way more issues with being shouted down regardless of my political views a couple of years ago. The HPF were in typical beach attire and if the NRA can parade, then surely we can see a little booty.
Matthew Pearce July 06, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Well said, LL!
urbvac July 06, 2011 at 02:03 PM
Here's video of the Hot Pink Feathers in the parade. Not a single boo is heard. Most people seem thrilled.
patricia bidar July 06, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Thrilled to see HPF represented.
Janet July 06, 2011 at 02:39 PM
The Hot Pink Feathers were delightful. I'm still smiling at the memory. I hope we'll have the pleasure again next year.
Kimberlee MacVicar July 06, 2011 at 04:16 PM
They sure upstaged previous entries by the Raiderettes or the Hakalani (sic?) Hawaiian dancers, who were both not in the parade this year. I enjoyed seeing the group. They did have folks around us talking...all positively and "who are they??!!"
Ammy Woodbury July 06, 2011 at 04:39 PM
I LOVED them! It was an inspiration to the mom sitting next to me to get in shape and join them. I love the eclectic nature of the Alameda parade. It's Mayberry meets San Francisco in all its glory. I love that we had church groups, marching bands, and folks doing everything from burlesque dance to Victorian waltzes with the Art Deco society in between. It's magical and I wouldn't change a thing. Though, wow, that must have been a lot of sunscreen! At least they must have been much more comfortable than the gents in wool top hats!
Rhea July 06, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I'm sorry I missed them while I was riding with the Girl Scouts. Maybe I'll join the HPF next year. They sound awesome! Go ladies!
Jon Spangler July 06, 2011 at 08:08 PM
Amen, Maria!
Jon Spangler July 06, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Ada, thank you for participating in our parade and for enlightening us.
Jon Spangler July 06, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Sally, the Alameda parade always has challenging and thought-provoking entries, as do most parades. I have seen highly objectionable entries in our parades from anti-gay fundamental Christian groups and from the National Rifle Association this year. There was nothing illegal or objectionable about the HPF entry, and their attire was nothing one would not have seen at Crown Beach or on Park Street on a hot summer day. You could choose to stay at home if you want to never be challenged or provoked, but the HPF group hardly counts as either one...
Karen Pare July 06, 2011 at 09:01 PM
If the City of Alameda is going to put on an X-rated parade, I'd like to know ahead of time so I can skip it. Contrary to what the group leader says, this parade entry was not a celebration of the female form, but just good old-fashioned exploitation of it! Sexism is alive and well in Alameda, as is incredibly bad taste. This is supposed to be a family-oriented event, and this group sent all kinds of bad messages - that women are objects to be ogled, that parents can't bring their children to a city-sponsored event and not have them exposed to soft porn. This has nothing to do with "free speech" and everything to do with the ever-increasing degradation of women in our society and the unfortunate fact that many women are only too happy to degrade themselves for a little attention.
Caschi July 06, 2011 at 10:48 PM
I can't remember exactly if I heard some mean yelling: "YEEEEEEEAAAHHH!" I don't think this was X rated but I was definitely surprised that the dancers were wearing a butt floss type outfit. Perhaps I would have less to say if the parade had an equalizing dance group called "dark blue feathers" featuring men dancing around in thongs as well.
Jon Spangler July 06, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Perhaps they will next year? I would have no objection to that sort of equity in the parade. It might not be my cup of tea (I don't like wearing thongs :-) but all's fair...
Melissa Gans July 06, 2011 at 11:58 PM
I thought the Hot Pink Feathers were a highlight of the parade, celebrating fun, women and dancing. Loved the Copacabana song! I think the National Rifle Association entry was a lot more offensive for obvious reasons.
Kate Quick July 07, 2011 at 12:33 AM
I think the Raiderettes who have been in the parade for several years, but not this one, are outfitted to "appeal to the purient interests" and no one has said a word about that. I thought this group was doing a Carnaval performance. Getting glowered at by the NRA group, who cracked nary a smile and waved no wave was a lot more upsetting. I mean, believing in the right to bear arms does not mean that a person can't be in the spirit of the fun of the parade and smile and wave and yell "Happy Fourth of July!" I hope the NRA group practices being more in the spirit next year.
Christy July 07, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Karen, If you think that the HPF was X-rated, you need to get out of the house, or off the island, a little more often. The women did not appear to be degraded to me, but looked like they were enjoying and celebrating themselves, the parade, and the day. It is sad that many people are ashamed of their own and other's bodies. Is Michaelangelo's David soft-porn? Some people have indicated that the HPF are better suited to Carnival, but for those of you who have attended Carnival, many of the women there wear much LESS clothing than the HPF. Also, Carnival IS a family event, as well. If you ever go and see the throngs of people at that event, familes are a huge part of the day. I think we should live in a culture where we have a little less shame of our bodies and a lot more tolerance of others. Just my thoughts on this issue.
Pleiadianwaves July 07, 2011 at 04:36 AM
I think what Karen is trying to relay, is her distaste of this particular societal mindset of NOT being able to view the human form other than as a sexual object. I believe she may be tired of seeing the human form (especially the woman form) as nothing other than SEX. It is true... ...in some cultures, they walk naked and nothing is out of order. You put a woman in almost anything in this society, and it is portrayed as sexual. Karen, I don't mean to speak for you, but I think I'm hearing your message inbetween the lines. It does run deeper here. Personally, I could give a rats ass about the HPF. I much rather see our attention on changing this city from the top ~ down. I'd like to see change in this country, from the top ~ down. There are soooo many other issues to deal with. It's almost unbelieveable how much energy has gone into the HPF issue. Is this really news?
Pleiadianwaves July 07, 2011 at 04:40 AM
Hey Kate, good point. I didn't see the NRA group smile either. I didn't notice that until now you said it. Now that I think of it, I didn't see our mayor smile either....I did notice that. I thought perhaps her face was just tired as I was located 1/4 of the way through the parade. Did anyone else see her smile?
Ada July 07, 2011 at 04:44 AM
Karen, Go ahead and hate the costumes. But thinking that you understand our inner motivations for dancing (that we are "happy to degrade" ourselves "for a little attention") based on what we wear on the outside is the definition of sexism - or at the very least, ugly, hate-based stereotyping. Looks like both are indeed alive and well in Alameda.
Kevis Brownson July 07, 2011 at 05:00 AM
I LOVED the HPF entry! It really made me feel like working out so I might be close to putting on such an outfit. What a delightful surprise to see these lovely ladies in our parade-- it thought it was the best walking entry! and I am a mother and stepmom of 4 by the way.
Kate Quick July 07, 2011 at 05:08 AM
Hey, Pleidianwaves, I was 3/4 of the way along and Marie, Lena, Doug and Rob and their families were all smiling and waving at Central and Ninth. They all were looking for folks they could greet by name, too and greeted me. Fun!
Christy July 07, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Ada- I totally agree with your comments! There is a difference betwee degrading oneself and exploitation and celebrating oneself.
Jasmine Tokuda July 07, 2011 at 05:55 PM
I loved HPF! I'm a cheer mom, and they ended up next to us at the end of the parade. Many of our cheerleaders went over to say hi and check them out. Considering that teenage girls tend to have the most major body image issues, I felt this opportunity to interact was positive, as these women represented the variations of what a female body looks like. The main reason people are ashamed of the undraped human form is because of cultural conditioning, which has resulted in large portions of the American population with body image issues. I'm sure the exposed glutes helped a lot of female viewers feel better about their own cellulite. At Carnival in San Francisco and Brazil, many of the dancers wear nothing but paint and feathers! This is so tame compared to Carnival wear elsewhere in the World. I hope they return next year.
Lisbeth Allen July 07, 2011 at 05:56 PM
My husband is a photographer, selling stock photos from locations around the world. He photographs the parade every year. His Alameda 4th of July pictures are very popular. I noticed he took many, many pictures of the Hot Pinks. Let's face it, they had cute butts. Not as cute as a baby's butt, but definitely cute butts. I hope they come back next year. I'm glad the cow was a one-year only parade victim, but more Hot Pink Feathers please!
Eric Strimling July 07, 2011 at 06:32 PM
While I thought that the thongs were inappropriate, the women were clearly having fun and I appreciated their "realness". Frankly, the Raiderettes, as a group of women organized and paid solely to tittalate men, are more of a problem for me. I also take issue with scantily clad teenage girls shimmying and lifting their legs for the crowd. Too close to pedophilia for me. So, a group of adult women celebrating themselves and being role models for body acceptance? No problem. Should they wear the skirts next year? On the one hand it would definitely be more appropriate. On the other, they'd be giving in to the prudes. Which is best?
Ronn Garton July 11, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Hot Pink Feathers deserve and apology and shoe-shines for all the dancers.


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