There really isn’t much that I have to say about All Souls. For anybody who has lived in Southern Arizona, you already know about it. For everybody else, the All Souls Procession is a Tucson tradition that culminates in a community-wide procession through the downtown area, ending with a grand finale of pyrotechnic theater, live music, and acrobatics. The event first began in 1990 by a local artist, Susan Kay Johnson, who wished to express her sadness over the loss of her father; she wanted to ritualize her grief and create an event, much like Dia de los Muertos, to honor the dead.
Tens of thousands participate every year. People start to gather along 4th and 6th avenues before sun-down, arriving in costume, tailgating and helping paint each other’s faces in a fashion reminiscent of Day of the Dead. Jugglers and street performers, musicians and stilt-walkers weave through the throngs of people. Participants are encouraged to write notes to the dead on pieces of paper and deposit them into a giant urn that leads the procession – once the urn reaches the end of the procession, it is elevated above the crowd and set ablaze.
I have never seen a not-for-profit, grass-roots community event like this anywhere else. It’s an amazing thing to see.
A very healthy example of the ‘nouveau cirque’ movement includes a group here in Tucson called “Flam Chen,” a pyrotechnic theater company established in 1994. I was first exposed to them while making a documentary about a local piercing and tattoo organization while also assembling a thesis revolving around body-modification and Modern Primitive subculture.
In April 2010 the troupe performed at a locally famous tiki bar on Broadway, Kon Tiki (try the ‘scorpion bowl,’ guys – it’s serious). The torches in front of the establishment were lit for the first time in over twenty-five years and Flam Chen was the special guest to help commemorate the event.
Today’s image is of a woman named Aurelia Cohen – a musician, dancer, choreographer, and aerial-silk artist, just to name a simple fraction of her talents. Physically disciplined with undeniable stage presence, chances are good that people don’t forget if/when they’re lucky enough to see her perform.