Everybody said it couldn't be done. And they were right. But first they were profoundly, contentedly wrong. And no one seemed to have much of a problem dancing with a foot in their mouth.
In all fairness, a weekly dance party in Richmond, especially one with an ambitious 1,500-person attendance goal, seemed almost endearingly naA_ve — especially in a city notorious for dropping any promising infantile cultural movement on its head before it grows headstrong enough to survive. If the concept weren't enough to make skeptics of the Richmond arts-scene optimists, the plan was to throw the city's biggest, weekly dance party on a Tuesday night. Tuesday: the one day of the week without a solid excuse to party. It doesn't have the residual stress of Monday, or the alliteration of Wino Wednesday. But for 38 weeks, it has RVAlution at the Hat Factory.
By the end of the fourth installment, on May 4, the view from the skybox isn't so much people-watching in the conventional sense. It's nothing conventional at all. It's an indecipherable surge of energy and light, dancing bodies, indistinguishable from each other, grinding in oceanic choreography to the salacious thump of the DJ stand, exalted like the altar of some anonymous cult of endless indulgence. Scantily clad women gyrate in the swirling light of glowing hoops on stage, the whole thing spurred on by the tireless advocacy of ringmaster (and stage manager, and event planner) Parker Galore. Carnival games, face-painting and cotton candy stands line the periphery of the dance floor like hallucinatory childhood flashbacks in the midst of all this relentless and drunken passion.
A collaboration of artists, performers, DJs and the swelling minions of dancing revelers, RVAlution captures a collective momentum. It rides a tide that no one sees coming, distilled into a carnival themed dance party, and keeps things going for 38 weeks. But the fires goes out Dec. 28, featuring DJ Reinhold (of the Party Liberation Front) and DJ Doddie (of Audio Ammo), who have been spinning the event since its inception. There also was RVAlution veteran Akasha, whose heavy, bass-driven dub-step productions and mixes underscore a genre of electronic music that's habitually ended the night throughout the course of the event.
This RVAlution is over. It's gone the way of Studio 54 and 2010. But the people and inspiration are still here, and neither seems ready to let go of what was captured this year in an unlikely warehouse-turned-music venue on the shores of the Canal.
Whenever Ed Ayers, the University of Richmond's seemingly indefatigable president, enters a room for a meeting or to deliver a talk, the first thing you notice is his head of hair, which creates a frayed steel-wool-like halo around his cherubic face. When he begins to speak he animates the space and captivates his audiences. He's a powerful communicator by combining awe-shucks charm (and a Southern accent), impressive depth of knowledge, love and command of his field (American history), and his ability to deliver his academic points in plain English.
Perhaps his timing is right too. It's opportune that Ayers' presidency of UR (an institution that, historically, hasn't gotten caught up in the day-to-day fray of regional issues) coincides with the beginning in 2011 of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War (1861-65) and emancipation (1866). With these observances on the horizon, Ayers uses his bully pulpit to bring historians, politicians, civic and cultural leaders, museum officials, fellow educators and the general public to a broad conversation. It's a seldom-attempted discussion fraught with tension that seems to work this time.
“The Future of Richmond's Past” is a series of discussions about how Richmond's storied but often troubled history can be better understood and leveraged to improve understanding of our racial divides and perhaps, just perhaps, the things that unite us.
This being Richmond, the opportunities — intellectual and economic— inherent in this national Civil War observance might well pass Richmonders by for lack of imagination, energy, understanding or will. But it won't be because one visionary, Ayers, didn't attempt to pull the disparate parties together.
Crust, sauce, cheese and you're in business: Richmond restaurant owners figure pizza might bring the masses back to their tables so they put it on nearly every menu in town: Stuzzi, Bellytimber, Aziza's, Fresca on Addison, Arianna's, Two Guys and La Cucina, to name a few. They churn out boatloads of pies for a seemingly ravenous clientele. Pizza wars quickly follow and bloggers go wild with critiques. Whose wood-fired oven is best, whose margherita is most authentic, whose crust holds up to the toppings? We're no New York, but for fans of cheap eats, this is competition we can live with.