Carnaval time: an interview wit Carnaval dancer Hannah Moore

by Minister of Information JR

Carnaval is one of the biggest festivals in the Bay Area that is rooted in African-ness. It is usually held in San Francisco with thousands of participants and countries represented from all over the Caribbean and Latin America. Most of the people in the streets know about the half naked women dancers that are a part of this festival, but very few of us know what this festival is all about, so I wanted to talk to Hannah Moore, a Carnaval dancer, to give us the 411 and bring the hood up to date …

M.O.I. JR: What is Carnaval? How did it start? And what is it celebrating?

Hannah: San Francisco Carnaval is an annual celebration that takes place every Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, a parade spilling over with dancers, floats, music, colors and life! Founded in 1979 by a large group of artists, Carnaval was created in San Francisco to celebrate living a rich cultural life in tune with the rhythms of nature and the ancestors.

The four Carnaval cities with the greatest presence in SF Carnaval are Port of Spain, Trinidad; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Salvador, Brazil; and Oruro, Bolivia. Carnaval is a celebration of life. Every year a theme is chosen which all the contingents must represent.

M.O.I. JR: How and when did you become a Carnaval dancer? How often do you practice?

Hannah: I danced in Carnaval for the first time when I was in the eighth grade. Then I didn’t again until 2008, and then last year and now this year. I take samba year round, classes one to three times a week. When it’s Carnaval season, practice becomes more and more frequent, going from one or two days to three, four or five.

Costume making begins around late March, sometimes earlier. A lot of work, time and energy go into making costumes and float creating. The weeks prior to Carnaval are filled with last minute additions to costumes, finishing touches on floats and rehearsing in the street, always an incredibly busy time.

M.O.I. JR: What’s up with the costumes? Why are most dancers almost naked?

Hannah: Considering that the countries represented in San Francisco Carnaval are all environments with hot climates, the costumes worn represent this style of dress. There is a wide range of costumes and costume designs ranging in modesty. However, if the “almost naked” ones are the ones that have caught your eye, you’re probably referring to bikinis worn for Rio-style samba, but that’s not the only style of costume seen in Rio Carnaval. Costumes often represent Orixas from the practice of Candomble.

M.O.I. JR: What do you think about how Carnaval is celebrated in Frisco? Is it celebrated differently around the world?

Hannah: The Carnaval Celebration in San Francisco is a reflection of its dancers and the community that creates it. A diverse mix of dance, music and culture from all over Latin America parading down Mission Street.

SF Carnaval is the only one I’ve personally experienced; however, I think the way it’s celebrated in San Francisco is ideal for the community. The Bay Area is full of cultural diversity. Carnaval allows different communities to come together and share in such mixture. Carnaval wherever it is celebrated is a manifestation of the history and the people who create it. For example, Carnaval in Salvador, Brazil, represents more Afro-Brazilian culture than the carnaval in Rio de Janeiro due to the huge Afro-Brazilian community in Salvador, which can be traced back to the slave port in Salvador.

M.O.I. JR: What would you say to young people who would like to learn the style of dance that is used in Carnaval?

Hannah: I always encourage youth to use dance as a stress relieving outlet, a creative outlet and safe space. Carnaval SF has many styles of dance, so there are many options to explore. Even within samba there are many different styles, continuously offering new moves and techniques. There are many youth, especially high school organizations from San Francisco, that participate every year. I say do it!

M.O.I. JR: How could people keep up with you online?

Hannah: On Hannah Moore.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at and visit