Community connects with sign shaker
There’s something about that girl.
Sign shaker Sierra Hubbard’s fluid dancing at the intersection of Green Valley Road and Francisco Boulevard has quietly touched the collective psyche of El Dorado Hills.
What passers-by have come to enjoy is just one aspect of a multi-talented artist overcoming an Autism Spectrum Disorder, struggling to make ends meet while staying true to her art.
The sidewalk is her stage and the Safeway Center waterfall was her backdrop for Sierra’s “road rave.” It’s a busy intersection — a place dominated by people locked in their automobiles, trying to get somewhere else, minds abuzz with things to do and places to be.
Perhaps Sierra provides a momentary reprieve from the burden of those thoughts, a simple and pure reminder of the Ram Dasas dictum “Be here now.”
Or maybe they just like the dancing.
When she failed to appear last month, the buzz quickly became audible, rising to the Starbucks patio behind Sierra’s stage, then across the parking lot to the Verizon Store that, until recently, employed her.
Nick Wallace manages 4G Wireless. He’s been fielding questions about the missing sign shaker since she was laid off last month. “It was a corporate decision … sign shakers were cut from the marketing budget,” he said. “I wish I had her back; she got people in here.”
Sierra is not just a sign waver. For starters, she prefers to be called a “sign shaker.” But even that is now passé. “I used to hold the sign and sort of move around, but that got boring so I put it down and busted loose,” she said.
Driven by an iTunes playlist full of rhythm-heavy “techno” dance music, Japanese “Exit Trance” remixes and Korean “K Pop,” the lithe 25-year-old is a one-woman rave on the pavement.
She surrenders to the music in fluid, improvised dance, an infectious mix of the elastic and ecstatic.
A ballerina half-twirl is followed by an old-time hoofer’s soft-shoe. She skip-slides high on her toes reaching for the sun. Arms wide, she swoons back to earth and strikes a rock-star pose; an evangelist of expression.
There’s no way to ignore her. After one performance she realized that someone had placed their sign next to hers, seeking spillover attention.
Sierra lives with a cousin in El Dorado Hills’ Fairchild Village. She suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder that makes conventional relationships difficult, she said. She can appear disinterested one moment, too intense the next.
Small problems can blow up in her mind, sending her into a funk. “I can come off bipolar sometimes,” she said. “But lots of people don’t even notice.”
Her friends and her art keep her grounded, she added.
Sierra currently works for two of the largest personalities in El Dorado Hills — World Famous (by self-proclamation) Barber Jon, and the now-ubiquitous “Mik,” District 1 Supervisor candidate Ron Mikulaco, both of whom boast shamelessly about hiring her.
Mikulaco frequents the Green Valley corridor and spoke with Sierra earlier this year, mentioning that he could use her services closer to the election.
She called him when the Verizon job ended. He referred her to Barber Jon, then hired her himself a couple of weeks later.
“People thank me for putting her back out there.” said Mikulaco, who has also been shaking his own signs lately.
He asked Sierra to accompany him one day. “Boy was that a mistake,” he said. “Everyone was so glad to meet her … I was an afterthought.”
Her reception at the barbershop was equally enthusiastic. “She walked in and everyone knew all about her,” said Jon.
Barber Carrie volunteered, “She’s an amazing human, very sweet.”
Barber Earnest paused with straight razor in hand to weigh in over the din of a Tuesday morning barbershop crowd. “She’s humble; that’s the thing that comes across.
“And kids really love her,” added Jon.
Sierra was in the barbershop Tuesday for a brief interview before her shift, and seemed to enjoy the full house and convivial barber shop banter, despite the fact that loud rooms and crowds have induced debilitating panic attacks in the past, she said.
El Dorado Hills deejay James Sakura, 21, was also present and kept a watchful eye on Sierra. She called him her friend, mentor and manager.
Both are members of El Dorado Hills-based Club Rave, which provides deejay services for dance parties in the area.
“This girl’s going to make something of herself,” he said. “She has an energy that people pick up on. It’s a visceral thing … words can’t explain it.”
Sierra is a graphic artist, devoted to “anime,” Japanese animation that features vivid, sometimes dark characters. She’s created her own fictional troupe.
Many appear in stories she’s written. She’s currently three-plus years into a science fiction series with the working title “Darker Conflicts.”
Sierra and James are also members of a local chapter of the Japanese “Itasha Car Group,” which was founded by Mike Collepardi. They hope to make a business of decorating cars with anime characters. Sierra wants to see her cast adorning her 2003 Honda Accord in the near future.
Later on Tuesday, Sierra wrapped up a calorie-burning two-hour shift in front of the barbershop. She keeps a sweatshirt wound tightly around her waist as a modesty shield to avoid the wrong type of attention, she said. It also keeps her now-oversized pants up.
One of Sierra’s favorite sidewalk interactions was with a stroller-pushing mom who happened by, spotted Sierra, and spontaneously broke into dance beside her. “That was awesome,” she said.
Sierra envisions a day when her anime posse can be projected holographically, dancing beside her, mimicking her movements.
Until then, if you’d like shake it with Sierra this summer stop by Barber Jon’s and ask when she’s working. If it’s hot, consider bringing her an unopened bottle of cold water or maybe a Dr. Pepper — regular, not diet.
Many autistics are sensitive to touch, but a spontaneous post-interview hug from this reporter went flinch-free … which was nice.
There’s something about that girl.