Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Costuming at Lido

So, this week I thought I had dropped the ball on finding something to look at/listen to/analyze/...etc. with someone else. Pretty much everyone I know had planned to go to the cabaret night, but I didn't have a ticket until just the last minute. One might ask why I didn't have a ticket, to which I reply: I would describe my organizational skills as sometimes sub-par (please don't read this future employers), so the fact that I actually had to purchase a ticket for the cabaret show ahead of time didn't sink in until it was too late. Having been in some tricky situations like this before, the gears started turning...and after some thought I had an idea. I figured out how I could write about something involving the Cabaret without actually going in to see the Cabaret. I thought that if I went and waited outside while people formed a queue, then I could observe the styles and fashion people wear when going to a night of cabaret in Paris. So, it looked like fashion would be my focus for this week.

Fortunately yet disappointingly, all the thinking about how I could get around my problem of not having a ticket was for naught, because I was actually able to get an extra ticket. It looked like I was going to go to the cabaret, but it seemed like a shame to throw away what I thought had been a clever idea to focus on the styles people wore to the cabaret. At the same time, it didn't make sense to focus on the audience's attire if I was actually going to see the show. Finally, too stubborn to throw away my idea to analyze fashion, but aware that I had more options now that I had a ticket; I decided to comment on the costumes of the performers even before I saw any of the show.

Some might think that deciding to comment on the costumes the performers wore, even before seeing any of the show, is somewhat restrictive or an overly-simplistic lens with which to remark on the show. However, for me I think it created a good baseline for me start thinking about the performance. Honestly, I don't think I would have been able to tell someone the difference between a cabaret (the performance I saw) and a Cabernet (a type of wine) before I saw the show, so it allowed me to find some reference point when watching the show. And indeed I think my ignorance about cabaret theater was manifested most prominently by the costume pieces, and in particular what the costume pieces lacked. Of course, I told no one this at the time, but I actually didn't realize that's what cabaret theater involved. So, the first surpise came from the costuming, maybe I had chosen a good aspect of the show to focus on.

From the opening number all the way until the end, I was quite glad that I chose to concentrate on the costuming, because the costumes were completely stunning. The number of different, ornately designed costume pieces I saw that night was incredible. I counted 12 different numbers with different costumes for all the performers. I was continually stunned by how quickly the performers made their costume changes within a minute's time from what seemed like two completely different costumes. Sometimes I tried to imagine what it must be like back-stage to accomplish all the costume changes; I imagined that the backstage choreography necessary to accomplish such a feat would need to be practiced almost as often as the actual dances.

Despite how amazed I was by the number of costumes and how elaborately they were decorated, I was not actually very impressed with the dancers wearing the costumes. As Jen also thought, I found their performances lacking in emotion and a feeling of investment in the work. Perhaps this is how cabaret is supposed to be performed, with a coy indifference. If so, the performers pulled it off successfully, but I didn't enjoy the performance as much as I could have had the performers seemed to be more invested in the show.

Ironically, the performances I enjoyed the most where when the performers weren't wearing very elaborate costumes. For instance, in my favorite performance the entertainer wore only a loin-cloth type costume as he did a kind of acrobatic routine on drapes. Of course, it would be very difficult to execute such amazing acrobatics wearing an elaborate costume. Yet, I also feel that, without an elaborate costume to hide behind, the acrobat displayed more of an investment in and connection to the performance.

At one point, Christina leaned over to me and commented on how impressed she was by one of the actress's beauty, and I responded, "well I guess we are in Paris". I think that also sums-up how I felt about the costumes. Most of the time I was blown away by how ornately decorated they were, how quickly the performers changed, and how many different high-quality pieces there were. Yet, the costuming was also just the outside, and it couldn't completely hide some of the emptiness in the performance.

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