Monday, February 16, 2009


I was equally overwhelmed and under-whelmed by my experience at Lido. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a dancing horse, a ribbon dancer, and ice skaters. Yes, ice skaters. Let me start at the beginning.

We waited in line for a little while, and I felt incredibly important when we were waved through the door without tickets after saying “nous sommes avec Monsieur Conradi.” Roberto had nabbed the table in the center of the room, right against the stage. Fantastic, I thought. This is going to be amazing. We opened up the bubbly and got settled in, then the lights went down.

I knew there were going to be breasts, and a lot of them…but honestly I got used to the breasts first. I was more impressed with the costumes, the feathers and sequins, the impossibly bright colors and headdresses. After a couple numbers however, I noticed that the stage was starting to smell like the old drama closet at my high school, and I could see the zippers on the skirts and the loose threads at the top. I liked the musical aspect of the show, the leading lady singing both in English and in French, until I realized that she wasn’t singing at all, only lip-syncing. The girls, who were supposed to be uniform in all their fake eyelash-ed, b-cupped splendor, were actually very different. I found I took an instant dislike to some of them, while my eye was consistently drawn to others. As for the dancing…I just wasn’t that impressed. The Lido dancers demonstrated their flexibility occasionally with high kicks or splits, but other than that they just didn’t do much… which I suppose is probably due in part to their glittery get-ups. It was painful for me to watch as a dancer because I felt like I could easily do all of the things they were doing, while at the same time knowing that to be a dancer in Lido you have to be very, very good. The ensemble numbers ranged from Cats on Broadway to Thailand, from the fashion runway to a parasol-ed park scene, but other than the changes in costume, it all more or less looked the same to me.

Now that I have gotten the under-whelming out of the way, I can talk about the overwhelming. The sheer engineering of the stage was incomprehensible to me. From the same pit in the center of the stage rose first a multi-storied pyramid with women on and inside it, then a fully functional lotus-shaped fountain, and finally an ice rink. I just don’t know how it all fits underneath, let alone how it is all coordinated. There was also the random and short-lived appearance of the horse, which impressively sidestepped its way from one side of the stage to the other. The individual acts in Lido were equally striking – first the juggler with his pseudo-jump rope and spinning semi-circles, then the ribbon dancer (best quotation of the evening: “je voudrais êtra sa cord…”), then the comedic miming act, and finally the ice dancers. All of the individual acts were incredibly well executed, and the talent and hard work of each performer came together to create a feeling of near-effortlessness. It was during the special acts that I felt the feeling of wonder and excitement I expected from a Parisian cabaret.

I think in retrospect, we were perhaps simply sitting too close to the stage. I imagine that from a little farther back, you wouldn’t be able to see the differences between the dancers or the zippers on their skirts. The drama closet smell probably doesn’t reach farther than our table. To wax philosophical, I get the feeling that a lot of Paris is like that. At first glance, or from a distance everything looks picturesque, poetic, polished. You could visit the City of Lights for a weekend and be dazzled by the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, the spectacle of lights on the Champs Elysée and never notice the homeless people sleeping in the metro stations, the graffiti on the walls or the dog turds on the sidewalk. But then are you really getting to know Paris? I think not. I would much rather be in Paris with the drama closet smell and the dog turds, and be able to say that I have gotten to know the real Paris, not just its feathered and sequined exterior.

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