Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A fantastical dream at the Moulin Rouge

If you are intrigued by the thought of attractive topless girls in feathery costumes, a woman swimming in a snake filled pool, or a ventriloquist with everything from puppets to audience members, then go to the Moulin Rouge show before you leave Paris. I have never seen such an extravagant or hilarious show in my life. All of us were reeling with laughter for most of the performance, and Ali and Kai were even wiping away tears. There were so many random, ridiculous scenes and acts that completely defied all of my expectations. There was a man and a woman completely clad in neon glow in the dark outfits who emerged from behind the glistening curtains, suspended from the ceiling over the audience.

As they lip-synched a cheesy French song, the woman came close enough to our table that I could see the orange spray paint covering her shoes and her absurdly thick fake eyelashes. Then there was the ventriloquist, whose puppets included a gangly stuffed animal with bright orange-red hair that was supposed to resemble a lion. Other assistants included two fake birds that would periodically pop out of mailboxes, making facetious remarks at the ventriloquist as he tried to deal with the lion. He also called a little dog that looked like a bischon-frise onto the stage, which paradoxically was extremely life-like and robotic at the same time. Finally, he brought several audience members onto the stage and did a hilarious skit in which he spoke for them while they moved their mouths without speaking. Another solo was a very enthusiastic juggler who skilfully handled up to six flashing glow in the dark batons at once. At one point, he was going so fast that the batons looked like lit up spinning blue wheels. I was especially impressed by a duo of a slim but strong man and an effortlessly flexible girl with carrot colored hair who did many amazing stunts. To conclude their performance, she balanced on his forearm while he turned in a circle.

            A pool swarming with enormous snakes that rose from underneath the stage commenced another individual act. A robust woman plunged into the water and began somersaulting and gliding through the water as she wrapped snakes around her body. I was convinced that they were made of rubber until she came up to the surface and draped one of them on her muscular arms. When I saw its thin red tongue flickering as us, I realized that it was almost undoubtedly real. Interestingly, the snake woman had a much different build than every other Moulin Rouge dancer. The other girls were very slender, relatively flat-chested, and had very feminine features. Although they occasionally executed high kicks or turns, some of them were neither very flexible nor graceful. Their purpose is clearly to display their breasts and backsides to the audience members, especially the men. Women with the most “ideal” bodies and beautiful faces were awarded a place in the front of the stage. I noted that while the costumes of the male performers were usually tight fitting, they hardly even showed any skin, let alone a similar level of nudity as the women. The girls were topless in nearly every act, wearing nothing but tan tights and thongs decked with rhinestones on their lower halves. Their costumes were bursting with overwhelmingly lavish feathers, which are specially prepared by a designer that has been making feathers that come from all around the world for 80 years. The women could hardly have been more objectified, strutting around the stage dressed as dolls, red apples or flamingos that rarely failed to block the view of their bare chests. The hot pink costumes that resembled flamingos were probably the most outrageous of all; I felt like I was watching a modern version of Fantasia. My favorite scene with the girls was the can-can themed one, in which they swished the undersides of their frilly, red, white and blue striped skirts back and forth while they danced.

            Although the dancing throughout the Moulin Rouge performance was mediocre, the absurd costumes and acts really should not be missed. It was disheartening to think about how much the dancers are objectified and how superficially they are judged, and this definitely brought down my enthusiasm a little as I watched. However, the constant craziness was enough to keep me entertained for the whole time.



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