Sunday, 29 March 2015

Puffy Dresses be Damned!

I don't know about you but I am not trying it on.

The text message read, "I fear for our puffy dresses".  It was from my son who has spent much of this last week in an orchestra pit with a production of Cinderella.  Apparently the roof had sprung a leak and was threatening the costume bank.  Throughout the week he had entertained me with messages about the various creative meltdowns, score revisions and the unplanned, like what to do when you get confetti from the cannons in your instrument.  But the dress note stuck with me.

When I dutifully attended the matinee I was greeted with wall-to-wall puffy dresses.  Yes, there were scores of them onstage with eye-dazzling ballroom scenes, complete with special effects, flying fairy godmothers, acrobats and a singing chorus.  But it wasn't the sequins onstage that left the lingering impression.  It was the princess dresses in the audience.  The auditorium was literally writhing with swarms of little girls:  tiaras, waving wands and sparkling shoes.  They were in full flight.  And they scared the daylight out of me. 

Emily McKim as Cinderella with the trademark blonde wig.

To me there was something deeply upsetting about the sight and high-pitched energy of the little girls and their doting mothers.  It was eerily consistent with the fantasy narrative in the musical where the prince and the elevated cinder-girl find true happiness.  As is often the case in my life, there seemed to be some odd resonance.  The night before I had attended my first formal Latin Ballroom event.  It was like our own version of Cinderella.  The ladies were all undressed in lace, swishing skirts and cleavage.  The men were sporting bowties, ruffles and crisp dress trousers.  It was all very gendered and accented by the ideal roles.  There was bowing and smiles.  It was not as saccharine as the little girl afternoon version and I suspect there was less hope in the room.  A little dose of the twenty-twenty hindsight perhaps.

To cap it all off, I should now be thinking of what to wear to the Governor General of Arts Awards in Ottawa.  The invitation informs me that a "long dress" is required.  This is another one of those ceremonial occasions where the seen and unseen merge.  Goals, hopes and dreams are joined with status, etiquette and…what else I wonder?  I guess, I learn that on the evening of April 8th– God, airlines, Mother Nature and fill-in-the-blank willing; "To be continued" as the story goes.  At least I shouldn't have to worry about the roof leaking at Rideau Hall.

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