Last Wednesday was my birthday- I prefer to say that it is my third attempt at 22 when really I’m a frightening 24.
Among my NUMEROUS facebook well-wishers (that is, after all, the best way to judge your own popularity) one of my Butler University Professors said,” The best things come when you least expect them”.
I respect this teacher and his advice very much, but not this time. Sorry D Reid, but the best things come from Bloomingdales.
Our clothes, price tags aside, really do make a statement about us. The same is true with dance, and costumes. One of my earliest memories of myself as a young dancer was somewhere around age 4 or 5, at the end of my beginning ballet classes. Students took turns choosing the pink tutu, the blue tutu, all manner of wands and crowns, and then the last person was stuck with the ugly ‘Firebird’ crown that looked like a rooster crest.
Lusting after the prettiest garments isn’t restricted to the fashion world- it’s in ballet too.
I have worn some truly spectacular costumes in my day. And let’s face it, I’ve been stuck in some truly appalling outfits while on stage.
Listed below are my top three WORST COSTUME MOMENTS:
1. Grandmother Tree-
Middle school was neither kind nor unkind to me- I went to public school in Missouri where I was neither unpopular nor popular. I don’t think I really had much of a label, with the exception of one week where I was forced to be ‘the stinky kid’.
My company was performing ‘A midsummer night’s dream’ with the Saint Louis Symphony. I was very excited to be cast as a Woodnymph- until I saw the costumes. They consisted of: a bluish/purplish unitard, dyed ballet shoes, wires for our head to wind our hair around, and huge branches that smelled like a mix of eucalyptus and an old garage. We also had to paint our faces with eyeshadow to look like bark, so from cheek-to-cheek, I was covered in wavy brown lines. This was fine for the show, but since they were morning performances, I was able to return to school int he middle of the day where I would show up smelling like make-up remover that didn’t manage to remove the bits of brown from around my jaw-line and temples, leftover hair spray that still left my twirled hair looking like I’d been styled by either carrot top or albert einstein, and stinking of eucalyptus. The aftermath of this costume was worse than the shame I feel looking at old pictures from college halloween parties.
2. Iron Chef Ruhlin
Ok, I admit, I loooooved this one. While I was with Louisville Ballet, I was cast as ‘the cook’ in ‘The Nutcracker’ which meant I wore an ugly pink calico dress, an apron, a stupid white bonnet, and best of all- a fat suit.
It was a two-second part in which I stomped around, freaking out over a giant turkey to serve the guests. It was actually easier to feel like a moron WITHOUT the costume- during rehearsals, where I was in my normal leo and tights get-up. It was much easier to play the part, to act like a clown with the suit on- just call it my puffy, fluffy suit of comedic armor.
3. Vinne da Pooh
By far the worst costume experience I’ve ever had- there are the celebs that make the worst-dressed list, and the ones that have wardrobe malfunctions- this was the best of both worlds where both fashion and functionality fail.
At Interlochen arts academy, the stars of Nutcracker are double cast, and when they aren’t gracefully portraying the Sugar Plum, the Dew Drop, or the Nutcraker Prince- they are plague-ing the stage as the rats, which actually looked like a ton of fun. I’m also still disappointed that I wasn’t the Rat Queen at Butler- a rodent is for whatever reason, a very coveted role to me. This has been FOREVER changed based on my experience in New Jersey.
Three company members portray the rats- which are giant furry fireman jumpsuits in pale gray complete with huge oversized fuzzy slippers, huge winter gloves, and an enormous rat head that really looks more like an angry bear, like winnie the pooh’s mafia cousin, Vinnie.
First of all, they smelled like a mix of an undusted attic and a taco bell- a dirty taco bell- like, one in the middle of rural missouri staffed by people with names like ‘TrixieBell’ and ‘La Fifi’.
Second of all, the head doesn’t stay in place anyways, with a half-helmut on the inside padded down with duct tape and foam as if that will make it secure while I jump around like a fool. And even if it did, the eye holes were tiny cut-outs somewhere around the sides of upper forehead. Maybe I’m deformed, but my eyes are down in front, you know, by my nose and stuff.
Complete the look with a plethora of silly props like spears and pom poms, and there you have it. Now just imagine this stinky, sweaty, blind mess hopping about- with the head so twisted I’m attempting to look down my nose at one tilted eye hole to see the floor, and then the lights go out early as I’m supposed to exit, dragging the defeated Rat King sword behind me. There are no lights in the wings either. In total darkness, I walk straight into the giant wooden clock, knocking it over with a giant BOOM! as the lights come up again for the beginning of the snow scene, and there in the upper corner of the stage, is a stumbling rat pawing around for the curtain, dragging a sword. As the snow king and queen enter, the poor blind mouse/rat finds the railing to the stairs at the edge of the stage and shuffles down the stairs INTO THE AUDIENCE as the pas de deux begins. Luckily, one nice audience member got up to take poor Vinnie by the paw and walk her up the stairs and successfully into the wings.
I’ve never actually fallen on stage, but I now have WALKING off stage under my belt- my furry gray belt.