Thursday, March 5, 2009
On modesty when the required attire is "ahem"
Taking off from Cady Driver's post in Modestly Yours, I realize there's a lot about stage and theater that, shall we say, attacks modesty with the reason "but it's art" on its side.
There was a conversation repeated to me by one of my high school teachers (one popular comedian in showbiz used to be her student). After graduating, the comedian went into showbiz and had to dress up the way mass media wanted her to (not exactly modest). My teacher asked her, "Why do you allow that?" and she was said to reply, "Because the director said so."
There's also a play I saw last year in UP, and in one scene women were dressed in nothing but a sheet draped over the shoulders and tied with a flimsy belt. Seeing that, I wondered then what these women thought of the costumes and the movements they had to do. Were they like the comedian who thought it's okay because the director said so? Did they think "Don't compromise art"? I wondered whether they felt uncomfortable...I know I did, all the while hoping that they had skin toned leotards underneath like in Eula Valdes in Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah (tough luck).
This is a pretty lengthy introduction! It's certainly easy to fall into the trap of That's Just How It Is when it comes to art and showbiz--and come to think of it, the same excuse arises in fitness centers (here I'm thinking about yoga, where an outfit made out of one square yard of cloth seems excessive).
I started taking yoga classes late last year, and my first concern had been what if they made me wear those itty bitty things? (Luckily, my sister had enrolled a week earlier, and this was how I learned that more cloth could be worn.)
I'm not gonna overlook the fact that for Filipinos everything is a fashion show, which explains pretty much how one could spot a beginner in a snap (s/he's the one who is dressed to impress). So besides wanting to cover up more, I also wanted to look like a seasoned yogi (tough luck on this one also--you can't hide inexperience).
In yoga couture, I learned, what's more important is what your clothes allow you to do and not what they make you look like. I ended up settling for a t-shirt and leggings combo because it satisfied four things: I could move in it, my teacher can see if I'm doing the poses correctly, it doesn't obstruct breathing in the bending postures (see above) and I don't feel over exposed (not like in pic above).
Perhaps when it comes to costumes, there are certain needs that have to be satisfied. So for ballet that should be the stretchy and fit leotards that allow the dancer to move and not get snagged. (Recalling the post in Modestly Yours, the fishnet stockings for the teen dancers weren't necessary!) And in theater, thick makeup, no matter how unpleasant, is a need so that you don't lose your face in the spotlights (even actors, not just the actresses, wear makeup).
But anything that takes away a degree of modesty without answering to the needs of the activity is simply crossing the line. Because real creativity finds a way to make a better costume when the first idea for the costume is simply unwearable. Art for art's sake is a popular argument--but art shouldn't compromise human dignity (big word!). Whether you're a dancer, a stage actor or a yogi, you must know that it's the costume (and actions you allow yourself to do) that spells out whether you're a serious participant of an artful discipline or simply a knut-and-bolt in a spectacle made for gawkers to enjoy.