Have you performed on occasion having made unfortunate clothing choices?
I’d guess that most of us have, at least once or twice.
There are a few things we need to consider so we can perform without our clothing being the cause of a train wreck.
Collar ~ make sure that your collar doesn’t restrict your movement.
Neckline ~ needs to be nonrestrictive. Also, try bowing to ensure that you are comfortable.
Shoulders ~ if the shoulders are too tight, they can restrict your movement. And if they fall off, your concentration will be on dealing with the situation.
Shoulder straps ~ if they don’t stay put, don’t perform in the garment!
Sleeves ~ neither too long or too short, and billowy fabric or flare sleeves will probably get in the way.
Cuffs ~ if the sleeves have them, make sure you can extend your arms.
Trim ~ a large front bow, a scarf, ruffles, fringe (yikes!), etc. may interfere with your line of sight to the keyboard.
Will you be too warm? Stage lights are hot!
Length ~ be sure you can walk easily, pedal, sit, stand, and bow without mishaps. If this is a short dress, remember that the length will appear much shorter to the audience from the stage.
Cut ~ pay attention to seams, tucks, darts, and whether the garment might be too tight or too loose. Does it move with you? (Look for stretch fabric!)
… or reassurance, at least.
Of course, nothing we wear will be absolutely foolproof. But if we look at how an outfit “performs” in advance, chances are we won’t be distracted in performance.
Try it on! I once made the mistake of picking up a dress from the cleaners, taking it with me, and changing minutes before an audition. Not a problem? This time it was. I hadn’t worn the dress for months, and had lost a significant amount of weight in the meantime. The dress was now several sizes too big, and I felt very uncomfortable.
Find passages in the music where it is crucial to see the keyboard, turn a page, etc. Examples: hands one on top of the other, hand crosses, glissandi, large leaps, playing at either end of keyboard.
Practice in the outfit. It’s crucial! There is no other way to know whether you feel completely comfortable. Walking across the room just isn’t the same as playing.
While visiting Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, I participated in the tour of the Quaker Meetinghouse in the collection of old New England buildings on the grounds.
The guide told us the fascinating story of a Quaker wedding. When the ceremony begins, the bride and groom are seated for some time, each standing to speak once s/he feels inspired.
When a prospective bride is shopping for a dress, she typically tries it on, then finds a chair to try it while seated. Our guide said that sales people usually don’t know what’s going on until told.
What can we learn from that story? We should all be trying out our attire while walking, while seated, while standing to take a bow, while bowing, and while playing. Not playing just anything ~ there are specific passages in every program where clothing could easily be in the way.
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