Why beadazzle? Why tszuj? Why – when it is the cause of so much unholy mess – glitter?!
In a world that is dreary and cold and full of despair – why does it sometimes seem so crucial to put on tap shoes and kick ball change?
For answers, as always, we turn to musical theater… specifically to “La Cage Aux Folles,” the gorgeous show about a man who owns a night club, his partner, and their son who is engaged to a woman with conservative parents. It was first a French play in 1973 then the musical a decade later. American audiences might know it as the plot to the 1996 movie “The Birdcage.”
The musical features songs that show some of the purest love I’ve ever seen depicted – romantic, parental, and self. So many of the songs are lovely, but one that I often sing is “I put a little more masacara on,” in which Alban sings about how much he loves to dress in drag and enact his character of “Zha Zha” for the stage.
Now I’m not a man who dresses in drag, so I wouldn’t presume to comment on how it makes him feel, but I know how the song makes me feel. And I love how the song shows the importance of sparkly little details.
“So whenever I feel that my place in the world is beginning to crash,
I apply one great stroke of Mascara to my rather limp upper lash.
And I can cope again, Good God! There’s hope again!
When life is a real b**ch again, and my old sense of humor has up, and gone
It’s time for the big switch again, I put a little more Mascara on…..
And ev’rything’s sparkle dust, bugle beads, ostrich plums,
When it’s a beaded lash that you look through,
‘Cause when I feel glamorous, elegant, beautiful,
The world that I’m looking at’s beautiful too!”
Dressing and accessorizing in these ways are fun but they are more than that. They bring beauty and hope and even strength. They can bring “muchness,” that crucial recognition of what makes you feel like you. Outward sparkle can show inward sparkle.. and even bring it out.
I love to wear fandom clothes and the occasional jewelry, and a new pair of galaxy yoga pants is always a joy. But I don’t even necessarily need to put these things on myself to feel this effect. It’s marvelous just to watch others in gorgeous clothes (thank you, PBS, for Downton Abbey and Victoria.) It’s even better to watch people in those clothes dancing… in spectacular synchronization, perhaps.
The musical “Something Rotten” brings that up when a soothsayer is trying to tell a 1600’s playwright about the eventual popularity of musicals. The most exciting part? The dance break of course.
“I haven’t even told you the best part yet! Feel that fascinating rhythm moving to your feet…Feel your ass gyrating to that titillating beat…You slap your lap and finger snap. That’s when you know it’s time to tap!”
How I love to see a musical dance break, and how I love to try to reenact it in my kitchen while I’ve got my headphones in. All that Jazz from “Chicago,” King of New York from “Newsies,” Dancing through Life from “Wicked”… all offer a tremendous chance to embrace some inner sparkle and let it out through the Jazz Hands.
That is also why I love yoga’s Dancer Pose, despite the fact that my balance isn’t the best and I tend to topple. To hold my leg up behind me even for a few seconds feels “glamourous, elegant, beautiful” just as Alban says. And that’s transformative. And empowering. For after all, as he says, when you feel like that “the world that I’m looking at’s beautiful too.”
Maybe the world won’t just look beautiful, but you’ll make it beautiful yourself… thanks to all that grit you got from your glitter.