Oh the Zumanity

I’m in Las Vegas where Julianne has taken me to celebrate my birthday. Tonight she took me to see the Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity.  It’s Cirque’s 18 and up show built around an exploration of human sexuality.  There were a lot of really good things in the show, including a celebration of women of many different shapes and sizes. There are two fat women included in the show.  Billed as the Botero sisters they have a lot of crowd interaction and are included in a dance number and in other small roles.

While I was very happy to see two fat women in the show, I was dismayed that, unlike any of the other performers, they wore full body stockings (covering their entire body including legs and long sleeves) under their costumes. (EDIT:  Based on my understanding of how Cirque works, the costumes were chosen by the company and not by women – if they want to wear these body stockings that would certainly be their choice, I know many fat belly dancers who choose to wear the stockings which is, of course, totally cool.)

It’s progress for sure to have two fat women as performers wearing thong bikinis and I celebrate that progress.  Having read a bit about the two sisters they seem to be both talented and body positive.  But I am surprised that a show that thinks its audience is ready for [spoilers] women having orgasms while tied up and choking themselves, a drag queen propositioning an elderly couple for three-way sex, and a rotating “lazy susan” orgy doesn’t think its audience is ready for a fat body that isn’t wrapped in a nylon stocking.

I think that says something about the tremendously oppressive nature of fat bigotry in this culture.  I also think it’s time for Cirque’s exploration to start a new expedition – no body stocking required. Perhaps the world will follow.

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17 thoughts on “Oh the Zumanity

  1. I guess my first question would be whether they themselves wanted to wear it, either for comfort or because it suits their performance ideas. If it was imposed on them, different thing, of course.

  2. Happy Birthday girl! Lillian asked about you at GIG this past Friday and that reminded me that I have not kept in touch. All good here and surprise, surprise I have a Chloe (Austin granddaughter # 2 story) she is the “other abled” teacher of mine… She and daughter Wendy were in the dentists office the other day, Chloe was have her teeth checked. The hygienist stepped away for a moment and when she came back Chloe stated “My mother is taking me to the Toy Store” The hygienist replied, way cool! Wendy, who was surprised to hear – I’m taking you to the toy store? Chloe said, “how did you know?” Chloe got to go the toy store. Hugs upon you

  3. I can see your point, and the whole body stocking issue is one that seems to be constantly examined in the Bellydance plus size community. I was left with one imperative question though while reading this. Are we assuming that these ladies were asked or required to wear a body stocking, or do we know this for certain? Because it seems to me that it is possible they could have chosen to wear one for their own reasons. If they themselves made that choice, then wouldn’t we be breaking our own “underpants rule”? Unless we know for certain that it wasn’t their CHOICE, it seems unfair to judge.

    1. To add to this, I’m fairly sure I’ve seen pictures of the Botero sisters where they didn’t have body stockings on (in costume), so I wouldn’t necessarily assume it was a universal issue. The implications are unfortunate, however.

  4. For those wondering if this is the choice of the performers, I think we can safely assume not. After all, this isn’t a backyard talent show. This is a carefully orchestrated professional theatrical production, which means that costumes are completely out of the control of the performers. You wear what they pick for you to wear or you are not in the show.

    The costumes, props, and sets are all designed to go together to create specific moods and emphasize particular aspects of the performance. This is just as true of Cirque du Soleil as it would be of an episode of your favorite television show or a major Broadway musical.

    Sure, a performer can ask for something in particular or beg the designer not to put them in a specific color and a good costume designer will consider what the performer is going to do in those clothes and whether they will work correctly… but no, the performers do not get an actual vote. For whatever reason, the costume designer felt the body stockings were an important part of the look of the show.

  5. Glad to hear they were in the show, at least. It’s a step in the right direction. Happy Birthday – my birthday was yesterday too!!

  6. [Another] great post Ragen… But I’ve been meaning to ask – are you following any particular training program for your marathon, or just building up mileage?? (Haven’t had any time to visit Fit Fatties forum)
    In the end I opted NOT to invest $100 entry fee in my local half-marathon, but there’s not reason I can’t still TRAIN as if I’m going to do it!

  7. It never would have occurred to me to challenge the body stocking. I’m so used to seeing them on belly dancers in a wide range of sizes, chosen by the performers for their own comfort level, as well as bare belles of all sizes. Performing and putting oneself out there is scary enough; doing it in revealing costumes even moreso, for women of all sizes. I wonder whether the director required this garb or the performers prefer it in their work.

  8. Happy Birthday! Mine is tomorrow. 🙂 And I’m always in Vegas as I live here! But have not seen Zumanity yet. It is on my list.

  9. I’m not sure I have an opinion on this because the fact is that we don’t know WHY they were in body stockings. I would suggest we need to know that before we can call anyone out on it. It could have been that the director was trying to induce a specific mood, perhaps it was designed so that fewer people would try to touch the performers, maybe it was more comfortable for certain parts of the act. I have no idea. I’m learning to start asking those questions before making a judgment, but it’s still good to think about.

    1. I thought that, too. Maybe I’m stretching too far giving the benefit of the doubt since I haven’t seen the show, but being partially or totally clothed can be as sexy as full nudity, and the performers in those photos are sexy as hell.

  10. If you google for Zumanity images, there are pictures of them without the body stockings (well, at least one, http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/cirque-du-soleil-zumanity-las-vegas-2). So they DID perform without them for some period of time. I, too, would like to know why they are now wearing the stockings before getting up in arms. Their choice, the show’s, the audience response? Honestly, if they tested it, and get more of a sexy response from the audience for being in stockings, I’m going to be happy for the ability to make members of the audience go ‘wow, that’s damn sexy’, rather than unhappy because there wasn’t more skin showing. Having people look at a fat body and think ‘sexy’ is a nice step forward. It might not be a huge bound forward, but it’s a step.

  11. It also may have to do with the location , on the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ DVD one of the men they interviewed about the play said he could tell what country they were in by how fast the chandelier fell. I believe in Australia it was like it made a fast plummet ,but in another country it was really slow. So maybe in some locations they are able to preform without body stockings ,and others they are required to wear them . I believe Twistie got it right though when she talked about performances , the participants don’t really get to pick what they are wearing . My friend had a really bad experience of having to be hunched over in a costume designed for her because she was afraid while she was dancing that she might have a “wardrobe malfunction ” lol However they might have more freedom to voice concerns than most , I don’t really know.

  12. I think it’s unfortunate that the only fat people in the show were also the only people in body stockings. It may just be a coincidence, but its unfortunate because of the subtext of body shame that conveys, however unintentionally it may be.

    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good reasons for those performers to wear the stockings.

  13. Sorry I’m late!

    Happy birthday to you,
    Happy birthday to you!
    Happy birthday dear Ragen,
    Happy birthday to you!

    Hope you and Julianne had a fabulous time!

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