Temple Dance Fashion – Transitioning the Classical to Contemporary


In keeping with the desire to break from the sculptural forms of my classical training into improvised movement, costuming plays a great part in testing the bounds of this new form of story-telling I am developing in dance.

I don’t have the confidence in my hodge-podge second-generation American-based training in classical dance to work expertly from the inside. I feel I have always been an outsider so any exception I may take to certain aspects of the form, I feel I can do so respectfully by breaking out of the form and embracing a variation that acknowledges both my classical face and body and my free-flowing and lively folk and street movements.

I seek to re-tell many stories, focusing on notions of gender, sexuality and the body politic. This makes not only breaking from classical form (movement-wise) imperative, but also clothing the dancer’s body to a form recognizable by today’s standards as important. Somehow dressing as Yama Yami in pencil jeans that I cut out and dyed makes the character relevant now. No longer obsolete, this character struts his/her rockstar self boldly.

Here you see the traditional draping of sculpture dancers vs. the interpretation applying today’s fashions.

It took me a bit to figure our how to drape as a temple dancer of yore might have. After scouring images of temple sculpture for hours and hours, my nimble fingers finally worked it out. By doing this, I stepped away from the partially tailored, heavily gilded costumes favored by today’s professional temple dancers. I prefer a draped form to be fully draped and enjoy draping myself. I also have an affinity to a spare aesthetic without the jewels and flowers and gold of the court dancers of the past. Since last December I have been performing in this draped variation.

Curious to translate the draping into tailored street clothing, this May I made this outfit out of pencil jeans. The pink side represents the draping of the gorgeous temple dancers of yore. I cut into the jean to evoke the draped look visually but in a way that is expected of rockstar jeans. the orange side, the tiger skin look that Shiva rocks, I also cut out and played with two dyes.