Fantasy of Temple Dance Wear

For this past Dance Fest show, “Releasing the Apsara from Stone: Studying the Body as Temple. Part III,” there were two characters that needed to be outfitted. Due to live cam projections of movements, white was an important color.


Photography by Kristophe Diaz (event) & Callie Chapman (tech rehearsal)


Character one: dream temple dancer

The first was to imitate the translucent suggestion of fabric so popular in ancient temple sculpture. Most of the time, viewers are left guessing whether the form is wearing any clothes at all. Breasts were definitely left bare, but according to my grandmother, it was highly inappropriate to expose one’s thighs back in those days. If one looks closely, one would perceive super fine cloth draped to pleat on top of the legs. I conjured a way to wrap a sheer fabric that was cut to have minimal volume. In fact, I made it from two pieces. One was cut like a shapely trapezoid with a super fine long acute angle of cloth, the other was a rectangle. I chose a translucent white fabric with a subtle horizontal silver leaf paillettes (to reference the horizontal dhoti draping pleats). The former piece went once around the dancer’s body as a thin wrap (ancient Egyptian wrap), enough for a bit of overlap on the thigh and the long rarefied end over her chest and left shoulder to mimic the sari aachal (secured at the back with a knot). The other piece I tuck below the first cloth and in front of her thighs with pleating to mimic the dhoti draping. Together they came together as a modern one-shoulder dress, evoking the ethereal draping of ancient dancers. I kept her jewelry simple, but now I wonder whether next time I would add significantly more.

Character two: artist sadhu

For this character, I applied clay all over the body to reference the ashes sadhus wear. When it dried it glowed significantly lighter. During the piece, I applied charcoal paste to my body. There was enough contrast for this to show up. The naked sadhu is an interesting figure in South Asian lore. The idea is that you forsake the material world and practice spirituality through yoga. In this dance drama, the character may have detached from materiality, but she is obsessed with a fantasy. I like the idea of a female naked sadhu (quite a rarity). I added a white flower garland around my waist in order to play with inverted projection when a naked dark body is projected on a white clothed body. The flower garland, if the images line up, would show over the darkened white clothed figure. A minor detail 😉