Sunday, August 23, 2009

Flipped Out

At a recent performance at the Hartford Stage, I was distracted through much of the performance by a flip-flop. Several rows ahead, a member of the audience had one leg crossed high across his knee, and he jiggled and bounced that bare foot and loose flip-flop throughout most of the evening. My seat was several rows above his, so that when I looked down on to the stage, there was that silhouetted bare foot and its flip-flop, flipping and flopping, wiggling and waggling.

All other factors aside – the idea of walking through dirty city streets in near-bare feet and the detrimental effect of flip-flops on the muscles of the back, feet, and legs (read about it HERE) – I’m just tired of seeing everyone’s bare toes in times and places where a little decorum would be welcome. I'm not talking about the beach, the playground, or even the shopping mall. But in church, at the theater, in the concert hall, in restaurants, in the doctor’s office – the world seems overrun by bare feet, many of them dirty, and many made even more tawdry by scarlet nail polish. UGH.

The flip-flop flagrancy that really flips me out is the increasingly common wearing of flip-flops by some of my fellow choristers during performances.

Each of the ensembles in which I sing has guidelines for concert attire, including requirements for both men and women, for footwear (usually close-toed and black) and hosiery (required). Each group has unique policies, of course, but the goals are the same: to ensure that we present a uniform appearance, that individual singers do not stand out, and that our attire be in keeping with the formal presentation of (generally) classical music.

In most cases, when singers join an ensemble they agree to follow all policies, including attire. It’s always a disappointment and somewhat a shock, then, to see some of the women show up for concerts wearing flip-flops instead of hosiery and close-toed shoes, or at least dress sandals, which I think are OK during warm weather. It is a distraction, it is unprofessional, and it is a real sign of disrespect for the ensemble, its leaders, and the other singers who do comply with the attire policies. I can’t understand why the people in charge of enforcing the attire rules don’t actually enforce them. There seems to be a double standard, too: If a male singer showed up in flip-flops, he’d be shown to the stage door.

More of my essays on the life of a chorister, and more about choral rehearsals and choral music, may be found here:

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