What’s in Your Bag?


Lately, I have had the pleasure of watching a number of my students perform. They arrive at the venue and the nerves are running higher than usual so there may be one or two things that are overlooked. I’m hoping this checklist will help with preparation and I wish I had done one for myself when I was starting to perform. Let me tell you about the frantic moments or embarrassment I could have prevented. . . on second thought, some of those tales are best forgotten. Here’s my two cents for budding professionals on their way to perform.

I believe it all starts with a well stocked “gig bag” which only serves one purpose. In other words, it should not be your “gig bag” sometimes and your “summer beach bag” the rest of the time. That leaves too much room for error. One bag should have all of the supplies you need and your costume is the only item that need change. When choosing a bag, consider how you are traveling. I have one stocked gig bag for my NYC shows when I want a bag with wheels. I know that my car will be, at least, several blocks from the venue and I don’t want to throw something over my shoulder and risk injury. My suburban gig bag is a lightweight bag with large shoulder straps which is easy to transport and will only be carried a short distance. If you do a lot of haflas or performances with hoards of dancers in tiny dressing rooms, you might want to consider a bold print or color so your bag stands out easily. I have a lime green bag that I can always spot among the sea of black bags in the dressing room with dancer “stuff” piled high like a sculpture.

Now that we’ve addressed color, size, shoulder straps vs. wheels, let’s talk about what goes inside. The juicy part, as it were. Here is a helpful checklist:

1. Performance Makeup
Don’t put in your expensive brushes and every shadow, liner and gloss you own. This should be a crude, yet, complete collection of performance makeup. If you had to get ready using only that makeup, you could still put yourself together and look beautiful but it’s mostly for touch-ups. If you lost your makeup bag, it should warrant a deep sigh and maybe your favorite curse word. It should NOT be tragic or cause tears.

2. Wipes
If you perform barefoot as often as I do, you want to seriously clean those feet before stepping into your shoes. Even when I do wear shoes, I like to have something to freshen up a bit if I get sweaty. Recently, I did a performance that I didn’t realize would involve non-water based silver face makeup and I was out of wipes. I looked like some rejected member of Kiss who had a face-rubbing fight. Thank goodness for a kind dancer who saw me scrubbing furiously in the bathroom and shared one of her precious wipes.

3. Safety Pins
Last night, I had two students that needed safety pins before performing. One needed a tiny silver one that blended in with her belt chain and the other had an all white costume that needed some strap help. I happen to have safety pins in white, black and silver…whew! Even as I move away from separate bra and belts, I still find that I appreciate the extra security of reinforcing with pins in one or two places.

4. Props
I keep my finger cymbals in my gig bag and a flamenco fan. I do this just in case I space out and forget my veil. In a pinch I can use fan if I need to.

5. Jewelry
I have a small bag with two necklaces, two pairs of earrings, bangles/bracelets and bindis.

6. A Cover-Up
It may be an old-fashioned rule, but don’t walk around in your costume before a show. At many restaurants, I change right into my costume and perform – no need for a cover up. There are, however, many instances when I do need one and I would kick myself if I forgot.

7. Misc.
Hair products (I suggest trial size and locked in a ziplock bag), Advil or something to relieve a headache, glitter for those who partake, a dance shoe in case the floor calls for it, back-up business cards in case your run out in your wallet, deodorant, water. If you’re changing in bathrooms, you might want to bring a small towel to stand on as you change. Hand sanitizer, a snack, a lighter, and extra candles (if you do candle tray).

I’m sure there are additional items that I haven’t mentioned. Please feel free to share what I may have missed. I still have moments where I’ve taken something out of my bag or run out of something I wish I had. It happens. Of course, it’s about the dancing but the more prepared we are beforehand, it’s one less thing to stress about. Enjoy!

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