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Your Dance Bag

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The first night of every Level 1 class, I do a brief orientation with the students.  We go over simple studio layout (where’s the bathroom, water fountain…), etiquette (being on time, no shoes in the studio, etc), how the session will go (that we run in 6-week repeats, finger cymbals week 3…), and I briefly touch on the idea of having a dance bag.  For Level 1 dancers, the bag is super simple–your finger cymbals, water bottle, and notebook.

As your dance world grows, so does your bag!  A little secret: I love bags. Not purses, BAGS. I love shopping for bags, assessing all their internal organizational pockets for their purpose…it goes right along with my love of office supplies and closet organizers, I suppose. I love everything to have its little “home”. But I digress…

So once you have progressed past Level 1, what are some other common items to find in your dance bag?  Here is a checklist of potential things to keep in your dance bag at all times:

Your Dance Bag

water bottle
finger cymbals
notebook with mechanical pencil
calendar with important dance dates on it
performances you are attending/performing in, class schedule, etc)
spare hip scarf
small towel
to mop your brow
dance shoes/footies
if you use them

For workshops, you should also add to the class bag:

dance shoes/footies
even if you don’t usually use these, always bring them to workshops. You simply never know what the floors will be like–cement, splinters, and carpet being more common than they should be–and your feet deserve protection.
a couple healthy snacks
to re-apply during or after, as needed
business cards
your own or your teacher’s or both
your fave pain meds
achey muscles suck and can be tempered with some pre-emptive Advil or similar anti-inflammatory
a second set of dance clothes
if the workshop is all day, and you’re a sweaty-betty, changing after lunch is refreshing–even just a change of undies and/or tee shirt will help rejuvenate you. Alternately, if you don’t change in the workshop, you may want them to go out with your fellow dancers after the workshop.

Your Performance Bag

I recommend a roly-bag for a performance bag. It saves strain on your body before and after performing, and is easy to work out of in a crowded dressing room.  I have my “little red bag”which is a carry-on size, hard-sided rolling bag which has been with me for a decade.

full costume
tip: put it all on the night before, then take it off and pack it in a garment bag right then so you’re sure you have it all-together. Place garment bag by your front door and pack in your in suitcase just before you leave–no sooner, so you avoid unnecessary wrinkles.
jewelry & spare jewelry
what you intend to wear, plus a couple alternates just in case
safety pins
water bottle
small towel 

spare hair pins/clips

sometimes “contents shift during transit”, be ready to re-anchor what needs extra help 
dance shoes
as with workshops, you can never be certain of the dance surface. Even if they promised a professional stage, you don’t know the condition until you arrive. Protect the tootsies. Full ballet slippers or similar are best.
business cards/postcards
yours or your troupe’s or teacher’s or all of the above
spare bindis and bindi glue 
touch-up make-up kit
I keep one with a universal color lipstick, eye shadow, and liner. Universal meaning it is stage-worthy neutrals I can use to fill in with if there is a make-up failure.  Best if you have a little mirror in there which can be stood up on a table–vying for limited mirror space backstage can be a pill, so it’s helpful to have your own.
never ever go to a gig without one
travel tissue
just a little soft pack of travel tissues can be used to remove stray make-up, dab sweat, etc
iPod -&- CD of music
I have more than once turned up to an event where I was assured we could use one or the other and couldn’t. Best to have one of each just in case. If you only use CD’s, then bring two CD’s, so you have a backup in case one burn didn’t take or gets scratched. If you dance in a troupe, giving one of each of the CD’s to two different dancers also helps the CD get there in case someone gets waylayed.
your intro
having one at the ready for every gig keeps you from having to think of something pithy last minute. Just have a standard one you print out several copies of and keep themin your dance bag at all times.
change of clothes
even if you don’t think you will be going out after a gig, you never know when an opportunity will present itself, and you don’t want to wear your costume pieces out and get them soiled or ruined.  A simple black jersey dress and a pair of ballet flats is my go-to (don’t forget a non-performance bra!). It wads up in my bag easily, is very small and light, slips over my head easily, is a quick change for dashing out, and is neutral enough to wear with whatever makeup, hair, or jewelry I am rocking that night.

I hope this is helpful when you’re packing for your next dance experience!

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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