Gigging can be nerve-wracking at the best of times. But it’s even worse if you don’t have certain essentials packed. In addition to the extremely obvious items of costume and music, here are some items that are always stashed in my gig bag.
1. Safety pins: The dancer’s best friend. The emergency fixer of broken and loose clasps. There’s nothing more dreadful than feeling your costume sliding or worse, popping, out of place while you’re on stage, so be sure have safety pins with you to pin it all together before you start your set.
2. Hand towel: Double-sets, summer time festivals, rooms without air conditioning. Throw on top of that long-hair and tight Lycra costumes and you have one outcome: sweat. Not so pretty, or great feeling for that matter, when you are exiting your gig or about to go out for round two. Thus I always keep a hand towel in my bag for dabbing off the glisten after performances.
3. Baby wipes: Restaurant floors are pretty gross. I have one restaurant where the bottoms of my feet are literally black after I’m done with my performance. I don’t even want to think about what kind of bacteria are clinging onto the soles of my feet. Thus enter the baby wipe to clean it all off. Other types of cleansing, cosmetic, or antibacterial wipes can work as well.
4. Water: I’m a regular and frequent water drinker as is, so performance time is no exception. If you’re at a gig that’s making you nervous, some sips of water beforehand can help combat dry mouth and stop your lips from feeling like their sticking to your teeth (by the way, so can a swipe of Vaseline). And especially after a long set, knowing I have water right within my reach when I get backstage is always a blessing.
5. Mirror: Especially if you’re headed to a new venue, you never know what kind of backstage “changing room” you might end up in. Hello closet! (Yes, the walk-in storage closet situation really does frequently happen.) Thus it’s always a good idea to have a hand held mirror with you for last minute makeup checks. Also great for festivals when the changing areas are jam-packed with dancers and trying to get a glimpse of the mirror would involve elbowing someone else out of the way.
6. Makeup bag: Even if you did your makeup at home, lipstick and eyeliner has a tendency to stray. Make sure you’re able to do last minute touch-ups if needed.
7. Bobby pins, hair spray and/or curling iron: Same concept as the makeup bag. Especially on rainy or humid days, you might leave your house with one hairstyle and arrive at your gig with another. Make sure you have the tools you need to fix it.
8. Backup music: You put in the hours practicing and getting ready. Purchased a swanky, expensive costume. You step out onto the stage ready to wow and, and…..nothing. Your CD is dead in the water. Yup, I’ve had it happen. More than once. So make sure you have a backup copy of your music. Most places these days can accommodate an MP3, which is my preference for backup music, as I find it more reliable than a burned CD. In addition, I always tote around a small portable MP3 player as well.
9. Cover-up: You don’t want to go spoiling your big costume reveal as you step onto stage, so make sure you have a cover-up to throw on before and after your set. Also good for keeping warm in the winter months, not to mention maintaining propriety and professionalism.
10. Business cards: You always want to be prepared to promote yourself. So make sure you have some business cards tucked into your bag in case someone asks for one, or there’s an opportunity to set some out on a table.
11. Hollywood Fashion Tape: These sticky little strips are essentially double-sided tape for the body. I always keep some in my bag as they are great for fixing any gaping areas in costumes, especially in the bra area.
12. Veil and zills: Even if you don’t plan on using either of these items in your set, it’s always a good idea to have them in tow. Last minute, you may decide you’d like to make your entrance with the veil. Or maybe use it as a cover-up. Or the person hiring you puts in a special request. Same for zills. Maybe your backup music also failed (see #8 above) and zills are now all you’ve got to create any type of music. Murphy’s Law applies to dance, and it applies big time. Whatever can go wrong, will. So be prepared with backup options.
13. Dance shoe: I’m a barefoot dancer, and I do everything in my power to avoid dancing in shoes, and especially in high heels. Never the less, I always keep a pair of ballet slippers stowed in my dance bag. Especially good for outdoor stages that have been baking for hours in the high summertime heat. Ouch for feet! Or if the indoor floors are looking like a level of yuck beyond baby wipes (see #3 above) and you decide preventative measures are necessary. Thus, I think it’s a good idea to have something you can slip on to protect yourself.
Those are the items that make my list. What else would you add?
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