Thursday, 5 November 2015

What's in your gig bag?

I'm packing to go to Infusion Emporium at the moment (well, I'm procrastinating packing by writing a blog). It's a bit of a mammoth task because I have to have everything I need for attending workshops, being a bit fancy for the theatre show (by fancy I really mean, "not in sweaty leggings") travelling and staying overnight - Oh and because I love my students I am driving back early on Monday for my Glastonbury classes, so I need everything for that too. But the biggest obstacle is that I also need everything for performing at the Glitterball Shakedown.

When I do a performance, and often if I am teaching a hen party class or suchlike, I take my hallowed gig bag. It's a carry on size suitcase which has literally everything I could ever need in it. I carefully pack it beforehand, and "reset" it afterwards. Some of the contents is changeable, like costumes, props etc, and some of it is consistent.

For this weekend it doesn't make sense to take 2 suitcases, so I am having to decant the bits and bobs I need from my gig bag, into my weekend luggage. It's the little, consistent things that are the trick, because it has taken me a while to refine exactly what I need for any eventuality. Here's some of the stuff I carry around with me:

Hairgrips/bobby pins

I always have 2 packs of these, because the hairgrip pixies steal them at a frightening speed. Anyone who has hairgrips knows about the hairgrip pixies, they will take 80% of your stash every time you look away. Don't Blink.

If you buy in bulk, they just get lost faster, I have tried. So my rule is that I buy small packs, and there must be one in my dresser and 2 in my gig bag, all at least half full.

I carry 2 packs because one will be standard grips and the other heavy duty/wig grips, which can take the strain of pinning hairpieces, rats and bulky accessories.


My Minirig is one of my favourite things ever, no exaggeration. It's a speaker about the size of a large mug of tea, which is rechargable and surprisingly loud. Loud enough to teach with, on high gain you can get enough sound to perform with, even outdoors. Not super noisy, but enough. I have a 500W tailgate speaker which is louder, but it's about the same size as my gig bag, and I'm only going to double my luggage if I absolutely have to.

Even if I know my venue has a sound system, it is no trouble at all to carry the Minirig and that means that if there is an issue with sound, I can still teach/perform.

MP3 player

I go absolutely nowhere without my MP3 player. It has *all* my dance music on and specific playlists for particular lessons, moods and performance sets.

Tin of gubbins

Used hairgrips, safety pins (essential for securing costumes and last minute fixes), hairbands. Anything small and vital goes in my tin.

My tin of gubbins, essential kit.

Sewing kit.

This little repair kit came from my local craft shop. It's important to be able to fix  costumes on the go because a loose hook can be the difference between a servicable costume and having nothing to wear, or worse, a costume malfunction! The scissors are also great for trimming lashes.

All the underwear

In case I happen to forget to pack the appropriate underpinnings for the particular costume (Shira has a great article on this), I always carry a pair of black and a pair of fleshtone "invisible" knickers (seamfree, but I like to call them that because I never get tired of saying "I can't find my invisible knickers"), which between them will work for most costumes. I also carry a normal pair because I was raised to be prepared.

I also carry a pair of Capezio dance tights in my bag all the time, and a fleshtone, sleeved bellystocking, both are transferable to almost any costume if need be.


Body glitter, travel size hairspray, hairbrush, versatile red lipstick. These are necessities, so they stay in there. Also a spare shake and go wig, because nobody needs a hairmergency.

Eyelashes and glue

I always have a spare pair of eyelashes, just in case. Eyelash glue suffers in the same way as hairgrips. It's small and the pixies steal it. I use latex free eyelash glue, which isn't commonly available, so I buy lots of little bottles and secrete them in handy places (no use buying a large bottle, it dries up). Eyelash glue isn't just for eyelashes, I use a lot of little gems in my makeup and it's useful for wayward wig lace. Having spare glue is essential if any of the cornucopia of stuff stuck to my face comes loose.

Pre-gig war paint photo demonstrating how I might stick stuff on my face...

Health stuff

In case of emergency. Ibuprofen and paracetamol (for headaches or injuries), Tiger Balm and sanitary protection. More often than not I am lending this stuff to other dancers in need!

Wet wipes

Amazing all around for everything. You can wipe down the surface in the dressing room, before or after use. You can wipe the floor dirt off your feet, a smudge of hummus off your costume, take your make up off with them, all sorts of things.

Parking change.

Because there is nothing worse when you have somewhere to get to than finding yourself in a car park with no meter money... in costume.

Flyers and business cards

You never know where a networking opportunity might come up, so I try to keep a stock of class flyers and business cards on hand.

Video camera and tripod

One of the best ways to improve your dance is to video yourself and watch it critically. I do this in practice, but where I can, I try to do it for performances too, because sometimes stuff comes out under pressure. I carry a small video camera and a tabletop tripod for that purpose.

The changables

So all those things are a given, I might need them in most situations. I also have room in my bag for the items that are specific to a gig.

So if I am teaching a burlesque party, I will have half a case full of feather boas, spare gloves, party favours etc.

If I am doing a bellydance performance I have space for 2 complete costumes (providing only one of them is a bulky one) and a cover up, plus shoes, hairpieces etc.

Everyone's essentials are going to be different, and it has evolved over time as I have learned what I can do without and what I wished I had packed.

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