Due to technical difficulties, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve got some drafts of more “philosophical” articles I’m working on, but with two of my students planning solo debuts in March, today I’m going for the practical. This is a list (not an exhaustive one, but, I hope, well rounded) of practical considerations for performing.

Dress rehearsal
Practice in your costume, including all jewelry you intend to wear, the hairstyle you’re planning, and any props you plan to use, at least once BEFORE the day of the show. You want to discover snagging, slipping, tangling or any other problem beforehand, not during your show. This is also where you can figure out where you might want safety pins – I like one as extra insurance on my costume top, in case the hooks give (this has never happened to me, but I’ve heard stories). Depending on the style and fit of the costume, I will also put one in the center front and center back of the belt, pinning it to the skirt so that the skirt doesn’t peek over the belt top.

Underwear/underskirt/harem pants
Figure out what is going to work beneath your costume. This will vary according to how much the costume hugs your hips, where any cutouts are, and what the chances are of revealing what’s underneath when you spin or a sideslit swings open.

If you’re new to performance makeup, you should do at least one practice session before the day of the show. Makeup requirements are going to vary with lighting and size of the venue, but the basics for a hafla or typical nightclub gig are:

  • Consider false eyelashes. These do take some practice. Some dancers find them more trouble than they are worth, but, at least with my eye shape, they give me an extra something that no amount of makeup can match. I like Ardell 305s, which only go on the outer half of your eye.
  • Darken eyebrows more than you normally would. This is more important than you probably think it is – eyebrows really frame your face – they allow you to have a stronger stage presence and project your expressions farther.
  • Apply thicker, darker eyeliner than you would normally wear. I recommend black or dark brown, depending on your coloring. I’m not afraid to spend a little money for quality, but currently my favorite is Wet’n’Wild gel liner in black, because it Does. Not. Budge.)
  • Contour your eye sockets further out and with a darker color than normal – this will actually work even more than eyeliner to give the impression of a bigger eye.
  • Contour under cheekbones and jaw – I find lights tend to wash out my jawline, so I brush along my jaw and under my chin with bronzer or brown eyeshadow.
  • Use a richly colored lipstick (I like red!). Either use lipliner or apply with a lip brush for a well-defined line. I prefer to use a very matte, highly pigmented lipstick as a base, and then dab a moister lipstick on top. That way my lips don’t look dry, but my lip color still has staying power and depth.

Street clothes
You need clothes to wear on your way to the show that don’t leave marks on your skin (ie no bra, no waistband that leaves marks). Even socks might leave visible marks on your calves or ankles.

If possible one that fastens in the front rather than needing to be pulled over your head. Coverups are less commonly used at nightclub gigs (usually you’ll just change out of your street clothes, perform, and change back into your street clothes). At a theatre show or an event with a number of dancers a coverup is essential – you want to keep your costume a mystery for the greatest impact, and it’s terrible etiquette to be wandering about with your costume visible while someone else is performing. Caftans are easy to buy or make and have a nice ethnic look. Some dancers buy a pretty silky robe from a department store and add snaps or other fasteners.

Some dancers like a garment bag for their costumes – I prefer a roller suitcase. Some of my costumes can be rather heavy, and for events where I need to pack two costumes it gets a bit much to have to haul around without benefit of wheels.

I use silk veils, and I hate ironing them. You’ll have to if it’s gotten heavily wrinkled, or if it still has the fold marks from purchase (I confess, watching someone dance with a veil with the original fold marks is one of my pet peeves). For packing for shows, I hold my veil by the long edge, fold in thirds and then again in half to make 6ths. Then I roll down the length and put in my suitcase. I do this again when I pack up after performing so my veil doesn’t get wrinkled on the ride home.

If you’re dancing a full set
You are probably going to sweat! Pack spare underwear and a towel. If you have long hair I also recommend a hairstick or some other implement to get your hair off your neck after the show. A water bottle is good – hydrate both before and after, especially in summer! I and a number of my pals also carry a small Chinese folding fan – they work wonders to help cool you off, and they add a certain panache post-gig!

When you get home
Lay your costume out to dry/air out. Hang your veil back up so you can avoid ironing it.

Got any vital tips I missed? Let me know. 🙂