I know dancers who take two hours or more to get ready for a gig.  I understand wanting to take time for yourself, to get the makeup just right, to get all the stuff in your hair.  And I know it takes time to pick out the costume – and goodness knows, sometimes just putting on the jewelry takes ten minutes or more.

But here’s the problem: sometimes the gig itself is ten minutes of actual dancing. And for me, that ratio of getting ready to actual performance time just seems ridiculous.  Or maybe you’re coming from your day job and you just don’t have the time.  Or maybe it’s a morning gig, and you are prioritizing having a slow morning with a cup of coffee and your Facebook feed.

Ladies (and gents), consider this my call to streamline. Here’s how to do it.

1. Make a checklist.
I make my checklists from bottom to top, in three layers.  It helps me stay organized, and keeps me from forgetting anything (like that one time when I forgot a belt, and luckily a fellow dancer had brought an extra)!  It could be a mental checklist, or you could actually write it out. I break it down in the following layers:

Base costume – footwear if applicable, pantaloons, skirts, choli

Second-layer costume – this includes hip wear such as shawls, saye goshe, tassel belt, etc.  This also includes my coin bra, if I’m wearing it, and a formal cover-up.

Jewelry – I don’t write out every bangle, but I want to give myself an overall idea for the look.  Again, bottom to top – so the belly chain comes first, and earrings come last.

I keep my performance jewelry in little hand-decorated and labelled bags that hang from a hook board. My beloved gave me this for Christmas last year. It’s incredibly thoughtful and ridiculously functional.

Hook board for jewelry.  Some bags have rings or necklaces; some are labelled specifically, like the one with the Talakhimt necklace).  My CholiDeco lives in the bag with the bronze circles. The colorful red bag houses my Diva Dreads and hair flowers. Many of these bags are empty because I just had a gig and haven't put all my things away yet.  Note the extra markers for when I want to label more things!

Hook board for jewelry. Some bags have rings or necklaces; some are labelled specifically, like the one with the Talakhimt necklace. My CholiDeco lives in the bag with the bronze circles. The colorful red bag houses my Diva Dreads and hair flowers. Many of these bags are empty because I just had a gig and haven’t put all my things away yet. Note the extra markers for when I want to label more things!

Here’s what a sample list might look like.

Sample gig checklist.

Sample gig checklist.

2. Put on the first layer.
Here’s a tip: If you’re wearing two skirts, put the outside skirt on FIRST, and slide the underskirt on underneath.  Much easier that way!

3. Prep the gig bag.
Put the following into a sturdy, large, presentable tote bag:

  • Second-layer costume
  • Jewelry
  • Your other essentials: pins, eyelash glue, lipstick, hand mirror, zills. Include the set list or CD if you are the person responsible for it.
My new favorite gig bag, from the Something Tribal This Way Comes festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. It's a good size, sturdy, and thematic! And if I have to put it on the ground, I can wash it later.

My new favorite gig bag, from the Something Tribal This Way Comes festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s a good size, sturdy, and thematic! And if I have to put it on the ground, I can wash it later.

4. Do your makeup.
There is a lot to this step, and this part will be an entire blog post just by itself. Suffice to say that yes, even when I’m rushed, I still wear false eyelashes.   Such a difference.

I do, however, limit myself to fifteen minutes.  Maybe twenty. Time is of the essence here, and unless you’re doing a photoshoot, it’s okay if it’s not perfect.  You just need to be seen.

I don’t bother with fancy lips at this point – just enough to make the costume look complete as I’m walking into the venue.

5. Do your hair.
For me, with my pixie cut, I have two options: I either do a casual headwrap, or I wear my Diva Dreads.  But if I’m rushed, there is no two ways about it – it’s Team Headwrap all the way.

I think this step would take me a lot longer if I had a lot more hair. We shall see!

6. Put on your “travel” coverup.
For me, this is usually my FCBD® hoodie.  It’s a little more casual and covered than the formal coverup.

With the beautiful Sofia and Jesse. Photo courtesy Don Labit Design.

With the beautiful Sofia and Jesse. Photo courtesy Don Labit Design. OG represent!

7. Get to the gig before call time.
Just a few minutes will do. You don’t want to be stressed out, and you have more work to do!  And now you don’t have to occupy your brain with anxiety about being late.

Once you arrive, put on the rest of your costume.  If there is a green room, great!  If not, find a restroom or unobtrusive corner to continue adorning yourself.

8. Dance your set!
This is the best part.  And remember – this is supposed to be fun.

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11 thoughts on “Turbo-Speed Tribal: Prep for a gig in less than an hour

    • Good point, Joie. The aesthetic and practical needs of ATS® means that we have our hair up, to show the neck and arms – it’s hard to see cues when there’s hair in the way! Definitely poses a unique challenge.

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