Apologies that the top of my head got cut off – I’m still learning best practices for using iMovie on my phone! But for reference, here are two photos that Brandie took of me when I stopped by her booth to prep for the fashion show.
I love my very short hair, but sometimes a girl just needs a hair garden to stick stuff into! So, at last year’s Cues and Tattoos, I walked up to the Diva Dreads booth, pointed to my head, and said: “I’m an ATS dancer. What can you do for me?”
Brandie, the owner, knows and loves the aesthetic, so she understood: I didn’t want anything dangling down, and I wanted height and a certain shape. So she invited me to have a seat, and whipped out a set of dreads. In just a few minutes she had created a “hair turban,” mostly pinning the dreads to themselves, and had clipped in a few flowers.
It was pretty good. But I showed it to Carolena, who was vending from an adjacent table, and she made that face I’ve come to know so well: good idea, but the execution needs some work. Carolena pointed out that my head shape is pretty round, so I should try for some height next time rather than going with a round shape. So I took the dreads home and started playing. And now, a year later, I am happy to share how I make this happen!
I’ll be sharing pictures as we go through this tutorial. Please forgive the blurriness – I took most of these in a hurry from the hotel room where I was getting ready for the Tessera performance at this year’s Cues.
As a reminder, here’s where we’re starting. It’s a bit of a long pixie right now, but still too short to effectively make a solid ponytail.
You’ll need a set of dreads threaded onto elastics big enough to go around your head. If your preferred vendor only puts them on ponytail elastics, you could make a simple modification — or just talk to Brandie and she’ll make you a set that will work for you. You’ll also need a scarf and boatloads of bobby pins.
Here’s what the dreads look like. I store them wrapped up in the scarf I usually wear with them.
Step one is to put the elastics around your head, with the dreads dangling down the back. The sets of dreads don’t overlap with each other, they just sit side by side. Like this:
Next step, I start wrapping the outside-most dreads over the top of my head, alternating sides, and bobby pinning in place behind my ears.
I do that until I’ve got most of the top of my head covered. Next up, I start pinning the center dreads up to where the back of my head meets the top of my head, usually two at a time. Make an X with two bobby pins to keep every section in place.
Continue pinning until you have two small chunks (just a few strands) left on either side.
Now, flip your head upside down and start twisting. The placement of the sections in your hands will determine the overall shape of the updo; bring them tight and slightly to the back to create a stronger vertical line and avoid too much roundness.
Next, twist into a fairly high bun, and pin the crap out of it! I recommend using more bobby pin “X” shapes, since mostly you’ll be pinning the dreads to themselves and single bobby pins are unlikely to stay.
You can fine-tune the shape with more bobby pins.
Finally, grab your scarf and tie it over to cover the elastics. Tie it snugly at the nape of your neck. I like to then twist up the ends and bring them up and over the headband, pinning the ends in place.
Finally, put all of your flowers, jewelry, whatever you like into your ‘do. You look MAHVELOUS.
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.
Here’s what a sample list might look like.
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
- Your other essentials: pins, eyelash glue, lipstick, hand mirror, zills. Include the set list or CD if you are the person responsible for it.
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.
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.