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Be Prepared! How and what to pack for a dance performance or competition

December 13, 2011

You are getting ready for your upcoming show or competition, unpacking your things at the theater or hotel, only to realize you have left something critical far, far away or in the chaos cannot find part of your next costume change in a pile of clothing.  That’s when the panic sets in and you have to start getting creative.  For the sake of helping all dancers keep their sanity, here’s my solution for keeping everything organized, prepared and ready-to-go.  My motto: less stress backstage means more fun on stage.

Photo by Rawich

For example, my last show involved four separate numbers, each with different costumes, dance shoes, hair and makeup requirements. A lot to keep straight even for seasoned dancers.  Here’s my multi-step approach:

  1. CONFIRM THE REQUIREMENTS for each dance number or style you are performing or competing inCheck in with the program coordinator, choreographers and/or your competition sign ups to determine what your needs will be.
    • If emails were sent with details, make sure to pull all the details out.
    • If you have questions, earlier not later is the time to ask. Make sure you know every detail: costumes, undergarments, shoes (or not), hair, makeup, props, etc.
    • Re-confirm a few days beforehand to make sure none of the details have changed or if you have to make adjustments for fast costume changes.
  2. CREATE A CHECKLIST for each dance number or costume combination you will need. I suggest creating a one column for all the clothing, shoe and jewelry related items. Then make additional separate call out boxes to the right for: hair style, makeup, undergarments and props. I like to use Excel and make a tab for each dance and then a MISC option.
  3. CREATE A CHECKLIST FOR ALL THE MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS. This includes anything and everything else you might need such as food, make up, hair products, deodorant, street clothes, etc.  The downloadable template below has my suggested list of items to pack.
  4. PRINT OUT EACH CHECKLIST. Put each checklist on the floor or counter top, and below it place all the items from the checklist, marking each one as you go.
  5. PLACE RELATED ITEMS IN PLASTIC BAGGIES AND/OR GARMENT BAGS. I suggest using clear bags when at all possible, so you can easily see the contents.
    • Put your name, phone and/or email, and the name of the dance style or dance number on each baggie. That will help keep items from getting lost or disorganized.
    • I like to use smaller bags for undergarments and separate bags for shoes (so they do not get your costumes dirty). I also have separate bags for makeup, hair products, food, and any other subcategories of items.
    • Then place all the smaller bags into one giant bag or garment bag per dance. Use garment bags for anything that needs to be on a hanger and cannot risk getting wrinkled. Ziploc sells some really big plastic baggies for pretty cheap. I bought mine at Target, but most general retailers should carry them. Look for the XL or XXL size. You can also use lingerie or other mesh bags if you want the items to breathe or have them handy and don’t want to use plastic. Just remember you can reuse your plastic bags for future shows or other items afterwards.
  6. PACK BAGS INTO A SUITCASE OR DUFFLE BAG.
    • Pull out your travel luggage and find one that will fit all of your items, minus the garment bags. I usually put the heavy items on the bottom and the more delicate items and actual costumes towards the top.
    • The goal is to minimize the number of bags you have to carry into the theater or venue. The less things you have to juggle the easier it will be to get around.

Once you arrive and get settled in, you can either leave things in their respective bags or unpack and put related items on a single hanger or designated space.  This should make any fast changes seamless.  No more wondering where something is or desperately searching through piles of clothes to find the right item.

In the spirit of sharing, here is the template I use.   Please feel free to download it and make it your own.

Dance Checklist Template

Here’s to happy, stress-free dancing!

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