Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Bellydance TARDIS

No, I don't mean the inimitable Raks Geek and that beautiful performance (though you should absolutely check it out!), I'm talking transport.

ATS dancers have a ton of stuff. 25 yard skirts, cholis, pantaloons, tons of jewelry, tons of flowers, makeup, belts, scarves, special "choli safe" dance bras, fake hair, zills, props... and we have to get it from our homes to classes, performances, and events somehow.

Grace uses a rolling suitcase for her costumes, and to her credit, she does need it... she's carrying extra skirts, extra zills, extra scarves, merch, music, business cards, planners... the sheer amount of STUFF that she totes around is astonishing.

As I need less stuff, and am an apartment-dweller and do not particularly relish the idea of hauling a rolling suitcase around, I went with the Speedo Teamster bag. I generally like swimming bags as dance bags, because they are HUGE (designed to carry snorkels and flippers and TOWELS [towels are huge]), they're waterproofed, and they usually have separate pockets/compartments for quarantining anything wet, dirty, or gross. My "cordovan" (meaning = burgundy) Teamster is currently holding a pair of dance shoes, two 25-yard skirts, a hip scarf, Rokedet, my wallet, a bottle of water, and my phone, and there's STILL ROOM for jewelry, pantaloons, hair flowers, etc.

Anyway, this is not a paid advertisement. I do not work for Speedo, nor am I being compensated. To keep me from still blabbing about my bag, let's talk about yours, and how to choose one. So, how to choose a dance bag that you will actually use:

  1. BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR NEEDS!  Ideally you should appreciate the bag, the contours, the color, the way it looks and fits. But this is also equipment, and much like my post on dance shoes earlier, looks are secondary to function. Instead of buying a cute bag that doesn't work for you, buy something that absolutely works that you happen to like the look of.  I used to have this problem... I would insist that a particular bag was PERFECT, I needed it, it would be fine, no problem. But after I'd fallen in love with the look, I'd realize that it didn't at all work for my lifestyle or the amount I needed to carry (here's looking at you, sling backpack). Only time and experience made me realize that function came over form when it came to matters of the bag.
  2. POCKETS! ALL OF THE POCKETS! I looooove pockets. So I strongly advocate that you find a bag with pockets, sections, or some kind of division in it in case you need to keep, say, dirty dance shoes that reek from spilled beer away from your vintage hand-batik dupatti, and preferably something with an easily accessible interior pocket that you can stash money, a phone, or keys in.
  3. BUT NOT TOO MANY POCKETS!  When buying the bag, take a good, critical look at all of those nooks and crannies, and make sure that they will be put to use.  One or two pockets that you kind of write off as too small to fit anything or too oddly placed to be of use is one thing, having an entire bag where you only make use of the main compartment literally defeats the purpose of having pockets in the first place.
  4. CHECK YOUR CONSTRUCTION!  Trust me, you want something that's at least weatherproofed, with a reinforced bottom and zippers, and some kind of padding on the straps.  I have gone through far too many "trendy" bags to ever recommend anything else.  There was the cotton canvas messenger with a nylon web strap that gave me rugburn before the strap pulled free of the stitching and I had to tuck the whole mess under an arm. There was the fabulous mid-century style faux-croc satchel whose clasp snapped off. There was the inflatable vinyl purse that only lasted for three months before it popped. There were the series of tiny, gothy purses and my valiant attempts to cram everything in there. Invariably, these purses would tear, wear, break, snap, or leak from rain.  If you're going to be carrying anything hard to replace or electronic in nature, you definitely want something heavy-duty and waterproof.
  5. CHECK YOUR LIFESTYLE!  Does the bag actually work for you?  If it's too heavy, too unwieldy, too ugly, too hard to manage, or too complicated, you just won't use it. (Remember the swing backpack I linked above? I wore one like it five times. I still have it, but I never use it).  It's a similar principle to clothing... if you're not comfortable, you'll never wear it.
  6. GIVE IT A TEST RUN!  Okay, so you've picked a bag that's big enough, has the right amount of pockets, is comfortable, is built like a tank, and that you'll use. Now, before you take the tags off and lose the receipt, put all of your dance stuff in it and walk around the house with it for twenty minutes.  Does it fit everything comfortably? Is it making your arm go numb or your shoulders ache? Are any of the seams straining? Is it doing anything weird (i.e. in the eternal example of the sling backpack, is the velcro from the strap catching on your clothing and turning it into a Pilling Hafla)?  If any of these are true, take it back. Life's too short.