Traveling with a Costume

Traveling with a Costume

By Ghanima Gaditana

It can be fun to take a costume along when traveling, whether for a weekend in the next town, or for three weeks overseas. I have taken a belly-dance costume with me to Turkey the past several times I have gone, and had a good time using it.

Since you will often have to carry your own bags when you travel, it helps to choose which items to bring or leave behind as if you were going on a backpack trip. Essentially it is backpacking, but in an urban setting! It is no fun to feel like a pack mule as you stagger along under the weight of your regular suitcase, plus a big garment bag, separate cosmetic kit, boom box, and so on. Pack light, and you will be a lot happier.

I like to arrange it so that my traveling costume tucks into a corner of my regular suitcase. I have found that when I have jet lag, it is hard for me to keep track of how many bags I have, and even harder for me to be happy about hauling several pieces of luggage across an airport. I have a lightweight nylon tote that stuffs into the suitcase, too; when I head for the cabaret, the costume goes into the tote bag for the evening, then it all goes back into the suitcase when we move on the next day.

Ghanima Gaditana

One of the hazards of travel is that sometimes your possessions may go astray. Leave expensive and irreplaceable items at home. My usual style of costuming involves numerous pieces, often elaborate and heavy accessories, and many layers. I had to simplify when I started planning a traveling costume. With a bit of forethought, a dancer can develop an effective and versatile traveling costume. My criteria are that it packs down small, weighs little, and does not wrinkle or crease. Here are some ideas I’ve used:

1. A traveling bra and belt must be light weight yet sturdy. Cover the bra and belt liner with lamé or brocade, use rayon chainette fringe instead of bead fringe, and minimize the amount of glass beading and metal. Contrasting colors and textures can supply visual interest. Plastic jewels and beads are both lighter and more durable than glass, and I often use pop-beads (faceted beads molded onto a fine, tough nylon cord). They look great under lights.

2. A straight skirt of light-weight brocade, metallic, or foil-print jersey, or pantaloons made of sheer polyester print or brocade. I leave the full skirts and frou-frou things at home.

3. A veil of foil-print jersey, or poly chiffon. A patterned fabric will show fewer wrinkles than a solid.

4. Armlets and/or bracelets of wide stretch sequin fabric; add rayon fringe, if you like.

5. Neckpiece and/or headpiece of sequin fabric, lamé, and perhaps rayon fringe and plastic beads or jewels.

6. A caftan of print poly georgette, which can also serve as the fancy evening dress you may need on your trip.

Protect your feet. Even if you normally dance barefoot on your home turf, take along something to put on your feet while you perform on the road. You can’t be certain that every floor you encounter will be clean, smooth, and free of hazards. You could get a sliver, a piece of broken glass, abrasions from rough concrete, or just plain filthy feet, depending on the condition of your dance space. I am fond of the gymnastics shoes available from Capezio, sprayed with gold or silver shoe dye.

In the spirit of being prepared, remember that some audiences may be more conservative than others. I throw in some transparent or net pantaloons to wear under the straight skirt, to minimize the amount of bare skin showing, and a body stocking isn’t a bad idea. Neither of these takes much space or weight, and can make a big difference in how comfortable you and your audience feel with your physical appearance during your show.

Wherever you go, someone is likely to have a cassette tape player, so it should not be necessary for you to bring your own boom box. Do put together two tapes (in case their tape player eats one of your tapes) with an assortment of your favorite music. I carry a little Walkman with me when I travel anyway, which gives me something to rewind and cue my performance tapes with.

This whole collection weighs only a few pounds, will fit into a small tote bag, and does not require a major investment. With this gear in your suitcase, you are ready to share your love of dance with old friends and new, wherever you go. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy being a traveling dancer!

Ghanima Gaditana is director of Ana Tours, and coordinates and leads tours to Turkey, “On the Trail of the Great Goddess.”

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