Tools of the Trade

Life on tour or on residencies generally means living life out of a suitcase (although a rucksack makes running for the train easier!). Often there’s limited time to go out and pick up the things you need, and having the right stuff can make life a whole lot more comfortable! Below is some of the kit I’ve found particularly useful while on the move; whether in class or crossing continents.  

Medical Kit: To be at the side of the stage during a show, you never know when you might need it! Plasters, lip balm (nothing worse than dry lips before a show!), tweezers, little scissors, antiseptic wipes or spray (for wounds, but also to clean up blood), superglue for splits on your sole, tiger balm (top tip: wash off with soap after 20mins or so to avoid the stickiness and clamminess that comes with prolonged contact) and, most importantly, tape.

Tape: By far the best in my experience is Leukoplast, a brand of non-stretchy zinc oxide tap, it’s really tough, easy to tear into the right length, very sticky and there’s a whole host of tricks to get it to stick even more!

Sadly Leuokplast only comes in a light flesh colour, please do consider contacting them here to request they expand the range of tones available.

The tape comes in several widths, you might need to think which one is best for the size of your foot, and the size of the splits/blisters/friction burns you’re covering. I use the 2.5cm most often.

Steel Water Bottle and Cap: I use a Klean Kanteen bottle with a metal lid (not pictured) Obviously great for drinking water, but thanks to its parallel sides it can also be used to roll out your calves and other muscles or be used as a hot water bottle by being wrapped in a towel or clothing and filled with hot water (it will become very hot, so take good care). A small ring of rubber (e.g. from a bike inner tube) slid over the bottle will help the bottle not slide out of your hands if it becomes wet from washing or condensation… or if you have sweaty hands…

Bandanas/Small Towels:  For wiping sweat from body and floor. Wet them to cool and clean. If I know it’ll be a hot show I wet a bandana and put it in a plastic bag off-stage, so I can quickly cool my head and arms.

The Trousers: Dancewear is very personal, I’ve known dancers with deep emotional bonds to their trousers. I’m a big fan of kung-fu trousers, the ones without ankle cuffs. They are reasonably cheap and are available from a staggering number of brands, each slightly different. Fuji Mae are the classic brand and the ones I started with, but having gone through many different pairs I’ve settled on these ones from Playwell. They are a little heavier than usual due to slightly thicker fabric, and are cut a little looser, meaning they move easily with you. The gusset allows a good range of motion for your legs, the weight and shape gives a good sense of grounding, cotton feels good and doesn’t lead to that sticky feeling that plastic trousers can (though I miss the slipping and sliding possible in plastic trousers!), the legs can be rolled up easily for cooling or to show off a calf.

Mine tend to last around 6 months of heavy use before ripping at the knee due to sliding and spinning. Then I turn them into shorts.

Cup: I carry this stainless steel insulted cup with me. It’s indestructible and keeps liquids hot reasonably well. During a get-out the last thing you’ll want to do is have to take all the mugs out of a dressing room back to the kitchen to wash them up, but to leave a dressing room messy is disrespectful to those who clean the building, and a sure-fire way to not be invited back.

If like me you enjoy the occasional sci-fi film, this mug is often used as prop on spaceships, so you can enjoy that space-age feeling while drinking from it! 

Sewing Kit: for last minute costume alterations and repair. Get some good quality cotton thread as it may need to come under quite a lot of strain when moving.

Elastic Hairbands: For you and your friends.

Tape Measure: One of those retractable ones. Uses include setting spikes (small pieces of tape used to mark positions onstage), checking the size of your luggage, or retrieving things that have rolled into narrow spaces.

Business Cards: I know we’re living in the digital age, but a nicely designed card is a great conversation starter and is invaluable for networking with those who don’t use social media, I’ve got a lot of work through these little white rectangles!

Bucket Hat: By now you’ve probably gathered my fashion sense is driven more by practicality than style, but a bucket hat is very useful! Firstly it can be used as a hat, if like me you burn easily the last thing you want to do on your morning off before a show is go out and get sunburnt -at the very least whoever is lighting your pink flesh is going to be very annoyed!

A pre-show nap is a lovely thing, and a bucket hat allows you to cover your eyes and face without having fabric directly up against your face, combined with headphones or ear plugs you can find a quiet corner and snooze, just don’t miss the tech run.

Touring is a nightmare for keeping all your stuff with you, many mornings have been spent trying to buy new a charger to replace one left in a different city the night before. A hat is great in a dressing room to keep all your little bits and pieces in one place.