New York City Gig Bag

Najla waiting for the subwayIn honor of International Belly Dance Day, here’s a post that will help you get a feel for how the sparkly half lives. Like most New Yorkers, I rely on the subway, buses and my own two feet to get around. Without the luxury of a car (and the spacious trunk and backseat it provides) or the budget for cabs all the time, I’ve learned to be an expert gig packer. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for packing light and keeping your belly dance identity under cover while you pound the pavement.

  • Wheelie suitcase: The cases that fit airline carry-on requirements are the best because they usually fit under the subway turnstile. It’s worth investing in a pricier model, since they often have superlight construction, interior organization pockets, locks and are easily maneuverable.
  • Covert props: Clearly, it’s NOT a good idea to walk onto public transit with a brandished sword. Get a prop bag (or make one from a pants leg, yoga mat bag, etc) that doesn’t show the shape of your bag’s contents to avoid having to explain yourself to the NYPD. On the other hand, holding a sequined cane on the 6 train can be a great conversation starter.
  • Compartmentalize: Since you don’t have space to spread out all your costume pieces, make sure you know where everything is. I love the plastic bags that sheet sets come in. You can usually fit a bra, belt, headband and armbands in them, and the little pocket where the cardboard label goes is a great place to store your matching jewelry. Make sure to air out your costume afterwards! Sweaty costumes + plastics are not a good long-term match.
  • Make an “Instant Belly Dancer” bag: All the essentials you need are here, from business cards to costume repair supplies. Check out this blog entry for more IBD ideas.
  • Hiking Backpack: Yeah, it’s lame, unglamorous and looks a little silly to carry when you’re in full makeup and hair, but this can be a lifesaver. A good hiking backpack is ergonomically designed, which means you’ll get to your gig without being in major pain. As an added bonus, many are set up like suitcases inside, which will help you keep organized. Extra points for locks, or zipper lock options! Alternately, find a hard-sided shoulder bag to stash your gig supplies in.

Do you have any tips for packing light? Leave’em in the comments section.

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