Let’s hear it for good workmanship!

By the time the night before the studio anniversary show rolled around I felt like I’d been altering costumes forever, before even tackling my own.

It wasn’t forever but I had altered three costumes for my dance partner and had a student who’d bought her first ever costume. It was new to her but previously owned and..well..WORN.

My students had been worried about finding any costume because she’s chubby by local sizes and already had a lot of insecurity around showing her body. I wanted it to be as fixed up as possible so she could enjoy wearing it and focus on her dancing. For three lessons she’d bring her costume, and before and after the lesson, I’d see what work was to be done. Each time I did a fair amount of sewing to show how to do the work (explaining sewing and alterations purely verbally to someone who doesn’t sew is hard enough in one’s own language, I didn’t think it was worth it to try) and send her home with more pins in her costume.

On the eve of the show I had to make sure that I had a costume that would complement my dance partner’s choice for our duet. She still can’t locate her duet costume so she’d be wearing another bra/belt I made in 2006 that she now owns. Luckily I’d made that costume for myself, in colors I know work for my completion, and had other handmade choices in similar colorways.

Me, 2007, in a bra and belt I’d made.

My bra/belt from 2007 would work. It’s an example of me playing with layers of plastic lamp-fringe, ribbon, and Kuchi jewelry embellishments to make a light-weight, quick-to-sew, “Tribaret” (tribal-inspired cabaret) costume, the sort I used to wear more often.

It still fits but the bra edge has always been a bit shallow so I added to the cups on Saturday night. The edge looks floppy here but when filled with cleavage it does the job.

The show opened it’s doors at noon, a lunchtime block, so I had to be there in make-up by 10:30. Well, I didn’t officially have to be there in make-up…but when you know a place is going to be crowded with dancers getting ready, probably poorly lit, without enough mirrors it’s best to come made up.

Me, leaving the house at 9am


A student show isn’t a place to spend time doing my own face anyways. My job before a student show is to have supplies on hand to add MORE make-up to student faces: add highlights here, a pop of color there, help with false eyelashes until everyone feels lovely and confident.

Then, after we’ve checked blocking and made sure everyone knows the schedule, where to enter and exit the stage and such, I run around with safety pins double-checking the fit of everyone’s costumes.

It’s only after that when I can catch up with the other teachers, my dance partner, our guest musicians/dancers and such…and then worry about my own costumes.

Of course, my costumes are then under a groovy cover-up until stage time. Other people choose Middle-Eastern cover-ups. I raid Mrs. Roper’s closet.

The first set I watched my students perform my veil choreography and then got ready with my student of 8+ years, Yuko, and Jnana (a former student and now teacher) for my Turkish Roma choreography. My skirt, vest, and belt are all self-made.

Second set meant changing for my duet (and unfortunately missing other students who were performing a finger cymbal choreography I taught in a workshop last year) and performing with H.

Duet
me, Delyce (in dance drag) and H

The final set I could get back into quirky teacher garb and just enjoy.

Here I am heading back to my home with two bouquets of flowers from students and peers.

On the train home there were a groups of JR school girls on some sort of team low-key freaking out about me. I tried to ask why (in Japanese), they then asked me if I was Japanese and I replied that I’m American and they squealed more and I didn’t ask anything else.

The last time I encountered a similar reaction, and pushed for an answer, it turned out to be girls who thought I was a Tokyo Disneyland/Disney Sea face character actor getting off my shift. It’s not a crazy assumption to make on the train line that serves both parks…except that time I wasn’t one of Ariel’s sisters, I was just in very tropical dance face.

This time, if that’s what they thought, I can only wonder if they thought…

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