What should you carry in your dance bag? – Dance Matters

Written by | B-Roll

Mhari Wilson helps you stock your dance bag and shares some dance history trivia!

Q: Why do the dancers say ‘Merde” before a performance? It’s a swear word in French! –  Marie P., Boston, Ma.

A: As it’s considered bad luck to say “good luck” before a theatrical performance, actors say “break a leg” and dancers say “Merde”, which yes, means “sh*t” in French. I remember my mother, prima ballerina Brunilda Ruiz, would receive Western Union telegrams saying “Merde! Merde! Merde Darling!” and “Lots of Merde to you tonight, Brunie!” It is widely believed that this superstition started in 19th Century Paris, when numerous horse-drawn carriages meant a full house. The larger the pile in front of, or perhaps stronger the stench in, the theatre, the more successful the show! Another version is, in the early days of ballet with live animals in performances, whenever one of the animals would drop a load on stage, someone would yell “Merde!” (as if to say “Watch your step!”) to let the dancers know to watch out so as not to slip. Personally, I like the former explanation!

Q: What should I carry in my dance bag? – Luisa G., Fargo, ND

A: The dance bag should contain items for every need and for most emergencies. Nowadays there are many dance bags designed with small compartments which I am a big fan of! I would suggest that you keep the smaller items in a small zippered/Ziploc bag and get used to leaving these things in your dance bag. Almost everything listed is useful for both men and women. PLUS: keep your ears open for other suggestions you hear about in the studio, such as the following:

  • Extra ballet/pointe shoes, extra tights and leotards, a sweater/sweatshirt, leg and ankle warmers, (the downy booties are nice, aren’t they?), and for men: an extra dance belt.
  • Sewing needles, thread (regular and heavy), small scissors, safety pins, extra elastic and pointe shoe ribbons, and clear nail polish (for runs in tights).
  • Band-aids, first aid tape (I prefer first aid paper tape or even masking tape for wrapping toes to prevent blisters), anti-inflammatories and vitamins (parent approved), and feminine hygiene products.
  • Hair products, bobby pins, hairbrush, hairnet (for performances), deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrush.
  • Extras: water bottle, snacks, power bank charger, $10 bill (at least $5 because you never know when you might need extra money), and extra house/car keys.

Note: Make sure you alternate the sides which you carry your bag, as it can get heavy and you can feel lopsided!

Q: My twins want to be dancers when they grow up. They’re nine years old and love dance class. How do I know if they have the drive to equal the talent? - Stephanie B., Kansas City

A: Wow, twins! Talent, in this dancers’ minds, is necessary for success in any field. Having a knack for the sport of dance is great, but the desire to dance isn’t enough; one must shape it, focus on it, and learn everything about oneself that s/he can as well as about his/her chosen art. Ensure that they are receiving a good foundation, the best available, in whatever style of dance they have chosen. The drive to be a dancer will be apparent when it continues!

- Mhari Wilson

Photo by TJ Seren

Mhari Wilson is a member of a famous dancing family. The daughter of original Joffrey Ballet founding members Brunilda Ruiz and John W. Wilson and step-daughter to Paul Sutherland, she had the good fortune to grow up, tour and study with both the Robert Joffrey and Rebekah Harkness Ballet Companies.

A professional dancer at 13, she also worked in eastern regional companies, as well as working as Gerald Arpino’s  demonstration model for the City Center Joffrey Ballet in New York City and for Paul Sutherland at Ramapo College in New Jersey. A 2x nominee for the Idaho Governors Arts Award, a Boise Channel 7’s Hero, founding member of the Aspen Dance Connection and Boise’s Alley Repertory Theater; Ms. Wilson has been a teaching artist in Dance for over 40 years. She currently teaches at Eagle Performing Arts Center and for Very Special Arts/Idaho, specializing in classical ballet and developmental dance respectively. She is the author of the ‘Ballet-On-the-Go’ ballet glossary and reference guide as well as a dance-themed children’s book to be published in 2018.


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Last modified: August 12, 2017

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