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12: What’s in your Dancing Bag? 

I’ve often been asked this, because I seem to be carrying everything bar the kitchen sink when I go to a dance.

The reason is practicality.  I have probably gone to some time, effort, and cost to go to a dance, and so will my partner have.  It would be letting the side down if any minor inconvenience reduced the enjoyment – or (heaven forbid) prevented us dancing at all!  And one doesn’t expect the lady to come so fully prepared, so:

Two pairs of dancing shoes (the main pair, and an old pair in case the floor is really bad or the main pair become unserviceable for some reason);

Dance shoe scraper brush (for bringing up the knap on chamois soles to increase grip when necessary);

Talc (yes, even I carry some of that, although I am extremely reluctant to use it – see here);

Towel (I’m sorry, but I am one of those types who perspire a lot... and I don’t exactly take it easy when I’m dancing);

Two fans – battery operated tabletop fan + hand fan (see comments above!);

Water or other drinks (sometimes, according to what I know about availability of refreshments at the venue);

Concentrated fruit cordial (sometimes the venue water doesn’t taste great);

Can and bottle opener (always handy for times when you need to get a boy scout out of a horse’s hoof);

Spare shoe laces (which have also been known to substitute for sting);

Fine hole punch (in case my partner’s shoe strap is too tight or too loose with the existing holes... and for improptu ear piercings – not!);

Superglue (emergency repairs when a chamois sole starts parting company);

Safety pins (more emergency repairs, or securing competitors’ numbers!);

Black marker pen (various uses... including covering white marks I would rather didn’t show);


Emery board (don’t you just hate it if you get a catch in your finger nail?);



Disposable earplugs (if the music is too loud and the DJ won’t turn it down, it’s better to muffle the sound than risk damage to hearing – and it can get very noisy at competitions.  I already have tinnitus.);

Medications (ibuprophen, paracetamol, antacid, decongestant lozenges – things that my partner and I are most likely to need);

Compression bandage, Biofreeze (the latest addition, having been recently struck down by a muscle pull);

Notebook & pen.

...enough to cover all minor emergencies!  Competitors carry even more.

No matter what I carry in my bag, that won’t defend against the possibility I leave the whole thing behind, and that has happened!  Rather than waste a journey, write off the show, and let my partner down, I decided to manage with normal shoes (not recommended!).  Keeping an old pair of dance shoes permanently in the car could have been a fall-back (although that risks them deteriorating unless absolutely dry, and sometimes I’m not in my own car).

I was told a story how a London couple who were due to compete at Bindles (a ballroom near Barry, South Wales – sadly no longer there) found they had left their shoes at home and drove all the way back for them.  That may seem mad, but in those days people were very keen on their dancing, and they may have needed the result to maintain their position (and there was much less traffic).  I still wonder how they did it with enough time left to be worth the bother though, they must have turned up very early in the first place.

The moral is: if you are able to travel “heavy”, why risk your dancing by travelling light?