Dancers Beware of Airports!

Originally published in The Chronicles Magazine

For many of us that make a living traveling to and from the U.S. and also inter-continentally, I am lending you a few thoughts, hints and stories about airport travel.

In today's world, it has become a complex set of rules to board an airplane. We all know about arriving early, presenting a government-issued photo-ID. Below are some suggestions to dancers traveling to seminars, shows, festivals. Lucky for us that we are not big 6'4"basketball players! Coach seats would never be an option!

Clothing---
Do not dress "down" or too comfortably casual because if there are any flight changes, bumps, or delays you may end up being the victim of a "counter judgment call." What does this mean? It is more likely that a counter person will allow you to board into the first class section (if that is all that is available) if you are well dressed. You may be forced to wait until the next flight for a coach seat if you are too shabby.

Having traveled to Europe 3-4 times a year for about fifteen years, I also learned that the "Seminar Star" is often judged from the moment you are picked up at the airport. It isn't easy to look like Star Material after a 16 hour, jet lagged out trip!!! Yet, you can't come off the flight looking like Madame Yucka. I often will wear a long, black skirt instead of slacks; makes it much easier to wrap up my legs under it when I may have two seats on a plane to relax and it looks elegant. On the other side of this, if you are in older European airports, you often must climb stairs in an airport. Long skirts can be dangerous in this situation, especially if you have luggage to carry around. Bring an extra pair of socks for long flights. I put them on when I take my nap and if I get stranded over night somewhere, I always have fresh socks, and underwear, toothpaste and toothbrush with me-just in case. Try to wear cotton over synthetics. Cotton keeps you warm and also cool. On a more serious note, if you were to find yourself in a dire, emergency, i.e. air crash situation . . . synthetics melt into skin, cotton doesn't.

Shoes---
Comfortable! Comfortable! Comfortable! This is so self explanatory that I hate to even mention this . . . yet I often see women at airports mincing along in heels. Always assume that you may have to run in your shoes to catch a flight. Try to wear your easy slip on and off shoes in airports. You usually have to remove them at security checks. There is less delay if you don't have to mess with shoe strings, buckles, etc.

Carry-On Bags---
Of course, avoid the usual guns, knives, etc. Suspicious lumps of metal in your bags, i.e. finger cymbals can cause delays. The good old days of taking some sewing, beading or costume repairs on board are over. No needles, scissors or even a nail file. Metal in your underwire bra or in your hair clip can cause you to be pulled aside for a more thorough check.

A tiny bottle of water to spritz on your face or even in your nose when those long, long flights get so very dry is a wonderful tip. A bottle of drinking water is also de rigeur. Being well-hydrated will help you with your jet lag at the other end of the trip. Do take your medication in your carry-on bag! I have heard of very sick passengers as a result of not having their meds handy on a long flight. Repeat: Do not check your meds in your luggage!

I often will carry a shawl on board over a jacket. They are softer, easier to roll up into a pillow or to use as a small blanket when the air on a plane gets freezing cold.

And finally in today's world, don't even think of sneaking your performing snake on a plane like a colleague of mine did several years ago! She would wear him on under her winter coat. "Saves on airfare," she said.

Food---
Take it! For most domestic flights there is no food served. If you get delayed, it is very possible you could go a whole day without access to food! Most airlines only offer soft drinks and peanuts on domestic flights. I heard of a passenger that ordered pizza from his cell phone. The pizza company was true to their 30 minute or less policy and delivered it to the plane before take off! The whole cabin of passengers clapped. I am sure many of them would have paid a king's ransom to buy a slice or two.