As a circus performer, I often find myself playing “Name That Stench”, with costumes, fabrics, luggage, etc. Today, it’s straight talk about the (less awesome) smells of circus. Oh yes – we are going there, so grab your Fe-Breeze, Woolite, and deoderant and follow me.
A couple of years ago, we had a gig in El Salvadore. The performance was outside in 99% humidity, and it was about 1000 degrees. After the show, I put my costume back in it’s bag, packed it into my suitcase, and completely forgot about it until we got to our next gig a week later. I pulled the costume from it’s bag in our dressing area and cleared the room. To say that everyone gave me a wide berth is the understatement of the year. Here’s hoping the following tips will help you avoid such an eye-watering moment!
- Aerial Fabrics – Honestly? Silks (and so many other things) are best when they’re dirty. Clean silks are slick as snot! Yes, fabrics are whiffy when the weather gets warm, but a little dirt, sweat, and tears make ’em a dream to work on. When you can’t stand it anymore, use a gentle detergent like Woolite, cold water wash, hang dry. Never bleach or put them in the dryer – degrades the fibers! Also, use Fe-Breeze sparingly since the jury is still out as to whether or not it shortens the life of your fabrics. Store them in a well-ventilated spot – you’ll regret it if you don’t.
- Costumes – fancy costumes and frequent washes don’t mix! Rhinestones, sequins, foil fabrics, etc. don’t weather the laundromat well; generally speaking, turn them inside out & hand wash them (cold water, Woolite). You can also spot clean pits and crotches, or areas with makeup stains, dirt, etc.
- Performance under-clothes – launder frequently! For shows, it’s best to have multiples of whatever you’re using. Hand wash and rotate. FDS can work wonders on thongs and tights that are being put to work in multiple shows.
- Working with a partner – If you’ve ever worked physically and heavily with another person in circus, you are well-aquainted with the fun places your head unexpectedly winds up. After you’ve laughed it off (and your partner has promised to buy you dinner), consider that you two will be getting veeeeeeery familiar with one another. Get really comfortable with the idea that not everything is going to be fresh as a daisy all the time. Beyond basic hygiene (see below), get over it. Also, some folks hate scented products; if you’re working with a partner, you’ll want to be mindful of that.
- Basic hygiene – Showering is good. Soap? Shampoo? Toothpaste? All good. There’s a big difference between “a little aromatic” and “knock-you-on-your-ass BO”. Feet smell like feet, pits smell like pits. Ladies, it’s a vagina, not a rose garden. See what I’m getting at? Don’t sweat it (tee hee!) if you realize that your crystal rock deoderant isn’t doin’ it today, and cut others some slack when it happens to them. (Note: if there’s a real issue here, address it sensitively with your partner – perhaps something like this).
At the end of the day, circus is hot, sweaty, dirty, awesome work. We sweat in lots of places, and on lots of apparatus – it ain’t always pretty. Beyond a basic level of hygiene, there has to be a level of acceptance that sometimes you or your partner (or both of you) will be pretty darned stinky – embrace it! Hell, Angela and I have made a contest out of it (for the record, she always wins). 😉 So jump onto your whiffy fabrics in your stinky costume with your aromatic partner and make some eye-watering magic! See (smell?) you in the air! Love and pull-ups, Laura
Do YOU have any tips, tricks, pet peeves, or stories on this one? Leave them in the comments below!
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