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Dance Tour Souvenirs

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A number of years ago, one of my ballet teachers, who danced with Rambert's company decades ago, went with her granddaughter into the pet shop a couple of doors down from our school to buy a dog collar. I asked them what they were up to, and "Mary," my teacher, explained that she was starting her granddaughter on her old tradition of collecting and displaying key chains. Key chains, she told me, were small and affordable souvenirs she had collected over the years of her touring and travels, and she had kept a large stuffed dog on her bed with a dog collar around its neck and the chains suspended from the dog collar. I thought it was a charming idea, and realized that I also had one stuffed dog at home given to me by one of my brothers and plenty of key chains from my travels and I did the same thing with them. Mary told me that she had been robbed recently, and the crook(s) took her beloved stuffed dog and all the chains. She therefore decided to have her granddaughter carry on the tradition with a new stuffed dog and collar.

What kinds of things have our touring dancers collected? Any themes? I've been a photographer for many years, and so I particularly love not only to shoot a lot of pictures but find inventive ways to frame things.

For instance, while performing on the same bill with a company of Soviet Georgian dancers, they gave our dancers a tiny Georgian female dancer doll in a plastic case. It didn't look like more than a trinket in that package, but I took it to a framer who I love to collaborate with, and he mounted the doll on a sort of pedestal and framed it in a very ornate frame, and it's quite beautiful now.

On another tour, while we were in Prague, we picked up a few flyers of the resident ballet company there, and the art work on these was so incredible that I had to do something special with them. They'd been sitting in a drawer for years, and I finally took them to the same framer to have them mounted in the same frame together.

There's really nothing you can't find a way to frame, and the slightest souvenir can become quite special looking, even if it's just a collage of menus, train passes, etc.

I've also given small presents to others when going overseas, and it's fun to come up with things that are indicative of our culture. I've given items made from vintage quilts, like a baseball or ornament or collar. Some of my company members have given away lots of bottles of Tabasco sauce, since we're from the land of gumbo and jambalaya. When I was in Paris, I so wanted to get along with everyone, that whenever I was in a shop or a coffee house, I would put an especially colorful strand of Mardi Gras beads around the neck of the proprietor. They were very receptive to this.

Perhaps the most memorable gifts I saw a company member distribute came from a male dancer in our troupe. His brother had been a very beloved priest in his area, who had a diverse congregation that included many elderly as well as motorcycle gangs. He went for a walk one evening outside the rectory and was shot dead for a dollar. He had been given many, many stuffed animals over the years by his parishioners, which his brother, the dancer, took to France. As we paraded through the streets that summer, he distributed them to many children. It was like seeing his brother's spirit continuing to spread.

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I'll buy darn near anything but I do collect Christmas tree ornaments, and I have 3 Christmas trees to prove it. It's amazing what you can make into a Christmas tree ornament. I use clear fishing wire for the hanger and you can attach it to so many things. For example if a key chain has a lovely decorative emblem you can detach it and make an ornament. I'll buy ballet related objects, but if it's a figurine s/he has to be technically correct; no sickle feet or bad turn out, etc. I also buy books. Thank heavens for suitcases with wheels because hubby used to have to lug those book-laden suitcases for me.


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I did charms for awhile myself, and modernized the look by taking them off the bracelet and having them attached to a long necklace. I never really wear it -- it's more on display.

I've also done the matchbooks, which I keep displayed in a gigantic snifter. However, I've collected so many, I've on occasion put some in a smaller snifter and given them as a present to someone else.

I also like the idea of turning almost anything into an ornament. We have one house in our neighborhood that has had a long tradtion of keeping a holiday tree up all year in the bay window, and changing the display, depending upon the season, whether it be Easter of Mardi Gras, etc.

I did this on a smaller scale one year for Valentine's day, since all kinds of hearts seem to come into my life. I'm also picky about my ballet ornaments. It's always kind of embarrassing when someone who knows you dance points to something (a sculpture, etc.) and says "Oh, you'd love that!" just because it has to do with dance, when it might be perfectly grotesque.

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