From hot rollers to hair­spray, the fre­netic scene in the dress­ing room be­fore a dance recital in the 1980s was one girl’s first taste of beauty.

Fashion (Canada) - - Beauty Nostalgia - —Sarah Daniel

As a fouryear-old, I tap danced on toy boxes and pic­nic ta­bles—any sturdy sur­face that would hold me—while my par­ents’ record player spun Barry Manilow. I was al­ways put­ting on per­for­mances for any­one who would watch—usu­ally cap­tive au­di­ences like my then­new­born sis­ter and our neigh­bour’s dog Kiwi. So it wasn’t sur­pris­ing to any­one that when my mom signed me up for dance classes, I was all in.

Ev­ery June, as other chil­dren were count­ing down the days un­til sum­mer va­ca­tion, I counted down the days un­til our an­nual dance recital. In the be­gin­ning, this was be­cause I couldn’t wait to be on­stage—a show­girl, just like Lola in the song “Copaca­bana.” Later, it be­came about the beauty rit­u­als around it and be­cause for that one day, I could be part of that world of cool girls who were old enough to wear makeup and have solo or duet rou­tines: the girls who smelled like Love’s Baby Soft and wa­ter­melon lip balm, wore bike shorts and Body Glove zip-front bikini tops to jazz class and whose freshly permed hair was of­ten in a scrunchie or banana-clipped back from their faces as they piv­oted and pas de bour­réed to Bana­narama.

The dress­ing room back­stage at Min­kler Au­di­to­rium in North York, Ont., in 1988 was a crash course in beauty, and I took in the sights, scents and sounds around me with the zeal of an an­thro­pol­o­gist. The hair­styl­ists and makeup artists weren’t

Odile Gil­bert and Pat McGrath, but they seemed just as skilled. Moms, aunts and grand­moth­ers, as adept at French braid­ing and ap­ply­ing false lashes as they were at lac­ing up skates and sewing Hal­loween cos­tumes, had to work fast, es­pe­cially if their dancer had mul­ti­ple cos­tume changes. Rolling racks filled with plas­tic-wrapped cos­tumes in se­quins, flu­o­res­cent fab­rics, polka dots and tulle were ev­ery­where, so space was tight. Ev­ery table­top was cov­ered with dusty eye­shadow pal­ettes, waxy lip­stick bul­lets, glit­ter, bobby pins, cans of mousse and jars of hair gel, and ev­ery elec­tri­cal out­let was oc­cu­pied by curl­ing irons, crimpers and Con­air Hot Sticks, the lat­ter giv­ing off a slightly-burnt-plas­tic scent mixed with notes of L’Oréal Stu­dio Line hair­spray as they warmed up. I watched the older girls trans­form in front of mir­rored van­i­ties framed with light bulbs, and I mar­velled at all of it—the prod­ucts they used and how they used them, es­pe­cially the pro­fes­sional-dancer tricks, like put­ting a thin layer of Vase­line on your front teeth to keep your lips from stick­ing when you’re smil­ing at the crowd or us­ing hair­spray on the soles of your jazz shoes to pro­vide trac­tion on a slip­pery stage.

For my first recital, my trans­for­ma­tion was less dra­matic: My mom dabbed her plum Clin­ique lip­stick on my lips and cheeks and curled my hair, which al­most al­ways fell flat be­fore I even set foot on­stage—but I didn’t mind. Be­cause I knew my time would come, and when it did, I planned on us­ing ev­ery­thing I learned back­stage.

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