Most dance teacher's, choreographers and studio owners I know have experienced that time when you think of the perfect prop to add to your dance and really finish the whole look - and then you can't find something that would work. Your well meaning theatre friends give you a great list of options that they've used and sometimes they will work for dancers, but a lot of times our needs are unique. Items need to be secure, safe, visible and the weight is very often an important factor.
One of the really challenging props is a drink in a glass.
Put prop drinks into a search engine and you'll find pages on pages of what non alcoholic drinks can replace which alcoholic drinks, or what drinks won't go bad under stage lights, how to duplicate carbonation, foam froth etc. While an interesting read, none of these were very helpful to me as I needed the drinks to be carried on stage and they couldn't spill, well because spilled sweet tea on stage could just be a nightmare for the dancers.
Challenge 1 - The drinks can't spill and sippy cups just don't match the vibe of the piece. Changing the search criteria to avoid actual liquids didn't really help. A common suggestion was painting the inside of the glass to look like it had something in it. If the piece was only going to be staged on stages and with the audience at a decent distance, or the drink in the glass is opaque (like milk) this option might not be a bad one. Neither of these 2 situations applied in my case.
Another option was just to use opaque glasses so you can't tell what, if anything, is in them. This one could work, but then I'd have to hope the dancers and audience could picture the tea in the glass. This option went on the "if nothing else is possible list".
Clear epoxy resin products that are used in modeling were also suggested. You've probably seen this in artificial flower arrangements where it looks like there is water in the vase, but there wasn't. This seemed like a great option, espec
ially during a break in winter weather where I could actually work on this outside since the chemicals smell and ventilation is crucial for using them safely. When I went to actually look into it further, the weight of the finished product would be a problem as one of the girls would be carrying a tray with 4 tall glasses. The product can also be pricey.
n my hours of internet research, I followed a link to someone's ETSY page where there were great fake drinks and upon looking at the description, they turned out to be gel candles. I realized I could have a winner with this option.
Challenge 2 - The glasses couldn't be glass. Maybe I'm strange, but I really don't want glassware made of glass on stage. It just seems to be an unnecessary risk. So off I go looking for plastic glasses. Ideally I was thinking they should be top rack dishwasher safe since I was going to have to pour melted wax into them and didn't want the glass to melt or crack. Please note, that while I am using the gel wax to create this prop, I am not putting a wick in the glass so there is no way they can be lit. Searching online, nice plastic glasses were crazy prices for a prop, so off to the dollar stores I went. Finding 4 that matched, were clear, and were an appropriate size turned out to be really challenging. After trying a bunch of stores I finally found 4 that worked and matched. Telling this story to a friend the next day, they suggested visiting a restaurant or catering supply company - so hopefully you have one around you to make the shopping easier.
Challenge 3 - I wanted ice cubes. These are acrylic ice cubes. A two pound bag was enough for 4 glasses full of ice, with maybe a dozen cubes leftover. Here's the Link to find them. There are several other versions available, this listing just happened to be the best combination of quantity, size and price. I don't know that I would be happy with these if they weren't for the application I used them for - so if you're end goal is close up photography of an ice cube, you will want something else.
Now that those challenges are covered, here's what I used and how I made the prop drink pictured near the top.
Glasses - 2 for $1 at one of the dollar stores
ice cubes linked to above
Art Minds Gel Wax - purchased from Michaels in the 7 lb tub (yes I have lots left, but the only other option was less than 1 lb and I knew I needed more than that. The price was $49.00 but I was able to use a 40% off coupon.
Art Minds Liquid Dye in Caramel - 0.5 oz - about $4.00 and I still have about 1/2 a bottle left
Plastic Lemon Slices - about $3.50 for a bag of 5 slices, the ones I got were ok, but I would probably look around for others.
Iced Tea Spoons - I happened to have these lying around, but have found them quite easily for reasonable prices.
The wax that I mentioned above could be melted in a saucepan on the stove. Keep the temperature on the low side and allow time for the wax
to melt. While it is melting, do not leave it unattended and prep your glasses.
Artificial ice cubes will not float, so you need to stack them the way you want them. I put the spoon in first at an angle and then basically stacked the ice cube at angles to make it look like the cubes were floating once the "tea" is in the glass.
Once the wax is melted, add the liquid dye in stages to get the color you want. I did take the wax off the heat before addingthe color. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the was - an infrared thermometer keeps things nice and neat. I waited until the wax cooled to below 220 degrees F before pouring it into the glasses. I did notice that as the wax temperature got closer to 200 deg F, it was getting lumpy again so just keep that in mind.
Slice a groove in the lemon slices and add one to the rim.
Wait for the glasses of tea to cool before moving them too much.
If you are going to have people with trays of drinks, mark the placement on the tray and then use a good glue (I found E6000 glue to work well) to secure the glasses in place. Instead of a plastic tray
I found a 12 inch pizza sheet in the dollar store and used that. It was a heavier weight then the plastic trays and I thought it would hold the weight of the glasses better. If you are using a tray and want it carried on one hand, I would glue a piece of elastic on the bottom of the tray that the dancer can slip their hand through to keep the tray from sliding. (If using a plastic tray you can slice the tray and attach the elastic that way.