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blog dance espresso

4 important things to consider when receiving feedback

As we talked about showing our art to the world, the next inevitable step in the chain is receiving feedback. Sometimes because we ask for it, sometimes because people want to share their thoughts. Getting other people’s thoughts about our work is probably the best way to learn about things and improve what we do. Here are 4 crucial things to understand when listening to feedback, in Dance Espresso episode 4.

Don’t confuse the messenger for the message

We should be able to separate our personal feelings for the persons who feedback from what they are saying. Being likable does not make one’s opinion more valuable or right. More often than not, the most valuable input comes from people who don’t sugarcoat what they have to say. Try to give every opinion the same amount of thought from your side, no matter whose it is. And please, don’t get upset without listening.

Don’t take fighting advice from people who never stood in the arena

Try to get feedback from people who have experience in what you are doing. When we talk about dance, get your input from dancers, choreographers, producers, directors, or dance curators, producers. Everybody is quick to judge art. When applying this feedback, you should be aware of the audience you are creating for. If you want to reach the masses, listening to a lot of amateur feedback will help, but if you want to grow in your work, it might be a better idea to reach out to fellow artists.

Immediate reactions vs. well-considered feedback

The third point also depends on what feedback you are looking for. Today it is prevalent to present something and ask for feedback immediately. This practice gives you the first impression of the people, which can be what you are looking for. If you are doing a piece of work that is intricate and needs time to unfold in the viewer’s mind, giving them time is the better thing to do as the material needs to germinate to have its full impact. The more simple the matter, the less important it is to give people time to think about it.

A business sidenote: when you present a complex issue or solution with many implications, don’t pressure your colleagues into quick feedback without having the time to think it through.

Sort out some feedback

In the end, we are talking about your work. It is about your style, your view of the world, and your way of doing things. When a response makes no sense for you, goes against what you are trying to achieve, or simply is stupid. Please ignore it.

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blog dance espresso

Why perfect is not the point in art

Dance Espresso episode 3 is out: this time it is about not showing your work, because it is not yet perfect. But being perfect is not the point.

  • Art is subjective: it will never be perfect for everyone. On the other hand, it will probably always be perfect for someone.
  • Not showing your work slows down your creative process
  • It also breaks the cycle of getting work done: create, publish, receive feedback, repeat.
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blog sharing is caring

How to support art and culture in the Corona lockdown?

Many countries are sliding into Corona lockdown nr 2, which hurts a lot of businesses but especially people working in culture and arts. Some get funding and support from governments, but the majority is on their own and needs help. These are seven ways you can use to support and help that our artists don’t suffer, without relying on governments and stimulus bills.

1. Buy something directly from the artists

Musicians, filmmakers, painters and a lot of other artists sell their work. In today’s internet age, buying from them is often only a mouse click away – and not affected by Covid-19 regulations at all.

2. Take online classes

Especially in our dance world, teaching is one of the most reliable forms of income, which is off the table for many in a lockdown. Tech-savvy dancers take their classes to the internet. Join online dance-classes to get your regular dose of dancing and support your favourite teachers, while doing so.

3. Spread the word

This point does not involve any financial commitment. Still, it goes a long way by exposing artists to a bigger audience. Simply share the work of your artist friends on social media. Does someone offer a dance class? Give them a shoutout and let people know why the course is great.

Someone released new music? Share their Spotify or Bandcamp. Sharing art is golden, no matter if we deal with Corona or not.

4. Engage in social media

Another point that goes without spending any money: drop some likes and comments on social media. All these platforms are data-driven, and the algorithms that decide about the importance of the posts use comments, likes and other interactions to measure. Follow the artists on all platforms you use, this rates them higher as well.

5. Become a patron

Some artists have set up ways to send them money via Patreon, Ko-Fi or similar services. If you have some change, there is your chance.

6. Be a voice

When there are public events, petitions or similar ways that can be used to get in touch with government institutions to raise awareness for the topic. Be there.

7. Validate their work

Let people know, what you think about the artist’s work. There are a lot of rating systems and platforms out there, that play a central role in the perception of art, especially when people want to find out about artists they did not know before. Some are built-in into your favourite social media platforms but most of them are not.

When the artists have stuff available on Amazon or other online shopping platforms, rate their products. You don’t have to give it 5 stars if you don’t think the work deserves it, but 4 and even 3 stars are better for discovery than no review. Same goes for artist pages on Facebook, ratings on Google Maps, Tripadvisor (if we talk about venues or stores) and every other rating system you can think of. The more reviews, the better. In the Corona lockdown, people are more likely to shop online, so help them to make it easy, to buy from artists.

While none of us alone will save artists or people who work in culture from bankruptcy, the combined help might secure people’s ability to do the work that matters to them, instead of going back to a job that pays better but does nothing to relieve people from stress, inspire thought or entertain. Imagine a lockdown without music, movies, books or clips from fellow dancers on youtube. Doesn’t sound so funny to me.

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blog business

Dance Job Aquisition for Introverts

For many aspiring dancers, the most significant topic that seems to hinder career progress is the acquisition of jobs. Without an appropriate network, it becomes even harder to create momentum and establish yourself, more so if you even lack a crew. Let’s add being an introvert, which isn’t as outgoing and has a hard time connecting.

A lot of companies are not casting at all. The reason for that, in my opinion, is that a lot of choreographers and directors know who they want for a specific role, while creating the piece – long before the rehearsals start. Organising a casting and checking other dancers, is a waste of time and money, if you already have your preferences. It’s not happening to exclude anyone, but makes much more sense from a production point of view as you can invest your time and money better.

To make things even worse: not all countries have a big developed scene. Depending on your location, there might be only one or two companies that are doing the kind of pieces you want to dance in. If there are only two companies and none of them is casting, you are out of luck – or so it seems.

So, what to do to get more jobs?

1. Get out of your comfort zone and invest in your network

I know, this is is not the answer that satisfies the real introvert dancer, but it is the best advice, to get ahead when you consider only the business side of things. 

There is a saying that goes “your network is your net worth.” In most cases, this is true. The more people you know that are creating pieces, manage dance companies, or book shows, the better your chances to be considered for either the work itself or at least being invited to castings.

This means you can’t spend the whole night in the cypher. There are times to dance, and there are times to talk.

Of course, there are other things you can do, to get more dance jobs, but be warned that this advice #1 is the one that gives you the best results.

2. Do your own research

No matter what kind of production you want to dance in, you need to know when there is an opportunity to join. Those opportunities are not always obvious or easy to find. 

Google and social media are your best friends. Research all the companies and crews that do the work you want to do, within the area that you are eager to travel. Bookmark their websites, follow their social media accounts and get on their email list if they have one. Some companies have a list for notifications on upcoming castings only.

Find and join groups on facebook, telegram, reddit or whichever social media platform you prefer. If you really want it, get on all of them.

There are print magazines out there that have calendars with upcoming shows and auditions. Additional potential sources of opportunities are dance universities, private education facilities or the culture departments of administration. Depending on your countries policies, some companies might be required to publish their auditions there.

3. Consider other genres

Many dancers only want to be part of productions within their scene. Means a hip hop dancer only wants to be in shows from hip hop dancers. There are many opportunities outside your scene. As a hip hop dancer consider auditions for contemporary pieces. Choreographers from there often appreciate the additional movement vocabulary and open to cooperations. Contemporary dance is much more established and therefore usually has more active companies.

4. Nourish your existing relationship with companies

If you booked and with a company or choreographer and enjoyed the work, stay in touch. Find out when something new comes up and let them know you are interested. Show up at shows and interact on social media from time to time. You might be invited to audition again or go directly to the show, if you fit the role. 

5. Get to know the others

When you are in a production, take the time to get to know your fellow dancers. More often than not, people dance in one production but run their own projects as well. 

6. Be versatile

The broader your repetoire, the easier it is for others to fit them into their production. If you can only do one dance style, your are limited to roles that require precisely this one dancestyle. If you have a solid foundation in many styles or are a real jack-of-all-trades, you can fulfil multiple roles.

7. Be more than a dancer

When you can do more than dance, your value to smaller companies, who don’t have everything covered, increases a lot. In small productions it often happens that the choreographer dances in the piece. Can you provide music, do dramaturgy, create costumes, stage design, shoot videos or photos? Whatever you can offer might be your ticket in.

8. Run the show yourself

This one is counter-intuitive at first but has proven correct many times. When there are no jobs, start creating them yourself. Make a piece, create jobs and people start showing up. If you are valuable to others on the same path, they will consider you for their projects as well.

I wrote about this topic earlier: Work together in flexible structures as a strategy in niche-markets.

9. Let your skills be known

Make it easy for people to see that you can do the job. Have videos online, that show what you are good at. If you are a fantastic storyteller, create some narrative dance clips. Good at choreography? Choreograph the shit out of that super complex or emotional track.

10. Bring your fans

First, I suck at this one – because my following on social media is super small, but it is still a thing. If you have a lot of fans or even just followers on social media, that make a significant difference for the group you want to work with, play that card.

When you are based in the town where the production of company X premieres and your local fans are enough to sell out the theatre, only the most established companies will be able to resist. That’s leverage.

Not every point will work for everyone. I consider #1 the best advice in general, as being able to do what needs to be done to create your network is a skill that will benefit you in your business forever.

#2 is also an essential skill in today’s information society and will give you many more opportunities. It is just essential to dig deep in your research.

#5, #6, #7 and #8 are the points that I used myself. I was never the best dancer in any production, but I always had way more to offer than my dance skills and I produced my own pieces as well. That helped we grow my network and build a reputation as someone who makes stuff happen.

You don’t have to work all the suggestions above. Check out which feel right for you and focus on those. If you can apply #1 and #2, go for it and add some of the others for extra spice.

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blog

The Fragrance of Memories is out

For the past few months I supported my wife for the release of her debut album “The Fragrance of Memories.” Finally, it is available to stream and purchase.

If you want to support follow Szintra on Spotify or grab a copy on Bandcamp.

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blog

Temporary Layout Change

Due to a bug in my regular blog theme, I am temporarily switching to this one. I hope the bug will be fixed soon. Until then, we will have this sleek, plain look.

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blog business

When and how to avoid or utilize tunnel-vision

The filter bubble is a term that describes the phenomenon of search engines, social media platforms, and online advertising systems showing you only the content that you are supposedly interested in while withholding the rest.

While the internet coined that term, the phenomenon itself is not new. The same happens to a lesser degree when you are primarily moving in only one social circle or one cultural scene. The topics that people talk about, as well as trends and political opinions, are (most of the time) consistent as long as you move within the same crowd.

This bubble leads to unintended tunnel-vision as information that is not part of our bubble goes unnoticed. Depending on your current situation, this can be good or bad.

Utilize a single bubble if you want to learn a craft that is specific to it.

If you want to learn a new skill or craft from one specific culture or subculture, immersing yourself into it is the best thing to do. Unwavering focus without any distractions will let you progress faster on your quest to learn a specific skill. That is the case if you want to learn hip hop dance or breaking. Dive into the scene, find friends, teachers, or mentors there, and become the greatest dancer you can be.

Avoid tunnel-vision by participating in multiple bubbles if you want to create or come up with a plan.

If you want to create something or come up with original or creative ideas, it is better to avoid bubbleism (I know that is not a word). You want to be on the edges of multiple bubbles. You have more influences and also access to more information. This is the case if you’re going to turn your dance passion into a sustainable dance business, beyond hip hop dance moves. You will be better off having access to the body of thought from the hip hop scene, entrepreneurs and community builders.

Know where you are on your journey and which bubbles you need to reach your destination.

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blog

The two most important skills are learning new skills and unlearning old ones

We live in a time of change, and the ability to adapt will make the difference between growth or suffering. This goes for your dance business and your personal development. To adapt, we need to be able to learn new skills when the need for them arises. Learning new skills is a skill in itself, and a lot of people call it a meta-skill.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Alvin Toffler

Learning something new or unlearn things that don’t benefit or even hinder us will be more important than adding more steps to your hip hop move list or more tracks to your playlist.

Learning something new is also a skill that we need to practice. So make it a habit to learn something or do something for the first time often. This way, your learning muscles stay healthy, and you can move fast when you need them.

Unlearning shit that does not help

There are also a lot of things that we apply or think to know that are, in reality, detrimental to our progress. Examples would be racism (or any other form of discrimination) or the simple belief that you are not good enough for whatever it is you want to do.

Asking the right questions, identifying those things that hinder us, and unlearn them or replace them with a mindset that serves us better is a hard task that requires, once more, brutal honesty with ourselves. But putting in the effort pays off and being honest with yourself, makes life much easier.

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blog sharing is caring

What can we do to fight racism and support #blacklivesmatter?

Racism is a global issue. A part of the world, especially the younger generation that grows up with black culture, understands that. But despite all the outrage and screams for justice, most folks fail to answer the question, “how can I help?”

The reality is, there are many ways we can help that depend on your situation, where you live, what you do, and in which community you are spending your time. For example, donating, signing petitions, send emails to authorities, supporting protests, find an NGO to work with, share news to your circles that would otherwise go unheard, and much more. When you flex your google skills a little (or start your research at the blacklivesmatter website), you will come up with more than enough things that you can do that are tailored specifically to you.

I will not talk about these specific things. Instead, I want to suggest one thing that every white human must do to purge racism. I did not come up with this myself, and I did not think I will write about the topic in the first place. I tried to process an overwhelming flood of information from people much more knowledgeable and most likely smarter than me, to find the right way to help that works for me. Below I will share how I think that we (the white people) can really combat racism.

Our responsibility against racism?

We must embrace the mindset that “racism ends with me.” Racism and oppression of the black people burnt itself into humanity over generations because some assholes thought it’s OK to enslave humans because their skin is different. Of course, that was wrong from the beginning. Sadly, we can’t change the past, and we are not responsible for what our ancestors did. But every single one of us is responsible for what happens now and in the future. Doing that work is not an option, it is our responsibility.

The beauty of “racism ends with me” is that the theory is simple to understand. We need to do everything we can in our daily lives to stop racism when we experience it. If we all do this, racism would be gone in one generation. That is, most likely, not going to happen. But the more people join the cause, the faster it will.

How will it end with us?

  1. Educate yourself about the problem. It is not someone else’s responsibility to teach you. White people created this issue, and black people suffer. That’s neither fair, nor can they fix it alone. We have to.
  2. Speak up when you encounter racism in your daily life. Just speak up instead of looking away. At work, in your family, with your friends, in public transports, wherever. And don’t vote for the wrong people when it’s election day.
  3. Examine yourself to find every influence of racism in your beliefs, your mindset, and everything you think you know. Then get rid of it, dissolve it, destroy it. We have been taught over generations that racism is right, but it’s not. If you can’t fix it yourself, get help. Most of us will need it. It’s similar to overcoming trauma.
  4. Don’t pass it on to your children. Your kids can never see you commit an act of racism. They need to see you stand up against it. Children learn by watching you. If you do right, so will they. Get rid of your racist behavior, and they will not learn it. If you fail, you put the responsibility on them.

Sounds simple enough for me, but it will be incredibly hard to pull off. It will hurt to see where our own minds are corrupted by the plague that is racism. It will be uncomfortable to raise our voice against idiots who still think it is OK to treat our black brothers and sisters like second class. And it will be exhausting to do it all the time. But that does not matter because it is the right thing to do, and all our discomfort is nothing compared to the suffering of generations of black people.

“White feelings should never be held in higher regard than black lives.”

Rachel Elizabeth Cargle

I want my daughter to tell her children that grandpa was “one of the guys who made a difference against racism” instead of “yes, they knew but chose to remain silent.”

What about you?

#blacklivesmatter

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blog business production

Of Clockmakers and Clockworks

To finish any given project and make meaningful progress, we apply two different modes of operation. I like metaphors and call them clockmaker mode and clockwork mode. It would also be perfectly fine to label them smart mode and dumb mode or planning mode and execution mode.

The point is that both modes alone are worthless for real progress. Only a combination of both gets essential stuff done.

Clockmaker Mode

The clockmaker mode is about defining goals, asking the right questions, reflecting about your course of action, evaluating outcomes, and, most important, laying out the plan for clockwork mode.

Clockmaker mode is about navigation. It’s about finding out the place where you want to go with whatever you do. Its purpose is to set a course for your destination. 

Clockmaker mode needs time, honesty, and free thought.

Clockwork Mode

Clockwork mode means to take all the necessary steps to get you where you want to be. It is about ticking all the boxes on your to-do list and making all the tiny steps that will lead you to your goal.

In clockwork mode, it’s not about navigation as you already know your course. It is about traveling the distance. 

Clockwork mode needs discipline and the will to push through uncomfortable times because you know where it leads you.

It’s always better to be part of a clockwork that you created or at least helped to create, so you know where you are heading.

The Right Balance

Smart mode and dumb mode need each other. The one provides the plan, and the other provides the action to make it happen.

Each one of them alone makes your whole endeavor and life miserable. People who are in smart mode all the time only talk without ever doing something. The others who are in a permanent dumb mode, work all the time without the feeling of accomplishment and are very likely to burn out.

It would be best if you had a healthy balance of planning and execution to go where you want to go. Define a goal, make a plan, work towards it, check if you are heading in the right direction, and adjust course if necessary.

Examples

If you create a dance piece, clockmaker mode is answering the questions of what the piece is about and why you want to do it. Clockwork mode is creating the choreography, choosing the music, fix all the dates and so on.

In event management, smart mode is defining if you throw a jam or battle, who to invite, what program to plan, what you can offer to sponsors and so on. Dumb mode is contacting all the sponsors, asking the guys if they want to come, booking flights, doing all the things at the event itself. In short: making it happen.

None of the two modes has any worth without the other. Find your balance and start your journey.