Categories
business

Artist Identity: what it is and how to get it perfect?

The Artist Identity is at the core of your marketing process. Most issues in independent (means self-made) marketing come from the lack of definition and therefore the potential fans not knowing what to expect. The Artist Identity is a universal idea that is as true in the dance industry as it is in the music business or any other endeavor that requires Marketing. But what is it?

The artist identity is a curated version of yourself that emphasizes your work and the message you want to send out while hiding everything irrelevant. It also takes your target audience and market into consideration.

Before we dig deeper into the topic, check out the Dance Espresso I made about that topic:

The Artist Identity is the perceived image of you, as an artist, by the audience. It is the promise to your fans what they can expect when consuming your work. It is the story you tell.

When your audience is confused because your Artist Identity is not clearly presented you miss out on a lot of business opportunities.
If you leave your potential audience confused, you will miss out on new fans.

There are two fundamentally different approaches to the definition/creation process. I will call them the artist-first-approach and the market-first-approach. Both are extremes that lead to potential upcoming issues in the artist’s career, and I recommend taking the best from both worlds to create your process.

The artist-first-approach follows the idea of not creating an Artist Identity at all but by merely going with who the artist is. It would mean you are 100% real with yourself and the audience about everything and let the people who love this find you. As great as this sounds, it fails to take into consideration that every one of us has some weird sides, that might be detrimental to building a consistent story that resonates with an audience that is big enough to make a sustainable career around. It also fails when dealing with people who just have no idea of who they are or who they want to be.

The market-first-approach is what has been done by the big players in the music industry for decades. They studied trends in the market, understood what people considered cool and created artificial artist personas (just another fancy term for the Artist Identity) to match these needs. For that, it was essential to find a new artist without a developed identity and tailor his story to what sells well. That is still common practice in pop music, especially with young artists who might not be sure about who they really are themselves. This approach bears a high risk of the artist becoming unsatisfied with her playing a role instead of following her own intentions and ideas. That might backfire in the long-term.

As mentioned before, I recommend taking the best of both approaches. You start by clearly understanding who you are and what moves you. You think about what you do and the reasons behind it. We already answered a lot of these questions when thinking about Your Bigger Picture and Artisan or Originator. By making the motivations and interests of you the main inspiration for the Artist Persona, you ensure that you are motivated in the long run to stick with the identity that you created.

Step by Step to your Artist Identity

Let’s do this in a structured way. Step by step. I recommend you take notes. Here is how to create/find your Artist Identity:

  1. Who are you, and what is Your Bigger Picture?
  2. Your influences and interests?
  3. Your main discipline
  4. Your Promise
  5. What we share
  6. Refine through research

Who are you, and what is Your Bigger Picture?

You need to answer these questions to make sure you know the foundation you are building the future of your project on. They are the building stones of what you are doing. If they are not right, the rest is not going to work. When you meet issues based on the wrong foundation along the way, you can correct them, but it is much more work than getting it right in the beginning. 

So, ask yourself:

  1. Who are you and What are you doing?
  2. Why are you doing it?
  3. What is your vision of a better world, aka Your Bigger Picture?

If you are already settled in your identity and far on your way of character-development the answers can be simple but going into depth has advantages along the way because you know more details. In the example, we will go with easy answers from my perspective to make the article not unnecessarily complicated and lengthy.

My simple answer to #1 would be a dancer. While this would be the obvious one, it is not detailed enough and would not match what I really do. If I dig deeper and check with myself honestly what I do, I arrive at “telling stories with dance as my primary and writing my secondary means of communication”. Does not sound too sexy now, but it is a much better start. With the original answer (“a dancer”) I would put myself in a position to compete with guys like Les Twins and thousands of other people who are just better than me when we talk about dancing. That’s not a good position to be in when we talk about business.

I am doing this because I was drawn to experiencing and presenting stories ever since, but never by merely telling them. Long before I started to dance, I was into role-playing games (DSA and Shadowrun for my fellow players), mostly as the game master. I organised multiple LARPs, which are Live Action Role Playing games – impro theatre without an audience, just for the pleasure of the guys playing. As soon as I felt a little confident in my skills, I created my first own dance theatre piece and later short movies. During all these times I danced myself (in battles or other productions), but all the projects I launched on my own have that story-driven background.

In my bigger picture, everyone has something he or she likes to do, that adds value to the life of others. Everyone should be able to do exactly that in his life and be able to earn a living doing it.

What are your influences and interests?

The answers in the section above are of general nature. Influences and interests are, in my opinion, where our ideas and topics come from. It’s where we look for inspiration, where we take our topics from or what shaped our world views. They are specific. It’s the genres we watch/read, the music we listen to, the passions we follow, our hobbies and the ways we waste our time with. It’s also our upbringing, our education and therefore the way we think.

Knowing these points helps us stay consistent as we know the things our mind is drawn to.

I am from a working family – Mum and Dad had regular jobs to feed the family. Mom in day-care and Dad ran his own software company. I was in a technical school and graduated as a software engineer. Since school, my mind is wired to take the logical approach to every issue it is confronted with. 

I did a good amount of martial arts in my life – with Judo being the one I stayed with for the longest. I did it for 9 years and held a first dan (black belt) when I quit. I guess it’s fair to say Martial Arts were the defining thing in my teenage years. Judo is a full-contact discipline, so one gets used to rough handling.

As already teased above my other interests were in the realms of RPGs and as a software developer of course videogames (for me that cliché is true). The topics or genres I follow are mostly Science Fiction (especially Cyberpunk) and Fantasy (both with a postapocalyptic touch). I love those because they usually deal with the same topics that we must deal within our lives but disguise them as something completely different. I hope to be able to do that in my work as well.

Ok, now that we have collected this bit of information, what do we make from it? We use it to create our persona in a way that can stay consistent.

For me, it would not be wise to create my Artist Identity around being a wealthy kid, that is a fantastic choreography dancer from an art school and promote following your gut feeling. I could not keep up with one of these parts, let alone all three. Playing a role is not in the interest of us, because we are here for the long term and being real with yourself makes a consistent game much more pleasant.

Your main discipline

What is your primary way of reaching your audience? Probably by dancing, I know. But how do you approach it? Common in dance is entertainment, education and competition. Not saying these are the only three but in most cases at least one of them fits.

Entertainment is precise, I guess – you dance or create dance pieces that are there to amaze people. Education means you help people grow in some way. Competition means you are out in the arena to proof you are the best – this can be battles, choreography contests but also competitive art exhibitions. These disciplines are not mutually exclusive, but it helps to define your main.

I see myself in the education field. While I try to make my work as entertaining as possible, my main interest is to make people think about what I want to tell them. This goes well with my analytical thinking and writing. I guess there is no question that the article you read right now can be considered education as well.

Up to this point, we looked at ourselves, the work we do and what we want to represent.  We will now change our perspective and look at our potential audience.

Your Promise

With all the answers we collected until now we think about the promise – the offer we make to people what they will get from us. From there, we develop a matching lifestyle and the cultural/social aspects that go well with our message. It will also help us to define topics for visuals and promotional content in general.

This step is a creative task that you should take enough time to complete thoroughly. There is no silver bullet to this one. Everything that came before and comes after are abstract methods that are similar for everyone. This one is about taking time and condensing everything you know into a neat package.

My promise is “I will show you my art, help you to create yours and give you the knowledge to turn it into a business if you want to.”

Often the key message might not translate into a slogan. That’s not a problem. You don’t tell people but show. The following examples will work fine, as well:

 “I will blow your mind with creative concepts and movement design”.
(Would work as the promise from Phillip Chbeeb @phillipchbeeb)

“I will show you how we did it back in the days”.
(Could be from Buddha Stretch @buddhastretch)

“When you join me, you will see some sexy choreography pieces”.
(Fits Jade Chynoweth @jadebug98)

I did not ask any of these guys for their Artist Identity planning. But by looking at their presentation I found that the examples above work. Only the single sentence I made up, catches the essence of what you can expect from these artists. It’s easy to understand, and that is the point.

What we share

The next step is to define what we want to share with people. Other people call this defining the lifestyle and culture around the artist, which is valid to some extent, but I dislike calling it like that. We are not changing our lifestyle or culture. We are choosing what to show people. This step should take everything into consideration that we already know from this text and include the insights from Your Bigger Picture, Artisan or Originator and your chosen work fields (primary and secondary if you have multiple).

Evaluate your lifestyle (the real-life you live). What parts of it are relevant and exciting for someone who might take you by the word of your promise? Don’t make a mistake and think it’s all of it. Most people are not interested in your morning routine, diet or family affairs when they are there to watch excellent movement design and creative concepts like promised in the first example above. Maybe some hardcore fans want to know that later down the road, but that is a topic for another time.

Here I am, more or less talent-free but a hard-worker, trying to decide what’s worth sharing: I chose to go with my finished pieces of work, in some situations the work in progress, the methods I use to get there, things that inspire me, what I know about dancing and everything I know about the business. Things I don’t share as part of my Artist Identity are my private life, parties (except they are part of my work), my training, pets, and so on.

At the time of this writing, you can not see this reflected on my social channels as I am working on my first book release and will tackle the time-consuming tasks of implementing the Artist Identity in my social media presence after I finished the publication of the book.

The things you share are there to build trust between you and viewers, and eventually, they will turn viewers into fans and then true fans. They are what we need. You remember the theory of 1.000 true fans, don’t you? You want the people to come back because they love what you offer, and you want them to come back often. Therefore, it is essential to find the sweet spot of what you can and want to give and what they want. If you can deliver that, you are set up for success.

Check the things you put out into the world against your decision of what’s part of the image you want to share. When you teach kids as a central pillar of your identity, consider sharing great moments from your workshops instead of drunk pics from your recent parties. Because the kids are watching and teachers have responsibility. On the other hand, if being there at every party you can get is part of your lifestyle and image that you want to spread, you should share these moments.

Refine by research

Chances are there are people out there who are doing something similar or even the same you are doing. Take your time and check how they present themselves, what they share with the world and try to find the reasons for things that are not obvious. If something does not make sense, it could be that the artist you are checking just did not define his persona well or at all.

Look what is working well for others and evaluate if it makes sense to adapt it for yourself. Is there an agenda that you can adopt that empowers your vision? Can you add some quotes, that go well with the mood of your presentation? If yes, see if it aligns with your image. Don’t throw around rough quotes from mixed martial arts if you are a Yoga guy who is into zen-like mastery of self-control. Check methods from similar work fields and see if you find ideas there.

I added writing blogs because I was inspired by the work of people like Austin Kleon and Seth Godin. Both are authors but run their own blog to keep the attention of their readers alive in between book releases. I might adopt specific tactics from them but tactics are details, and we are talking strategy now.

If you see something that works and makes sense for you, just add it to your game plan. You can always change things if you need to.

Take your time with the process presented in that monster of an article. It took me longer to write it as it is the longest text on that blog. You should also invest the time and not rush the development of your Artist Identity. When you are ready, feel free to share them if you want. Or don’t. However, you feel. But you better be confident about your result.

Until next time.

PS: whenever I talk about share in this article, it means showing it to your audience. This includes appearances in real life and in any media. Just adding this, in case it is not obvious that I am talking general and not only in social media terms.

Apropos “share”: if you dig this article, do me a favour and send it to someone who may need this advice. Much appreciated.

Categories
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.

Categories
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. Try to get high-quality information. Talking to people is best, but you can also research on alternative social media platforms to avoid censorship and filter bubbles.
  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

Categories
business

The Dance Teacher’s Toolbox

Today I will cover the arsenal and tools for teaching dance that I use. There are, of course, more techniques out there that you can use to teach dance, but these are the ones that I think are the most important ones. They suffice in most regular classes. Later, I will cover more sophisticated techniques, but I want to dive into the other primary work fields as well, before going so much into the depths of teaching.

Show & Tell

Show & Tell is the basic principle of teaching other people anything related to dance. The technique is self-explanatory, as it is what it sounds like. The visual information of seeing and the added information about where to look for the details and intricacy of the material can be enough for people to understand what you want them to teach. This is your bread and butter. The go-to tool in teaching.

Feedback

Corrections can be done in many ways. You can address general problems or give individual feedback. You should do both like a lot of topics will be relevant for everyone, and some students might need a unique problem addressed. Don’t fall into the habit of not giving feedback. This is one of the essential differences between someone who teaches people and someone who entertains with dance. That would be a viable business approach as well, but this time we talk all about teaching.

Drills

Give your students exercises that make them practice new material in a structured way. Drills are like dance push-ups. They are needed to build muscle memory and elevate movement quality. You might have a lot of drills from your teachers, or you can create your own.

Games

Primarily if you teach a lot of kids, the idea of drilling something might not be the best approach to sell. Package the things your students need to work on in games. B-Boy Catch, Chinese Whispers with Dance Moves and similar ideas work well.

Peer Learning

Let your students teach and correct each other. Trying to explain something to other students leads to a better understanding of the material. This can be done when experienced students teach the new ones or when a group of the same level feedbacks each other.

Progressions

Teaching material in a sequence that makes sense is first and foremost a matter of planning your curriculum, but you can also use it to lead people to more complex moves. Go back to the basics of a movement if the students struggle with it and rebuild it from the foundation. In many cases, they did not yet master the previous motions you taught them.

Handouts and Teaching Material

Sadly, this one is not very widespread in the dance scene world. You can really support the progress of your interested students when you provide material that helps them to dive deeper into the matter. This can be additional background information, self-made video tutorials to remind them about the technique, links to tutorials from others, or documentaries. You can also provide videos of dancers that excel in certain areas that you covered in your classes. Make it easy for them to dig deep and go far with research if they are willing to.

Homework

Give them something to do or think about in between classes. You can’t force them to do it, but those who are willing to learn will do it and therefore progress faster.

Rhythm Exercises

Have some exercises ready that help them understand how music works. These can be taken from music theory, body percussion, or they can be created with simple dance steps.

Notes

Take notes. You, the teacher, not the students. They can do it as well, of course. Write down what you did in class, so you know what repeat next time. Write down if some students had issues with a specific topic and get back to it to help them out. Notes help to stay on track with everything, keep an overview of what you did in which in class and give you an excellent tool to evaluate the progress of the course.

The following point was not on my initial list, because I did not consider them as tools but Focus from the B-Boy Dojo made me reconsider, so I add them here now. Thx man.

History & Stories

The history of the dance you teach as well as stories and anecdotes from your own dance life or people you know are outstanding tools to keep your students motivated. When told in an inspiring way that the listener can relate to, it will make them wanna jump back to practice immediately.

The history of the dance is, of course, something you should teach as well and not only use it as a tool for teaching dance. But as it comes in with that double function, it works as the swiss-army-knife in your toolbox.

These are my most used tools for teaching dance, and of course, there are many more of them. Let me know which ones you use and if there are any basic ones that I missed.

If you want to see some of those in action, I teach a breaking class at Streetdance Center Salzburg, together with my colleague Gü.

Categories
business production

How to decide which material goes into the finished piece?

Creating a stage performance is an individual process. Every artist has his own way of doing it. But there is one guiding principle that will transform our creation from an unsorted puzzle into a finished piece that makes sense. Making sense to be taken with a grain of salt as it is in the eye of the beholder.

The basic structure and its implications

One thing is sure: our piece has a beginning and an ending. In between, things are happening. Sometimes a lot of things, sometimes almost nothing. But those things in between are what messes up a lot of works, that started with brilliant ideas.

It’s easy to disregard the importance of this middle part, as the first impression and the last image you remember from a piece are defining moments. But it is this middle, that makes the difference between a persuasive speech and meaningless babble.

Only keep things that make sense in the context of the piece

Every scene in your piece should be necessary to bring you from the beginning of your piece to the end. It needs to change something. It can either be an action that alters the state of our world or introduce new information that makes our viewers understand. If a scene does not change anything that brings us closer to the end or gives us new insights, it needs to go. 

To call this shot, it is important to know what you want to achieve with the production.

Removing scenes can be hard because we fell in love with them during the process. I recommend putting them into your treasure chest of ideas. Maybe you can build another piece around them, another time.

Let me close with an example: Our short piece is about a young lady that is an unhealthy relationship with a boyfriend. Throughout the piece, she understands that he will not change and decides she is better of alone and therefore ends the relationship.

Her being at work on her laptop is a necessary scene when she talks to a colleague who helps her to come to a conclusion or when she meets someone better for her. It is not required if we show off that we can use tutting to visualize the work with laptops and tablets.

All of this would change when the piece would be about showing what you can do with tutting, but that was not the goal in the example.

Categories
production

Defining the World of the Piece

To share something with an audience, we need to understand it first. The journey of sharing what we want to show starts with understanding the matter. To do so, we define the world of the piece. 

Defining the world of the piece means describing the circumstances in which our dancers live on stage. Those circumstances are the facts of the piece.

The world of the piece looks very different when we compare strictly narrative pieces with plain concept pieces. But as soon as the world of the piece is defined, the work inside this world is the same.

What is the World of the Piece?

These are the major points that come to my mind when I define the world of a piece:

  • Where and when is it happening? Place, and Time.
  • Who are the characters? 
  • What is happening? Story.

Place and time define all the circumstances and tell us where to look for references. A crew that presents a piece that is set in London of the Victorian Age needs to start their research in books and movies about this time. If the same crew is presenting a piece that is solely based on geometrics without referencing a real epoche or place, they shall still define their place and time as well. It makes a difference if you dance in a cube that is precisely the size of your stage or empty plains that extend into infinity.

Knowing who we are on stage is the next part. The range goes from full characters with backstory and individual goals to abulic agents of a system that is based on the ideas of the piece. Characters with a backstory are easy enough to understand, but what do I mean by agents of a system?

In concept pieces, you might not play a person or someone with feelings. You may represent a drone that follows simple programming like “repeat choreography A until you collide with dancer 2”. This task could be done with or without emotional involvement. Defining it creates the character. Not defining it creates confusion and inconsistent interpretation by different performers. This confusion can be part of the concept, but then it needs to be clear and becomes part of the world of the piece.

In every piece, something is going on. The story of the piece. It can be traditional storytelling or just a description of what is happening due to the abstract concepts and ideas that shape the piece. But there is always something happening. If that would not be the case, why would we make a piece?

Examples

Let me finish this with two examples. The first, from my older piece barcoded: The protagonists live in a slightly futuristic version of our world where the majority of people consents to what they want in their fellow citizens. Everyone who is outside these parameters is thrown in a penitentiary and kept there until they fit into the regular world. The dancers are those outsiders that are abandoned by society. We learn their backstories, the reasons for their imprisonment and accompany them on their attempt to break out of the prison.

As a contrast, here is an example of a piece that is not based on storytelling (you already heard about this one above):

The world of the piece is empty plains. There is no border as it extends into infinity. There are no landmarks, no irregularities, no texture. The plains are inhabited by dancers who follow a complex program that contains choreography and timings that are based on geometrics, perfect square angles. There are no decisions to be made, no questions to ask, no emotions to feel. The program is set and was decided by randomization. The performance is one of a million possibilities. It’s not the first one that is happening – and it will not be the last.

Both worlds are clear. One based on a storyline, the other based on a concept. We work with these descriptions to immerse ourselves in the matter.

It’s time to create worlds. Let’s do it.

Categories
production

How much does a great dance piece production cost?

One of the first questions that pop up from people interested in doing something on their own is: “how much does it cost to make a piece”? This depends on your goals, and therefore I can not answer it. But I can show you how to answer it yourself.

Dance piece budget calculation

First: You don’t need any money at all to create a dance piece. When you work with friends or your crew, in your spare time, have a composer/producer as part of your team and have a venue where you can play the piece for free, you can do it without investing a cent. This possibility is one you should consider if it is about creating your first piece because it takes away a lot of work and pressure.

When you are creating a big production, work with casted dancers, use mainstream music, costumes, and a state of the art set, you will need to budget all these positions and see the end-result on paper (or your screen).

Creating a dance piece budget is not that hard, but it is time-consuming and a matter of thinking about all details (very similar to calculating your real expenses). I usually start with an excel sheet template to get a rough overview. You can download my template here. It helps me to get an idea about what I will need. There are numbers in there to show how it works, but you need to replace them with your costs. If you don’t have an excel license, you can open the file in Google Docs or Open Office. Both of them are free to use. As soon as you found your workflow, I recommend you create your own template that you tailor to your needs.

The big boys in most dance production budgets

The biggest part of the budget are the people you work with. You want to pay them a fair price. A fair price differs from country to country and is also a matter of the situation of the people. For Austria, there is a recommendation of the IG Freie Theater to pay professional freelancers who work in your production EUR 3.000 per month. This amount is considered a fair price for a month of work with the same volume as a regular full-time job (5 days a week, 40 hours per week). However, it assumes your crew consists of pros who do what they do in your production for a living. On the other hand, paying that is the same as putting your team on minimum wage.

The second biggest part of the costs is usually housing, food, rehearsal room rent, and travel for your team. If you are lucky enough, this block can be zero if everyone lives in the same town, and you have a room that you can use.

The specific costs of your dance production

Everything else is a matter of preference and if your production needs it. Walkthrough the template step by step and see if the point applies to your creation.

At the end of the calculation, we usually add a safety buffer. It should cover things that came up spontaneously or because we forgot something. I love to use 20%, which is high. Most other producers I know calculate with 5% to 10%.

The income side of your budget

In the second (much shorter) part of the budget, you see your income. In general, it is composed of public funding and ticket sales. But you can put everything in there that you can make money with. Merchandise would be an option, but don’t forget to put the costs you will have to create it in the budget as well. Crowd Funding is an option.

I also add a line “your own money.” This one is visualizing how much money I will need to put in to break even. At the end of the calculation, you want the income to be equal or higher than the costs. The “your own money” line, shows you how far you are away.

A side note: In most cases, when you apply for public funding, your costs and income need to be equal to be eligible for financing. “Your own money” (with a more fancy term, depending on your location) is a way to make this happen.

That is the process. Take the time, break down your project, ask people for what they take for the job you want them to do, and find out what your piece will cost.

Usually, at the end of the calculation, we have a sum that is far beyond what we can easily lift. In that case, or when we get less public funding than needed, we can reduce the budget. Whenever we do that it is important to be transparent about our decisions and who gets paid how much. Communicate this before you agree with people outside your core team to work on a project together. This avoids arguments because everybody who is not cool with how things are set up can say no to the project before it starts.


Categories
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.

Categories
production

The Trinity of Dance Production Personnel

In every dance production, there are a couple of fundamental tasks that you have to handle. In big productions, they are spread out over multiple people; in smaller ones, one person might do all of them. I already covered some of the basics in Dance Theater Production in A Nutshell.

The three roles that I call the Trinity of Dance Production are the producer, the choreographer, and the director.

When it is possible, I recommend having multiple people to avoid conflict in one person trying to take care of various things at once.

The Producer

The tasks of the producer are to produce a dance piece. Obvious eh? But what does it mean? The producer is in the lead of putting together the best possible team to handle the job and to enable them to do their job without having to worry about anything else. 

He is also the one who should keep an outside eye on the work and needs to flag when the involved artists lose their way – meaning that he tells the director and choreographer if they are missing the goal of the production as previously defined. Read about the big questions in the production process if you don’t know what I mean.

The producer takes care of all the orga work around the piece like the budget & accounting, finding sponsors, getting rehearsal rooms, securing showings, accommodation, food & travels (if needed), doing promotion, press work, dealing with collecting societies & taxes and doing everything else that the dance production process runs smooth.

His job also includes knowing when to involve the choreographer and director into decisions and when not. Hiring dancers without the choreographer and director does not make sense, but telling those two that we can’t hire a specific dancer because he is too expensive does.

The crucial quality of producer is the ability to work structured and have an overview of everything that happens during the dance production.

The Choreographer

The choreographer’s job is to create the dance. Depending on her work style, she can do this all alone and then teach the dancers, or she can develop the choreography together with the dancers.

It is also her responsibility to lead the rehearsals and push the dancers to perform as good as they can. She should have an eye on the physical fitness of the dancers and make sure to make recommendations on how to improve it if needed.

The choreographer needs to be well versed in the dance styles that the piece uses, and she must have a good understanding of the music, space, timings, and dynamics. 

The Director

The director is the one who is responsible for refining and executing the artistic vision of the production. This means he is in charge of the implementation of the story in narrative pieces or the idea and concepts of a piece if there is no story.

He should also work with the dancers on developing their stage character and guide them on their emotional journey through the piece. He helps to build the world of the piece in the mind of the dancers. And he decides whether an interaction or passage makes sense in the piece or not. Therefore, he feedbacks the choreographer when specific parts of the choreography need to be changed or cut.

The director should know about the principles of storytelling, piece structure, and dramaturgy. He also needs the abilities to make the dancers find and explore their character.

As already mentioned we don’t have three people all the time to take care of all these tasks but having them gives everyone the possibility to focus on what he does best.

There is also one more “role” in the production that is important. Please meet:

The Initiator

The Initiator is the one who started the party. She is the person who got the ball rolling and initiated the whole production. It’s the one who said “let’s do this”. In most cases, the initiator takes one or multiple roles from the production trinity and it rarely happens that someones who initiates a production is not more involved.

Depending on the relationships in the team the Initiator might change the roles that I described. For example, when I start a piece, choose the dancers and bring the producer on board afterward. In that case, the producer had no saying in the cast, which would usually be a part of his job description.

Things like this should be discussed before you commit to working together. Having disagreements because you simply did not talk about it and assumed something, can ruin every production.

Categories
production

The big questions in the production process and why to answer them

I already mentioned the important questions to answer in the overview of dance theater production. Now it’s time to go into detail and find out what the answers can do for you throughout your journey.

The five big questions are “what”, “why”, “who”, “when” and “where”. The order is in my personal perception of their importance. “What” and “why” are at the beginning as the answers to them will have an impact on the questions “who” and “when”.

What do you want to do?

The “What” is the one master question that makes a lot of decisions during the production obvious if you take the time to answer it. It is about goal-setting from the art side of things.

What is is that the piece should do? This is primarily about what you want to show to your audience. Do you want to tell them a story, a philosophic idea, show outstanding choreographic skills, introduce a concept, show a puzzle of multiple ideas? This could go as far as “introduce a sponsored product” or “present fine art piece x in a dance piece”.

Can you commit to one goal? I highly recommend doing so. If needed choose a primary one and add some with lower priority because often the needs of multiple will not collide.

Now, if a question arises during the production you can go back to what you already know to move fast. Let’s say you are doing a story piece and have an outstanding choreography that you can keep or not. You just need to check if it advances or adds to the story. If not, get rid of it. Vice versa if you committed to showing the best choreography possible, adding a hint to a political situation is not as important as hitting the high notes of the music.

There is also the idea to figure out the “What” along the way. That is fine if you are willing to take the time to answer questions in the rehearsal process, lose valuable time and more important momentum. I disagree with that approach and advice to define what you want to do before jumping into the production.

Why are you doing it?

The “Why” is about goalsetting from the production side of your work. Why do you want to do this piece and where do you want to go with it?

  • Do you just want to try if you can make a piece?
  • Establish yourself as a producer, choreographer or director?
  • Rep your crew on a new terrain?
  • Build a company of professional dancers that will be relevant on an international scale?
  • Do you want to provide enough income to feed your whole team?
  • Is it about you or the piece? Be honest with this question. You don’t have to share the answer, but it will help as much as answering the other ones.
  • Maybe the answer is “it is part of my education as a dancer”.

With these answers you will be able to find out if you need a big budget, have a restricted timeframe (because if you need to pay people, time is money), need to hire people for costumes and stage design and so on.

Who to pick for the team?

If you answered the “What & Why” the answers should not be too hard. This stage is about finding the right balance of your skills as the one who runs the show, the skills of the dancers and other artists and the necessities of what you need to succeed with your goalsetting.

If you want to rep your crew, you already know who to pick as dancers. You just want to see if you can do it? Pick people who are on your skill level as it will make the journey more enjoyable. If you want to establish yourself as a choreographer you should first create choreography and then find the right dancers to learn and execute it fast and precisely. A mind-bending story that touches people will need dancers who know how to work with emotions on stage and project them to the audience. A piece that takes movement design and composition to a new level needs dancers who have an easy time working with concepts and the capability to execute the kind of moves you want. These can range from precise tutting, over-complicated rhythms to really athletic power moves.

As I said, it’s easy to answer if you know your what and why.

When are we going to create the piece?

This only a matter of organization. You need one or more rehearsal phases that are long enough to breathe life into the idea and polish it until it’s good enough to be on stage.

I recommend at least two rehearsal phases with a little bit of a break in between to reflect and correct the course without time pressure. If it is doable, let the last rehearsal phase directly transition into your showings.

If you have your people before you have the dates set, Doodle is your best friend to find dates easy.

When you have the rehearsal rooms ready and booked before you fixed the team, when you cast them for example, don’t choose people who are not available then. If you cast, put the timeframes where people need to be available in the casting info. This saves you and the people applying time.

Where are we going to rehearse and perform?

This goes hand in hand with the “when” as availability of rehearsal rooms and stages are a deciding factor. When you work with your crew only or have a good deal with whoever owns your regular practice spot, rehearsals might be easy. If not, ask around in dance studios, youth centers, culture centers, schools, sports societies and whatever comes to mind in your area. Having a big network of contacts definitely helps to find a room.

Finally, you need a place to perform at. This is a little bit more tricky as you want to rehearse a few times on the stage of your first showing and need to negotiate a good deal to have those extra days without burning all your budget. Negotiating with theaters is worth an own article later on. Again, if you are lucky and know the right people, this one is easy going. There are also dance festivals all around the globe that might be a good starting point for your research if you don’t have a connection to any stage.

Armed with the answers to the questions above, we can start by jumping in pre-production. See you there next week.