Categories
business

About clear communication and its importance

Clear communication is one of the essential pillars of running your business. It optimises workflows and saves you and your customers a lot of headaches. If neglected, it is a guaranteed set up for misunderstandings, that can damage your relationship with the customer or partner (fellow performers, booking agencies, etc).

The goal of clear communication

We aim to answer all necessary questions and make requirements as well as the outcome clear for everyone. One issue that arises regularly is that details remain unclear because one side thinks they are apparent while the other side is unaware of the point at all.

Let’s take a show booking as an example: the following points require clarification:

  • Location
  • Date
  • Time of the show
  • The arrival time of the dancers
  • Is there a soundcheck/tech rehearsal? If yes, when?
  • How do you deliver the music?
  • Space requirements/availability for the show
  • Which floor is in the venue? It there the need to bring PVC or something else?
  • How many dancers are part of the show (is not needed in every case, especial when the group is big)
  • Do you need additional rehearsal-time on the stage due to insufficient space?
  • Is there a dressing room for the dancers? Do you share it with another group? Can you lock it?
  • Who is the contact person for the dancers on-site? How can we reach them?
  • Who is the main contact person on your team for the customer? Make sure they have the phone number.
  • How much does the show cost? Include travel expenses or at least negotiate that they are covered.
  • Invoice Adress
  • Is catering provided for the team (not necessary in every case but you should clarify it)
  • If the show is late or the travel is long: who takes care of accommodation?

Depending on the type of shows you do, there might be more or less points to discuss, but it is more than the regular customer thinks about when he is not used to booking a show.

The principle is the same for every business communication.

The rules of clear communication

  1. Don’t assume. If something is unclear, ask.
  2. Try to speak/write in a language that avoids technical terms or explain them. Your counterpart might not know those.
  3. Have it in written form so that everybody can revisit it, in case of uncertainty.
  4. Don’t be afraid of being the one who points out that some parts are still unclear or missing. While some people might perceive it as counterproductive or even rude in the beginning, everyone will thank you in the long run.

Make it a habit to make things clear

Making things 100% clear for everyone gives you and everyone involved the security of knowing what’s up. There are neither loose ends nor room for interpretation. 

That is precisely what we want in our business. Applying clear communication standards to all of our business talks/mails lets you work and sleep better.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
business

A strategy to set up a sustainable dance business

The dream of making a living or even thriving in the dance business is dreamt of many. I know it is doable because I did it in the past, and I will do it again after taking a time-out after our daughter’s birth.  A not so obvious point: making a living as a dancer is not that much harder than finding regular employment that pays well and is good for your soul

I outline a simple four-step strategy that will take you there. Strategy means we talk about “what are we going to do?” The needed steps are universal and timeless. Executing the strategy is an individual thing and might differ from dancer to dancer because our situations are different. But the strategy stays the same.

Four Steps to a sustainable dance career

  1. Create Value
  2. Monetize It
  3. Scale
  4. Invest

That does not sound like a strategy for dancers. It isn’t. It is one basic strategy for running a sustainable business. Too many people who try their luck in the dance world fall into tunnel vision and only focus on their dance skills. This makes the more significant part of being successful a gamble, which is stupid. If you only work on the dance, you will eventually become an excellent dancer. But without understanding how to turn your dance skills into money, you will not turn pro.

Creating Value, Monetizing it, Scaling, and investing everything extra back into your business will pay your bills, even if you are not the best dancer. I never won a major competition, but dance and dance-related work feed me since 2008, and now it does the same for my family. If I can do it, so can you.

Creating value as a dancer

Creating value means nothing else, but “you need to have something that other people want.” These can be extraordinary dance skills that every choreographer wants to have in the show. It could also be the ability to teach people to dance, or to win battles, to entertain, or everything else you can come up with. As long as there are people who want it.

The more specific your offer is, the better your chances that there is little or no competition. Reinforce your strengths, try to work with the things that nobody else in your area has, and dare cover topics that others avoid.

For some inspiration on how to create value with your dance, check out the article about possibilities to build your dance business around.

The base of any reliable business is to create something that people want or need.
The key to success in business is to have something that people want or need.
photo: Dusana Baltic

Turn your value into money

When you have something to offer, it will not be hard to earn money from it. If every choreographer wants your skills in the production, there will be more than enough productions that pay you. If you are a good teacher, students will happily pay a fee for your class. If you can entertain people, you can create your own piece for the stage, go for videos, host dance events, and much more. And suppose you are really a battle winner. In that case, there is price money (but I don’t consider that a viable option to build a business upon).

The point here is that you have to commit to turning your value into money. Because the other option is to do it for your enjoyment only, which means you have to find different ways to pay the bills. That is perfectly fine if you want to have it that way. But you are reading an article for those who don’t want to do something else to earn a living.

I also wrote about pricing your dance classes, if you want to check that one out.

Scale your dance business

Here comes the thing that every entrepreneur thinks about when building a business. Dancers usually don’t, which is a grave mistake. Scaling means to multiply your income. Simple as that. Scaling would be to dance more shows or teach more classes. That version of scaling is for beginners because you will run out of hours to scale your business or burn-out.

Smart scaling would be to find opportunities that pay you better for the same work or create products that you can sell. Teaching that one class at a camp for 50 people should pay you better than teaching 10. Think digital age. Can you create an online course, where you can teach 50 people per week? If you can, you win.

I opted-in for writing. That way, I can reach many more people than in regular classes or talks, even besides trying to be a good father. Choose a way you are comfortable with. The most popular method right now is video. Create a Youtube channel, stream on Twitch or Instagram, become the next big thing on Tik Tok.

The point is: find something that allows you to reach more people in the same time or less time. If you are doing primarily shows, this might be a good moment to think about getting an agent.

Look for opportunities so scale your business by looking at tech options
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to scale your business.
photo: still from Elsewhere

Invest in your dance business

As soon as you have money left invest it, instead of spending it needless:

  1. Learn something new that makes you better at what you do
  2. Learn something new that helps you to reach more people
  3. Create a new product that you can sell
  4. Advertise what you have

This is a strategy that works. If you really want to make it in dance, you can. If you are already working in dance, check your business against the four steps above. Where are you doing good, and where are you lacking?

Be brave and let us know.

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 professionals 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.

Categories
production

Dance Theater Production in a Nutshell

As a result of a recent survey on my Instagram, the next big topic for my blog will be Dance Theater Production. Today’s first post will give you a top-line overview of the things I will cover, in greater detail over the next few months.

Preproduction

Preproduction is all the work that you usually do before you hit the rehearsal room. It consists of defining the 5 big W questions, being “what”, “why”, “where”, “when” and “who”. By far the most important ones are “what” and “why” because they will help you answer questions that pop up along the way.

In the preproduction phase, you usually decide on the topic or theme that the piece is about. You do the research around the said topic and decide on the dimension and timelines of the piece. You also decide on the basic look & feel and if you want to work with existing music or need it custom-made.

Base on those decisions, you create a budget and work on funding (if you choose to). You also start to recruit your team. Depending on everything you decided before you will or will not need:

  • at least one dancer (which could also be you)
  • musicians or a music producer
  • a stage designer
  • a costume designer
  • a light designer or light technician
  • a choreographer
  • a director
  • a producer
  • a photographer
  • a videographer
  • a graphic designer

You can find those people either by casting them or you know people you can ask.

Production

This is the phase where you create what’s happening on stage. All the artists that are involved do their part to create the dance, the music, the story or concepts, the costumes, the scenery, the visual and emotional identity of the piece and everything else.

That is the part of the process that is glamorized by most people and it is also the most intense part for everyone involved. The most difficult task in the production phase is to keep your team on track and together. That task is in the responsibility of the trinity producer/choreographer/director which can be three people but it could also be one. Leadership skills are what makes all the difference now.

It is also the time where it shows if you know what you want to do well enough. When you did your homework, you will be able to answer essential questions that arise very fast. If you have a structured workflow, your rehearsals will be so much more productive. When you give clear tasks and boundaries all your artists will be able to explore the matter of the piece freely and propose exciting material, instead of a basic one.

It is also the phase of polishing the material to the level of perfection that you want for your piece and the time to vigorously remove everything that is not necessary.

Performing

Here is the fun part. When you did an amazing job in production, performing is a blast. For the choreographer and the director, the job is done and in big productions, they are usually only there for the opening and closing nights. In most smaller productions those are dancing themselves as well and on stage with the rest of the team.

Again it is more about your leadership, than real work. Keeping your team fit – mentally and physically – is the hot task now. Depending on your playing schedule that can be easy going (weekly show) or a real challenge (2 daily shows for a longer amount of time). It is about ongoing corrections, not falling into bad routines, exploring the piece anew every time and being in the moment when you are on stage.

Tour Management & Marketing

Tour management and marketing don’t fall into the timeline “preproduction – production – performing”. They usually are running parallel all the time and in the hands of the producer. He or she will take care of promo materials, negotiate with potential venues and organize the dates. Producers also juggle travel planning and coordination (often down to booking hotels and flights), press work, advertising, and most of the stuff that people don’t think about. For example, dealing with copyright collecting societies, taxes, event registration, driving that injured dancer to the hospital, find spare parts for the damaged scenery and so on.

In short: the producers should get more love for the whole process as they have a lot of work, but no glory because they are not part of the performance most of the time. If you are lucky you can hire specialists for some producer tasks like press and advertising, but most people starting out do everything themselves. Therefore, I will cover everything as good as I can.

As this series will be with us for some months, let me know if there are topics that you are especially interested in, so we can talk about those earlier.

Categories
business

Don’t be stupid about taxes and the law – Dance Business Advice

A lot of people start out doing dance-related stuff as a side-hustle besides studying or their regular job. That is a great idea. What is not so great is that most of them don’t care about doing in the right way, which can lead to major problems later on. As soon as your income is above a certain threshold, most countries require you to pay taxes and/or mandatory insurance. I will not go into detail about this as taxes and laws are different from country to country and sometimes even from county to county.

What I want you to be aware of is the fact that the money you save by not registering your freelance activity and therefore not paying taxes is nothing compared to the potential issues you can run into.

What are the potential problems?

  • When you get caught you have to pay the money you saved plus an additional fee, which sets you back money-wise.
  • Depending on the severeness, you might get a criminal record. In some countries, it is legal and easy to check these. If you have a criminal record, a lot of people won’t hire you at all.
  • Dealing with an examination of the tax office is a pain in the ass, that will keep you from doing your work.
  • If you don’t work official, your time does not count towards your pension.

So what shall we do?

Inform yourself about the legal situation for freelance dancers in your country. Start with finding out if there is a lobby or special interest group for dancers. It’s most likely a part of freelance artists or freelance entrepreneurs. Google will tell you.

FOR AUSTRIA: You can find all the relevant info online. You need the “Finanzamt” of your hometown, the “Sozialversischerungsanstalt der gewerblichen Wirtschaft bald Sozialversicherung der Selbständigen” (Dance is a “Freies Gewerbe”) and for potential general questions the “Wirtschaftskammer”.

If you can not find the Infos you need online, call the office of said institutions and ask for an appointment to talk you through the process of setting you up for legal work in your field.

If there is really no interest group taking care of your work, then just hit up the municipal authorities and they will point you in the right direction.

Get help!

It is possible to do everything on your own but I highly recommend working with an accountant and an attorney.

The accountant will take care of all your tax-related stuff and usually save you more money than he or she costs. Look for a freelance accountant and not one inside a big office. There are people specialized in small businesses. If your company will grow big, you can still change to a bigger office, when you need the additional manpower.

Hopefully, you will never need your attorney but in case you have issues, he can help with settling it. No matter if you need someone to defend you or someone is trying not to pay an invoice. Having legal expense insurance comes in handy if you need the attorney’s help.

With everything regarding taxes and law taken care of, you can focus on doing your work that matters. Do yourself that favour.