There are many articles giving tips on how to share the backstage area at dance events. On the other hand, navigating performance expectations at community belly dance haflas, showcases and theatre shows is an area that often gets overlooked.
I am both a performer and an event producer.
As a performer, it's important to me that the correct music plays for my performance, that the music starts either before or after I enter the stage as I have specified, that my bio information is correct in case a potential student or client wants to contact me, and that I am seen as competent and at my best.
As an organized event producer, it's important to me that my event starts and ends on time. I don't want to incur extra expense by exceeding the hours designated in my rental contract nor do I want to make my audience angry by keeping them waiting for a show to begin. I care about providing a quality show so that it is an enjoyable experience for the performers, volunteers and the audience.
It doesn't matter whether you are a hobbyist or a professional performer. Nor does it matter whether it is a casual event or a full theatre production, whether you are being paid or performing for free, the rules of etiquette remain the same and acting like a professional is really no more than exhibiting good manners and showing courteous behavior.
I have been studying belly dance for 15 years. As I have gotten to know my island and lower mainland dance community I have been shocked to discover that often it's the so-called professionals and experienced dancers/teachers/leaders that exhibit the most disrespectful and least professional behaviour. In the interest of helping students who aspire to solo work, troupe leadership and/or teaching, here are some tips to define what good manners are in relation to performance at community events.
Honour Timelines and Deadlines:
Whether you are:
1. Invited to perform
2. Invited to submit an application to perform
3. Invited to submit an audition to perform
Respond as quickly as possible and/or PAY ATTENTION to the timelines and deadlines and make sure you respond on or before the specified date. This applies to securing tickets for family/friends.
Make sure you read instructions in all communications and then FOLLOW THEM!
Send all Information in one Communication:
If you have been given a list of requested information (bio, contact information, photo, tech info, etc.), send it ALL in ONE communication. Not over several messages. Music being the exception. Many producers request that music files be sent via email for ease of making playlists ahead of time and to avoid having to deal with multiple mediums such as CDs, USB sticks, phones or mp3 players on the night of the event. If you have been asked to send your music digitally, sometimes it may be necessary to send it separately if the file size is large.
If all your information is sent in one communication there is less likelihood of mix ups happening in set lists, tech notes, speaking notes or the program.
Also, if you need special accommodation - things like help with props, needing to be in the first or last set, time for costume change due to being in more than one piece - let the producer know when you send in your information. DO NOT wait until the day before or the day of the show. By that time, playlists are finalized, set lists have been sent to performers, programs are printed and so on.
There may be time limits set for music length, instructions re wearing cover ups, or stipulations surrounding photography and videography. If you have any questions regarding any of the guidelines set by the producer, bring them up well in advance of the event. The producer does not have time to negotiate these details on the day of, OR during the event.
The producer needs to sell tickets in order to meet the cost of producing the event and you want a large, receptive audience to perform for. Therefore, it is not only helpful to the producer, it is also in your best interests to help promote the event. It's a win-win situation. However, be smart about promotion. Waiting until the day of the show is not helpful. People need time to plan, to make travel or childcare arrangements, to take advantage of early bird ticket pricing. None of that can happen in the few hours before the show starts.
Manage Emergencies effectively:
Life being what it is, sometimes emergencies like accidents, sudden illness, childcare arrangements, work situations or serious family crisis come up. Contact the producer immediately so that arrangements can be made to accommodate your situation. If your emergency happens on the day of the show, CALL the producer to let them know what is happening. Texting or emailing are last resort if you cannot get the producer on the phone because he/she is usually too busy dealing with onsite set up to be checking texts or emails on a regular basis, if at all. Note: securing last minute tickets for family/friends is not an emergency.
Stay for the Duration:
You should arrive at call time (the time the producer has requested that all performers be at the venue). You should also remain for the entirety of the event. Producers understand that mitigating circumstances such as work obligations, overlapping commitments, childcare, or long-distance travel may make this a difficult rule of etiquette to follow. If this is the case, be sure to inform the producer in advance so that they know it is circumstance and not bad manners that make you the exception.
I have performed at several events and witnessed other performers talking about how they haven't practiced, that they chose their piece of music at the last minute (usually one of the performers who had to be chased down to get their information) and that they've brought several costume pieces because they can't decide what to wear. This demonstrates a high level of arrogance and a complete lack of respect for the producer, the audience and the other performers in the show. Even if you are improvising, you need to come properly prepared to entertain. As a producer, I want performers who care enough about their craft, the audience and their peers to give their best no matter whether they are a student, an experienced hobbyist or a professional.
We often forget that producers are paying attention to how we conduct ourselves as we participate in their events. If you don't respect deadlines, follow guidelines, read the information sent to you and deliver what is required, then you may find you will NOT be invited to apply to perform or asked to participate in future events. Consistently conducting yourself like a professional is just as important as technical skill and stage presence if you want to be one of those performers who are always in high demand. And believe me, this producer would much rather work with a lower profile, courteous dancer than a popular “talent” who is flakey and disorganized.
Bobbie @ Bashirah MED Company
December 29, 2017