You've probably noticed that Hollywood's hooked on superheroes. With movies such at Superman Returns, Batman Begins, X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 2 drawing crowds at the multiplexes, why not capitalize on the allure of comic books for your next recital?
1. Have your advanced jazz dancers mimic The Flash's extreme speed. Use sharp isolations and fast jumps and leaps coupled with a strobe light to create the feeling of velocity. For music, try a techno song such as Etienne de Crecy's "Fast Track."
2. Forget the damsel in distress: Cast a boy from your advanced group or a dad as a Louis Lane and have a class of Wonder Women come to his rescue. Choose your favorite cover of "Holding Out for a Hero" from the Shrek 2 soundtrack.
3. Create an aerial dance number for your advanced modern class. WIth the help of a rigging expert, your students can become a flock of airborne superheroes accompanied by a pretty instrumental such as Masashi Hamauzu's "A Dream in Flight."
4. Calling all villans! Your ballet dancers can use their slinkiest moves for a nnumber full of evildoers, such as The Joker, Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin to Michael Jackson's "Bad."
5. From The Powerpuff Girls- Heroes and Villans soundtrack, use "Buttercup (I'm a Super Girl)," for an upbeat jazz number for your youngest dancers. Dressed in pastel dresses, your students will love performing to this high-energy, kid-friendly punk rock routine.
From the simple to the snazzy, the comic-book theme provides fodder for exciting sets.
1. Set a dance about lonliness and reflection in Superman's Fortress of Solitude with this 'Ice Palace" backdrop from Backdrops Fantastic (www.backdropsfantastic.com).
2. Stage a rooftop Spider-Man sequence by building plywood platforms that simulate roofs and water towers. Add an urban touch with Charles H. Stewart's (www.charleshsteward.com) "New York" backdrop.
3. Brighten your stage with old-school "Pow!" and "Kaplow!" signs painted on your cardboard as an homage to the 1960s "Batman" TV show.
4. Ask your crew to build some telephone booths for a dance about transformation. Clark Kent becomes Superman with a quick wardrobe change, but your number can have dancers working with slow, languiud movement on the way in, and fast choreography on the way out.
5. Borrow a chalkboard and desks from a local school to create a routine based at the X-Men Academy. Your students can demonstrate their super-human abilities in a tap or modern number.
Props & Accessories
4 extras to make your recital extra special.
1. Breakable chains and bendable steel rods from Oriental Trading Company (www.orientaltrading.com) can help you create feats of strength onstage.
2. To represent Kryponite, use green glow sticks, such as these from Extreme Glow (www.extremelgow.com).
3. While your dancers may be flexible, they may not have the stretch of Elastigirl from the recent movie The Incredibles. To create this effect, attach super-long sleeves to a soloist's solid colored leotard. The sleeves can be rolled up when she takes the stage, but as the dance progresses, her partners can pull them out.
4. For a dance about the Human Torch, use the officially licensed Fantastic Four Torch Gloves from BuyCostumes.com with a red unitard. Create the illusion of flames with red, yellow, and orange ribbon sticks.
A few hero-themed songs to get you going
1. The Flaming Lips, "Waiting for Superman": A techno-pop song perfect for a large production number to open your show.
2. They Might Be Giants, "Particle Man": An up-tempo classic, great for young dancers or a tap routine.
3. Sufjan Stevens, "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts": This song's melody was made for a lyrical number.
4. The Ramones, "Spider-Man": Ideal for a creative movement number in which dancers try out spider-like moves, it will creat a flood of nostalgia for your audience.
5. XTC, "That's Really Super, Supergirl": Great for a jazz number, this catchy song has a fun rhythm.
6. Don't forget movie soundtracks. Superhero movies often have lush instrumentals perfect for ballet or jazz numbers.
For an extensive archive of songs sorted by superhero, got to www.urbangeek.net/supersongs. DT
You probably spend several months preparing your students for a dance concert. Selecting music, choreographing and designing costumes and scenery are just a few of the tasks that go into producing a show, but all your efforts may be in vain, if you miss one crucial step: marketing. If you neglect to promote your concert to campus and area audiences, your dancers will be performing for an empty theater. Read on for advice from veteran dance professors on how to fill seats at your next show.
Before you shrug off or delegate the job of marketing, consider the benefits of great turnout for your performance. Denise Carlson-Gardner, professor of dance at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, says that a well-attended performance may be a deciding factor next time the university considers funding for your program. For Greg Brown, managing director of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, a good audience is also vital for academic progress. “Performance is an extension of the educational process,” Brown says. “Students take what they have learned in the classroom and studio and put it before an audience. That process of preparation, production and audience feedback is important in training them for professional dance careers. If we don’t have the audience, the learning process is shortchanged.”
Kerianne Tupac, marketing and communications director at University of Michigan adds that “from a marketing standpoint, a well-attended show generates word-of-mouth advertising. Ultimately, however, the best benefit of having a well-attended show is that the audience furthers the education of the students through feedback and appreciation.”
Use Your School’s Resources
Before you start lamenting the high costs of a marketing campaign, consider all the tools that your school or university may provide you at no cost.
- The website: “Every time someone logs onto our college website, there is a featured arts event on the homepage,” says Lynn Brooks, dance professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “You can click on that story to get more information about every arts event on campus. So, in a sense, we’ve made the front page.” To be listed, Brooks simply sends a description of the event, a photo and her contact info to public relations office, which forwards the materials to the calendar webmaster.
- Publications: The college paper, alumni bulletin, department newsletter—these are all places where your dance performance should be promoted.
- Bulletin boards: No college campus is without countless bulletin boards advertising myriad activities. Make sure that enticing, clear and informative flyers for your show are posted anywhere you can stick a thumbtack. Most schools remove all postings once a week, so enlist students’ help to set up an effective posting schedule.
- Dining halls: “At least a week before each event, we place ‘table tents’—three-sided, eye-catching information pieces—on all the tables in the campus dining areas,” says Brooks. “These attract diners and coffee drinkers to learn about upcoming events.”
As you promote your concert, consider how you can get other departments involved. If you’re using Handel’s music, for example, invite the German department or reach out to the studio art department by commissioning a faculty member to create a painted backdrop. When choreographer Deborah Slater was at F & M, Brooks recalls, she set The Sleepwatchers, which focused partially on sleep disorders, on a group of students. The piece attracted attendees from the psychology department.
Whatever the interdepartmental connection, be sure to extend a warm invitation. Brooks knew that her recent work, which was accompanied by recitation of Victorian and modern British poetry, would be interesting to the English department. She took the time to speak about it in a few classes and sent out special invitations to the department faculty and students.
Make Music Work for You
At UM, Tupac says, shows with recognizable music attract the largest crowds. “Since modern dance is an unknown except to a select group of patrons, if the music is familiar there tends to be more inclination to give the unknown a try,” she explains. Familiar pieces such as Carmina Burana, George Gershwin works, jazz compositions and Big Band arrangements are big crowd pleasers.
Another possible partnership is with local musicians. “Not only do these collaborations bring in new audiences who might not have traditionally attended a dance concert, but the inclusion of live music versus recordings is a draw for most patrons,” continues Tupac.
Be a Tease
No matter how detailed you may be in the description of your dance concert, some people may just not get it. Why not show them instead? During the week of your show, set up a few “teasers” in public areas of the school. Have a few dancers perform an excerpt from one of the pieces on the schedule in full costume. After the mini-performance, they can answer questions from the audience and hand out flyers promoting the event. Brown says that student-choreographed “Brown Bag” lunchtime performances given in a public lobby are “a huge draw to the university, as well as to community folks who bring their lunches.”
Reach out Past the University
“There is a difference between marketing to the university community and the local community,” says Ellen Rosewall, assistant professor of arts management at UWGB. You may not be aware that simple logistics may discourage local residents from attending. “Studies have shown that many locals are reluctant to enter college campuses if they don’t know where to park or where to go once they get there,” Rosewall notes. Especially since dance performances may take place in small halls within buildings, “the most important thing you can do is to encourage your school to improve signage or post your own signs on days of performances,” Rosewall says.
The challenge in involving the local community is that your event is competing with other community activities: plays, concerts and sporting events. To win over this potential audience, Rosewall suggests “creating a brand image that gives townies a reason to attend.” Another way is to link up with community organizations who may promote your show to their members. “Work with a community organization like a local YMCA that can be in touch with senior citizens to emphasize a specific theme,” Rosewall proposes.
Finally, before you run yourself ragged trying to get the word out to as many people as possible, consider aiming your advertising to those who may be interested. At your next performance, ask attendees to fill out forms and find out where they heard about the show. This will help you focus your future marketing efforts. Most likely, your dancers will be your most vocal promoters, so make sure that they are fired up about their dancing and they’ll work hard to fill seats. DT
If you’re constantly struggling to add male dancers to your department’s performances, you may be able to find willing participants in a few unconventional places. While these fellows may not all have extensive dance experience, their various talents can contribute to innovative performances and exciting choreography. Some of these in-a-pinch dancers may be ready to execute most dance moves, while others may be used for their strength or star factor.
1. Local studios. Post flyers in local studios or ask owners to include an advertisement in their newsletters to entice these young, but experienced, dancers to join you. At the studio, don’t forget to speak to the teachers and their teaching assistants who might be interested in getting some stage time.
2. Cheerleading squads and gymnastics and dance teams. If the piece that you’re trying to cast calls for tumbling or acrobatic moves, seek out these boys who are already accustomed to partnering girls and are familiar with performing and learning choreography. Get in touch with coaches to help you recruit them. Offer non-credit admission to your dance classes as an incentive.
3. Boyfriends, friends and family members. With a little persuasion, devoted friends, brothers, cousins and boyfriends of dancers you’ve already cast may be happy to spend some quality time at rehearsal. As a choreographer, you can use these comfortable, friendly relationships to your advantage and explore the closeness in your work. While most of your dancers’ families may live far away, if you teach at a community college you might have a good shot at enlisting fathers and uncles for an onstage family affair.
4. At the gym or YMCA. Get in touch with Pilates, yoga and aerobics instructors who teach at nearby facilities. These physically fit men may turn out to be capable movers and enjoy the challenge of dance. Allow them to use the opportunity to market to your students as potential clients.
5. Athletic teams. “In ancient times, the best male dancers were the best warriors,” says College of Marin’s dance professor David Jones. “Professional football players demonstrate the connection between dance and athletic ability quite often by dancing in the end zone after a touchdown.” Soccer, basketball, tennis and other sports require coordination just like dance. While you can’t expect experienced team players to perform a classical pas de deux, they can add an athletic component to your troupe. Coaches may be on your side and encourage players to participate to improve agility.
6. Faculty. You never know where former dancers may be hiding: in the English department or the chemistry lab. Send out an e-mail to your colleagues who may have secret dance roots that they are ready to dig up.
7. In the orchestra pit or backstage. Whether they march in the band or play in the symphony, these musicians have been accompanying dance performances for years. Certainly some of them have been yearning to take center stage. For a striking visual effect, you can even include the musical instruments in the choreography.
The theater tech crew has also been on the sidelines hanging lights and building sets for your performances year after year. It would be no surprise if these men have picked up a few moves.
8. Local K-12 schools. Your local public and private schools may have dance or drama classes and clubs whose boys would be excited to add a collegiate-level performance to their college applications. Be sure to get parents involved with the planning to make sure that transportation and scheduling run smoothly.
9. Local police or fire departments. Everyone loves men in uniform, so why not put them onstage? Organize a fundraiser for the firehouse or police athletic league and get these protectors of the peace dancing. Just be sure to avoid clichéd Village People references.
10. Prominent university or town figures. Getting onstage for a potentially embarrassing performance could be the ultimate public relations stint. The mayor of your town or the dean of the college would not only draw a large crowd for your show, but he might also be itching to show off his kickline skills. DT
-Have students make two or three resolutions detailing their dance goals, whether it’s perfecting switch leaps or developing the strength to do relevé arabesques on pointe without the barre. Meet with each student to discuss how realistic his or her goals are and how they can be reached in the upcoming year.
-If many of your students need head shots and photographs for auditions, it may be cheaper (and easier) to bring a photographer to your studio for a flat fee. Parents can share the cost, and you can help coach students on technique during the shoot.
-Every little girl wants to be the Sugar Plum Fairy, and now is the chance! For your post-Nutcracker classes, play music from the variation or the pas de deux and let little ones dance their dream role.
-For Valentine’s Day, skip the candy hearts and other predictable festivities. Instead, pair students as “valentines” in class and let them choreograph duets using steps they have learned. Limit length to four counts of eight and let each group share their creations at the end of class.
-The Academy Awards will be presented on February 27. Play up the Tinsel Town theme by screening famous movie dance scenes. From the classic West Side Story to the more recent Center Stage, your students will have a blast emulating the moves on the screen. (K-12 teachers can offer extra credit for choreographing a dance “in the style of” a particular movie or for writing a report analyzing the role of choreography in the movie.) For a glamorous touch, serve sparkling white grape juice to stand in for champagne.
-Teach an Irish jig for St. Patrick’s Day! If budget permits, hire an Irish dance teacher to guest.
-This is the month when households begin thinking about spring cleaning. Take advantage by holding a studio-sponsored flea market or yard sale in your parking lot for parents to unload their wares. To advertise, put an ad in the local newspaper, if it fits your budget, or just hand out brochures. On the day of the event, distribute flyers about your school’s offerings and upcoming performances.
-Don’t let your students get the better of you on April Fool’s. Bring your own mischief to class and teach combinations backward to enhance memory skills. Here is a fun brainteaser for across the floor: Brisé, assemblé, entrechat cinq, assemblé. For an extra challenge, add battu and then reverse.
-Celebrate Earth Day on April 22 and meet your students at a local park for “Class on the Grass.” Students will enjoy the feeling of dancing outdoors and you will be able to attract potential customers by taking your class into the community. Be sure to bring studio brochures to hand out to intrigued passersby.
-Don’t miss National Dance Week 2005, which runs from April 22 to May 1. Enlist your older students to create an eye-catching window display with pictures and decorations, or position costumed dancers on the sidewalk to distribute flyers about NDW activities. Visit www.nationaldanceweek.org to see how others are celebrating.
-Mother’s Day is a great time to schedule a parent observation week. Teach your students a dance to Cole Porter’s “Unforgettable” in honor of the moms, but keep it a surprise. If your class isn’t too large, give each dancer a couple of counts to make up a Mom-inspired solo.
-Give parents an alternative to static school portraits with Candid Camera Day. Allot 15 minutes at the end of class for parents to come in and snap some shots, but be sure to prepare students not to get distracted. You can even make it into an exercise on the importance of not breaking character onstage, no matter what else is going on in the wings or the audience.
-Planning a party or reception after your annual recital or performance? Bring scrapbooking materials so that dancers can get to work archiving their favorite moments. Grab an extra stack of programs in case someone didn’t get one. (See “Arts and Scraps,” DT May 2004.)
-Every parent is familiar with Bring Your Child to Work Day. Now it’s the kids’ chance! Near Father’s Day, schedule Bring Your Dad to Dance Week. Give plenty of notice so that dads can take time off work.
-Bid adieu to students studying at summer programs with a farewell get-together on the last day of classes. For a going-away present, hand out blank notebooks as “dance diaries,” in which students can jot down fun combinations and record memories.
-Grab your Sousa and teach your own rendition of Stars and Stripes. If you are feeling ambitious, collaborate with other community organizations (restaurants, other dance studios, the Boys & Girls Club, choirs, churches, theater groups, etc.) to mount a family-oriented Fourth of July fair. You can even work with the local fire department to put on a fireworks show. It will be fun for locals and great publicity for your school.
-Promote fall enrollment during the last week of your summer term and schedule an open house for prospective customers to see your facility, meet teachers and observe classes. Offer a one-time tuition discount for those who register on that day. Consider scheduling open houses during other high-enrollment periods as well.
-August is a great month for potlucks, so invite students, families and newcomers for a back-to-school orientation bash in a park or at someone’s home. This is your chance to get to know your customers, build loyalty, share your plans for the school year and get students excited. A fun party game: pin the tutu on the ballerina.
-Make a new student feel welcome by pairing him or her up with an older student to be a Big Sister or Big Brother. This one-on-one relationship will help older dancers develop confidence by sharing their wisdom, while younger students will enjoy the security of having a mentor to show them the ropes.
-Height charts are a great memento of childhood. With your incoming class, measure everyone’s relevé at the beginning of the year and once a month thereafter. Parents will love it when you send the charts home at the end of the year. You can keep everyone on a single chart; post it backstage at your spring recital for parent volunteers to appreciate.
-Halloween brings out everyone’s flair for the dramatic. Have a dress-up day when every dancer gets to come to class in his or favorite costume. Then, teach the Monster Mash. An alternative to having students bring their own costumes is to let them into your costume closet. Each dancer can pick one to wear for part of class.
-This is National Arts and Humanities Month, so let your future Margot Fonteyns flex their Picasso muscles. Organize students into groups and have them lie down on a large piece of butcher paper. Then, they can trace each other in sous-sus, passé or another fun position. Note: Use a non-permanent marker to avoid staining clothing.
-As your high school seniors hunker down to finish college applications, remind them that you are available to write letters of recommendation. Post a sign-up sheet on your bulletin board that includes a field for when letters are due.
-Before the holiday crunch, hold a Relaxation Day, when a few regularly scheduled classes are replaced by yoga or Pilates. Bring in fun tools, such as foot rollers or spiky massage balls, to soothe sore muscles.
-Town parades are a great opportunity to get publicity, not to mention a fun team bonding experience. While your high school students are probably up to the task of constructing a float on their own, consider collaborating with another community organization to share the cost and building time.
-Are you daunted by the prospect of dyeing 35 pairs of shoes for Toy Soldiers or hot gluing 24 Waltz of the Flowers headpieces? You need an assembly line! Hold a Craft Day. Set up stations for each project with one parent in charge. As a thank you to volunteers, give out vouchers for free dance classes or Nutcracker tickets.
-Dancing your best means being healthy, but with a dancer’s busy schedule, it’s hard to see a doctor for every little pain. To help your students feel their best, and as a holiday present, organize a Health Day to nip these aches in the bud. Invite a local physical therapist or a trainer to speak with your students and answer their questions. (See “Healthy Partnerships,” DT December 2004 .)