I agree with Chrissy's thoughts about this anecdote. It's good to
remember that bad word of mouth is just as devastating amongst
performers as it is in the general dance community. Performers talk to
each other about what gigs are good and which aren't, so it's a good
idea to treat them with respect and consideration. Clear communication
and laying out expectations (on both sides!) help things go so much
smoother the evening of the dance.
A great dance is like a three legged stool. Each one needs to be present
and strong enough to support the others: the dancers, the performers and
the hall. It's our job as organizers to make sure that each leg is up to
the job through good booking practices, research into dance spaces and
promotion to get dancers. They all have to be in balance to make the
For the dances I book for, I try to make sure that everyone has my
e-mail and cell phone number if they have any questions. And I make sure
that I reply promptly to their concerns. While the e-mail below may be a
little over the top, it is pretty comprehensive. Each of those points
are something that I need to have at least considered well before the dance.
Someone posted the following to the Shared Weight Callers list, and I thought it was
actually more relevant to the organizers. So here it is.
I, for one, cannot imagine doing such a gig as a performer - at least not more than once
- and am shocked that an organizer could be so utterly thoughtless.
Perhaps this will start a conversation about what we, as dance organizers, ought to have
as "best practices," especially for the sakes of our performers (without whom we
would have no dance.)
dance series www.belfastflyingshoes.org
Here is a minor episode for the "gigs from
hell "annals. Imagine someone asks you to dinner. They ask you to bring the food.
However, they won?t tell you where they live or what time dinner starts or what sort of
food the guests might enjoy. When you try to contact them, they are out of town.
I was invited to call in a neighboring state with a fine band from my state. The drive
would take the better part of a day and we knew that we wouldn?t come anywhere near making
gas money. However, many callers and bands are willing to do ?charity? work for new contra
communities. Generally when callers/musicians travel, they like to maximize what they
offer and will do afternoon music/dance workshops, often for free. When we were first
booked, we offered a variety of free workshops. After a month of receiving no response, we
brought this offer up again with the caller/organizer who invited us. After three more
months, another prompting email query brought a response that the caller/organizer
basically didn?t have time to bother.
Twenty four hours before the dance, we had still not been informed of where the dance was
or what time it started. The last email (2 months previous) from the "host" said
they were looking for a new hall. Lack of information on where we might stay and the fact
there was a potluck before the dance had us spending money on a pricey meal and motel in
the tourist town. The caller/organizer would not be around due to another gig.
An enterprising band member finally called a local musician and got a rough idea of where
the dance was to be held. What fun?.5 generous and experienced folks, willing to lose
money, driving a 2 day round trip to help a new caller/series. Nothing about the word
"host" applies in this case.
So, in order to turn a rant into something constructive, I have composed a bare bones
"invitee" form to be sent to guest bands/callers shortly after the invitation is
accepted so that new callers/organizers who care about their dance communities might meet
the basic requirements of a host:
Thank you for agreeing to be part of our contra experience.
Our dance starts at __, with the pre-teaching starting at ____.
The hall is located at___(map link) and will be open by_____.
Your sound person will be_____.
Usually we have about _____(number of dancers), with about ___% being experienced; of
course we may have an influx of newcomers.
?Our dancers are generally (comfortable/not comfortable) with a hey/contra corners in the
Generally, we dance until____PM, then have a break and resume dancing until____PM.
Our dancers enjoy a (waltz, polka, hambo, swing) (before, after) break and at the end of
We have arranged for you to stay with ______. Their phone/email/address is_______
Below is the contact information for reasonably priced motels near the dance hall
We will be able to pay you_$_______.
For more information about dance logistics, you may contact me (or ___) at _____.
Please let us know in advance what you will need in terms of microphones, etc.
Thank you for bringing your expertise to our dancers.
For additional goodwill, we suggest that the "host" get the following things
right in communication/publicity: Spelling of the caller?s name and the band?s name, where
they are from, the date for the gig (these things slipped by in our case). A thank you
email would be frosting on the cake.
Hope this helps!
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