Once you have set your performance dates, take out a calendar and start scheduling immediately. Work backwards from the presentation date and include post-production tasks. The schedule will go through many changes, and eventually, you will detail the breakdown of each day in the theatre. A schedule is also helpful for working out a budget. Organize production time into pre-production, production, and post-production tasks.
Locating a venue, choosing a presentation date, finding dancers and collaborators, and working out a preliminary schedule and budget.
During the creation and rehearsal period, you create and then refine the piece in studio. Design elements may be constructed elsewhere while you work with fake or ‘working’ props. Consider using with production and design elements as early as possible as they inform the work.
Send out invitations 1-3 weeks before your premiere.
- Prior to your presentation, bring the set and costumes into the theatre. Dancers should spend time on stage to get used to its dimensions and the floor surface.
- A technical set-up time must be scheduled for the technicians to hang the lights on the grid according to the designer’s specifications, put in the proper gels and adjust light angles and focal points. This is called the ‘hang and focus’. They will set up the sound equipment at this time. Depending on the technical specifications of the space, this will take from two to twelve hours or even longer.
- The setting of intensities or levels is when the lighting designer builds the cues (quality, content and timing) for the piece. She usually requires someone (a walker) to be on stage to see how the light looks on a body. The cue-to-cue (Q2Q) is a practice, for the benefit of the running crew (lights and sound), of all the transitions in the piece, and is a chance to make intensity adjustments. Depending how long the piece is and how prepared the lighting designer is, this should take from one to four hours
- The dress rehearsal is a performance of the piece with all of its finished elements. It is done in full costume, in real time, and with full technical elements, but without a real audience. Do on-the-spot troubleshooting and leave time at the end to make necessary adjustments. You can invite a strategic audience to simulate the energy of a public performance.
- The show begins opening night and ends closing night. The length of the run depends on the presenter, or in the case of self-presentation, your budget and the availability of the theatre. My dance performances in Montreal run for 2-4 performances.
- Video documentation often happens during the dress rehearsal. If you choose to do it during one of the performances to capture the presence of the public, avoid the first and the last night.
- The strike is the session during which the technicians, stage manager, and anyone who can help, take down the set, the lights, and clean out the theatre. Make sure to return borrowed or rented items in their original state.
- Hold a postpartum meeting with those involved in order to get feedback in all aspects of the production.
- Close your budget by paying all those who need to be paid (ideally the day after the last show) and balancing the books.
- If you received any grants, write your final report.
- Send thank-you letters to any donors from a fundraising campaign, to the presenter (if you had one) and to any residency partners.
- Follow-up with any presenters who may have come to see the show.
- Finalize your video documentation, upload the full-length work, or selected excerpts to a platform like Vimeo or Youtube. Make sure collaborators receive a copy of the video as well.
- In order to archive the piece, set aside a few physical copies of your poster, flyer and program, and remember to store this documentation properly. Organize digital files of photo documentation, and back them up. Download .pdfs of any pre-show press or reviews. Dance Collection Danse has a small, practical guide for archiving: Building Your Legacy: An Archiving Handbook for Dance.
Tip: Do not take too long to finish your post-production tasks, it can be easy to loose momentum after the performances are over, but these final steps are just as important as the rest of the process.
There is no set model for the roles and responsibilities involved in the creation and presentation of a dance piece. Although they can differ with every production, they must be clearly defined each time. The lists below include many possible situations. Obviously, in smaller productions, various players take on several different roles. You and your team have to work out how to divide the tasks. Know which person is wearing which hat, and when.
There are several major aspects to each dance production with various roles falling under each of these. The most important role is the production manager, who oversees and coordinates the entire production. The production manager works in liaison with the choreographer and the technical director organising production meetings, creating the production schedule, negotiating contracts, tending to all aspects of the venue, and managing a project budget and possibly even the bookkeeping.
Most emerging choreographers take on the role of production manager themselves. For a smaller project, this should not be a problem, but for a large or complex project you will need help!
- The choreographer is the production’s artistic director; they creates the choreography and chooses collaborators.
- The dancer learns, creates, interprets and performs the work.
- Designers design the set, lighting, props, costumes, sound and video. They conceptualize,
create and communicate the environment of the piece, and direct assistants such as carpenters, costume makers and musicians.
- The rehearsal director regularly attends rehearsals and helps the dancers clarify and perfect their movement; the outside eye gives feedback on the piece.
- The dramaturge supports the creative process through assisting research and development, possibly helping the audience to interpret and contextualize the work, as well as documenting and archiving it.
- The technical director oversees all technical aspects of the production. Generally, a theatre has its own technical director, and your production team may or may not need another one.
- The technical crew is in charge of hanging and focusing the lights and speakers.
- The lighting and sound operators operate their respective control boards, cueing lights and sounds during the performance.
- The stage manager works backstage during the show doing everything from ‘calling’ the show to helping with costume changes, set transitions, and general technical assistance.
- The photographer takes photos.
- The press agent or publicist is responsible for media relations: soliciting previews and reviews of the show.
- The graphic designer creates the poster, flyer and program, and sometimes the press kit.
- The poster crew must be coordinated to do the distribution of posters and flyers.
- The videographer films the piece.
- In a dance company context, the general manager oversees all company operations, writes grants, deals with paperwork and plans, together with the artistic director (usually the choreographer), a strategy for the company’s long-term goals.
- The administrative assistant assists the general manager.
- The accountant or bookkeeper keeps track of expenses and revenues.
- The development agent seeks presenting opportunities for the work.