This is an excerpt from Experiencing Dance-2nd Edition by Helene Scheff,Martha J. SpragueS & usan McGreevy-Nichols.
Create and Plan Presentations for Specific Settings
Create a dance phrase that would be appropriate for a performance at a senior citizens’ center. Create a dance phrase that would be appropriate for a kindergarten class to watch. Create a dance phrase appropriate for an audience at a juried dance festival.
You have a dance or collection of dances. Now you need to locate a place and an audience for a performance. Not all dances are appropriate for all audiences. To keep the audience’s interest, you may need to tailor the presentation to the special audience. In a high school exit exhibition or senior project concert, you would choose your most accomplished works and a more formal performance space. For a group of kindergartners, a lively, fast-paced, colorful presentation will stand a better chance of keeping the young audience’s attention.
Some performance spaces will require that you change your costuming, footwear, and possibly some choreography to fit the space. Some spaces present problems such as uneven floors, superheated floors from the sun, lack of changing areas, and a small dance space. It would be wise to get the dimensions of the dance or stage area so that you can rehearse your work in the exact dimensions of the space. Some performance areas do not include wings. Wings are entrance and exit spaces between legs, which are curtains that provide masking, a cover that hides the performers from the view of the audience for their entrances and exits and to get from one place to another behind the scenes.
If this masking does not exist for crossovers, when dancers exit one side of the stage and have to go to the other side of the stage for their next entrance, dancers must practice standing quietly at the sides of the dance space. Also, without masking, choreography, exits, and entrances might have to be changed. Other changes in the choreography may be necessary for the protection of the dancers. For example, knee slides are not recommended for a splintered wood floor or on a hill in a park.
Costumes should be appropriate to the performing site as well. If no changing areas are provided, a basic underlay costume (such as a skin-tone leotard) can be changed in appearance by layering different costumes over it.
If the space has limited or no lighting capabilities (as a cafeteria or multipurpose room in a school), then a dance that needs high-tech lighting effects would not be a wise choice for your programming. In this case, choose more movement-oriented pieces. Always ask whether the sound system will be provided and what type of technology is being used (CDs or MP3s). Even if the sound system is provided, it is always advisable to bring your own backup. If there is no microphone available, and the space is large or in a large outdoor space, avoid pieces that use text and narration. However, if a microphone is available or the space is small enough so that you can be heard without amplification, some inexperienced audiences will find a short explanation before each dance helpful. Finally, when performing at sites other than one you are used to, be flexible and ready for anything.
Choreography can be a real challenge when you work outdoors using different levels and nontraditional surfaces.
Photo courtesy of Tovah Muro.
Take the Stage
Good preparation is essential for taking your show on the road. Follow these suggestions:
- Either alone or in a group, design programming that would be appropriate for a particular audience and setting. (Some examples of audiences are young children, peers, senior citizens, general public, and dance-knowledgeable audiences. Some nontraditional settings are lawns, classrooms, lobbies of public buildings, libraries, and on parade routes.)
- Consider all the possible variables in lesson 14.1 Curtain Up as you choose your dances, costumes, footwear, and accompaniment. You should keep these variables in mind when you create your program.
Take a Bow
Create a short narrative that describes and promotes your presentation. Be sure to describe the audiences that would benefit from and enjoy this presentation, and support why this is so. (In preparation for lesson 14.2 Take the Stage, this information can be presented in flier format.)
Virginia Tanner (1915-1979) was affiliated with the University of Utah. She developed and ran a huge children’s program, but she also had many students as part of her Creative Dance program and Children’s Dance Theatre (CDT) that has since become a Utah institution. The fact that this program has grown over its more than 50-year history is a credit to Ms. Tanner’s ability to choreograph to her students’ abilities and present material that inspired the student audience. Under the direction of Mary Ann Lee since 1979, CDT performs for more than 40,000 Utah residents each year and has made appearances as far away as Malaysia. Not only do they entertain, but they also present lecture - demonstrations and teacher and community workshops as educational components of their work.
Did You Know?
Choreographers for the Stars
The entertainment industry is full of successful choreographers. Frank Gatson Jr., who started as a backup dancer for Michael Jackson, has choreographed for Beyoncé and has worked with other artists such as Usher, Mariah Carey, Kelly Rowland, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly Furtado. Brian Friedman has choreographed for Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Usher, and Pink and has been nominated for and won many awards. He has also choreographed for at least two seasons of the television show So You Think You Can Dance. Laurieann Gibson is a Grammy-winning choreographer and creative director and has worked with Lady Gaga, Diddy, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry.
Learn more about Experiencing Dance, Second Edition.