Dance Gig Tip: Always send a confirmation email!

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Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

If you are a dancer or director who coordinates dance performances for events and gigs, below is one tip that can potentially save you many headaches in the future.

Always send a conformation email to a client & any dancers you hire a few days before the date of the event.

I’m writing this blog post because I’ve done for every event the last few years and it prevented a bad situation a week ago. I took coordinating a gig from another dancer a few months back and from the email chain with the client everything seemed set for their roaring 20’s themed event which was at the beautiful Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Boston which we were going to do a small Charleston performance and some atmosphere dancing.

I sent my standard conformation email to the client and they discovered that we were provided the wrong date. This meant if I didn’t send my confirmation email me and five other dancers would have shown up to the venue two days before the actual event. I would have had five dancers upset at me traveling to a venue and wasting an hour of the time. Imagine if the situation was reversed where the date was actually earlier than we thought. We would have accidentally been no-shows to the event! Luckily because of the confirmation email the error was caught and while we had to substitute out one dancer who couldn’t make the new date everything was okay in the end.

The confirmation email is insurance to prevent a miscommunication error causing you or any of your staff to show up on the wrong time and date.

In addition, if the client makes last minute changes to the event this is a good reminder for them to convey them to you. Also if you were guaranteed certain things such as a green room to remind the client.

Below is a sample conformation email template, feel free to take and edit it to suit your needs:

Sample Confirmation Email Template

Dear <INSERT_CLIENT_NAME_HERE>,

Thank you again for having us your upcoming <INSERT_NAME_OF_EVENT>! This is a confirmation email to ensure we have all the correct information to make your event go as smoothly as possible. If anything is amiss please contact me as soon as possible at my email or phone number <INSERT_YOUR_PHONE_NUMBER_HERE>

Call Time/Time of Dancers Arrival: <INSERT_CALL_TIME_&_DATE_HERE>
Point of Contact: <INSERT_CONTACT_NAME_HERE>
Phone Number: <INSERT_NUMBER_HERE>
Typically I list other contacts as necessary such as band leader, sound equipment contact, MC, etc.

Services to be Rendered:
4 dancers from <INSERT_TIMEFRAME_HERE> to do 5-7 minutes of performances at <INSERT_TIME_HERE> and background dancing with breaks from <INSERT_TIMEFRAME_HERE>

Client will provide:
Green Room
Four bottles of water

Regards,
– <YOUR_NAME_HERE>

Conclusion

I hope that helps prevent future gig-tastrophes for you and any dancers you work with! If you have any tips for dancers coordinating gigs or just amusing gig stories please share them in the comments below.

This article is by Andrew Selzer, owner of the swing dance school Boston Lindy Hop and a veteran performer of the Roaring 20’s Lawn Party in Ipswich which draws hundreds of people each year.  If you are looking for swing dancers in Boston for your next Gatsby themed corporate party or Roaring 20’s event feel free to reach out to him on his website here or at his school’s website here.

Performance: Making a Routine Your Own

The two videos below are two separate performances by Mark Muthersbaugh and Ellen Huffman in the showcase division first at ILHC in August, then later at Rocktober in October. If you have not had the privilege of meeting Mark on the east coast, besides being awesome and friendly, he is quite the ham and his personality shines through in these showcase performances.  (Note: Ellen seems awesome as well, unfortunately I have not got to somewhat know her like I have with Mark [1]).

Clip 1: ILHC 2010

Clip 2: Rocktober 2010

Highlights of Both Showcases:

  • At 0:22 in clip 1 and 0:14 in clip 2, the mess around after the flip. Very beginning of the routine Mark and Ellen sets the tone for how this is going down.
  • At 1:54 in clip 1 and 1:46 in clip 2, the call and response bit into the (Frankie/Lamppost/Lindy Flip) aerial.
  • At 2:12 in clip 1 and 2:05 in clip 2…. SQUIRREL!
  • At 2:25 in clip 1 and 2:24 in clip 2 , the scratches contrast perfectly after that nice line beforehand.
  • At 2:44 in clip 1 and 2:37 in clip 2, slow motion into one of the most creative endings in a showcase I have ever seen.

Changes

  • Overall in the Rocktober performance it seemed there was a lot less loss of energy between some of the transitions and both of them looked much more confident, especially in the solo movement. I believe though its probably a combination of being in their home-state it being a less intimidating crowd then ILHC, in addition to having more time to perform/perfect the routine.
  • At 0:27 in clip 1 and 0:21 in clip 2, Ellen changes to a back up motion instead of a to side motion which adds more energy to her solo bit. After Mark answers with that additional energy by changing from swooping gaze movement to a full on body roll.
  • At 1:12 in clip 1 and 1:05 in clip 2, originally they had these slightly twisty back walks. However they create these great lines and add more energy to the routine by switching them out for cakewalk kicks for the Rocktober performance.
  • At 1:19 in clip 1 and 1:13 in clip 2, there is a slight change that on the third stomp off Ellen switches it out for a swivel and accents the change in the piano in the song. Small detail, but adds greatly to the musicality of the routine.
  • At 1:22 in clip 1 and 1:17 in clip 2, there is this spin and then a walk back. For the rocktober performance they add in a spin for Ellen, while Mark walks sideways, followed by two small call and response hops. Like many of the changes before adds some additional energy to routine, and hits the musicality better then the previous choreography.
  • At 1:27  in clip 1 and 1:19 in clip 2, they switch from Ellen shimmying to Mark and a flip for Ellen.
  • At 1:33 in clip 1 and 1:26 in clip 2, Mark changes his hand placement to reinforce the tone he set for the showcase after that first mess around.
  • At 2:04 in clip 1 and 1:57 in clip 2, they change from a standard swingout to a cute modified swingout that adds to the energy and tone set for the performance.
  • At 2:24 in clip 1 and 2:26 in clip 2, in the ILHC performance they play a game of Pat-a-cake. They change this to Mark continuing his Charleston sidekicks while doing a fake slap on the rear, which still has the humor factor they are going for while maintaining the energy of the previous moves/flow the choreography.

Overall

Mark and Ellen continued performances/practices of their routine have made it so they have made some serious steps to owning it. What separates amazing performances for me from just fun or okay ones, is when people have made a routine their own.  What I mean by that, is when it is performed it looks almost as natural as breathing to them and it is difficult to not want to come along on the journey the performers are trying to take you on.

Footnotes

[1] I originally met Mark at the Oberlin Jazz dance festival 08′. It is amazing to see how much he has improved since then.

Performance at Sea

So this past weekend a bunch of other local Orange County swing dancers and I were drafted for a performance gig for the Noble Cause Foundation. Its a non-profit organization run by Cornell Iliescu that works to honor veterans of the United States.

At 8:00 AM we met up in Long Beach, California and boarded the SS Lane Victory, a WWII ship. Definitely one of the more interesting and nostalgic locations I have danced at. After meeting up with Cornell, a Romania WWII bombing survivor who organized this gig, he showed us to our quarters to use a dressing room. For us guys, we had provided army airforce uniforms [1] in which we had to meticulously check to make sure we were dressed in accordance to military regulations. (This is due to apparently one of the favorite hobbies of military veterans is to point out mistakes that civilians make in wearing the uniform.)

SS Lane Victory
SS Lane Victory

After changing we learned one of the benefits of being a performer on this ship was unlimited beverages. Ranging from water and sodas to beer and wine. For several of us this elevated this from a fun event to the best performance gig ever.

Around 9:00 AM the boat took off and the cruise went out to Catalina Island, circled it and then headed back to Long Beach by 4:00 PM. During the cruise there was several things going on such as a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers, a catered lunch, a sub-plot on the boat involving an escaped German spy (aka Cornell being paraded around in a German officer uniform), and more impressively a recreation involving the ship’s gunners ward off a Luftwaffe air  attack. However when those things were not going on we and the tap dancers Cornell brought along provided entertainment with the live band on the main deck.

Being the entertainment was pretty easy going though. how we worked it out was every other song the tap dancers and us would take turns performing. However after lunch break we had a blast because we started our performance together side by side both doing the Shim Sham, with us doing the swing version and them doing the tap version. Then we had a jam circle in which we all cut in, the crowd seemed to really like it.

I also need to give credit to the band on the ship as well. They were watching the tap dancers and us, in result adjusted the songs accordingly and made it easier for all of us to do our thing. Extra props for them playing Honeysuckle Rose after one of our follows complemented a horn player on throwing part of it in on one of his solos, in another song.

Anyways, favorite parts of this gig:

  • The band playing the song Avalon, while the boat was sailing in front of Casino Ballrom, in the town Avalon on Catalina island.
  • Free lunch and unlimited drinks (including alcoholic beverages).
  • WWII veterans saying how they were glad there were people who still did the dances and appreciates the music from their era.
  • The fact that if I timed my slides in Balboa with the movement of the ship deck, I could cover a lot more distance then I normally could.
  • With the German Luftwaffe attack they actually had live planes circling the boat, with actual Navy recruits firing blanks out of the anti-aircraft guns on deck.
  • Did I mention I was on a boat?

Casino Ballroom
Casino Ballroom, the West's answer to the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park.

Overall it was a great experience. The veterans and their families seemed to be entertained and I enjoyed dancing to a live band on a historical military ship.

Footnotes:

1. For us leads it was important to know that our uniforms were from a time when the Air Force was still part of the Army. Reason being is a lot of people get confused when they see Air Force symbols on an Army uniform and in result ask us about it.