Author Topic: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure  (Read 12328 times)

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MegP

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How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« on: Mar 03, 2010, 01:48 pm »
Hey Everyone,

So this is my first dance show and so far it has been going pretty well. The only thing is I have had the hardest time blocking. I have taken down blocking and I don't know if it will help me with the show. I want to be more confindent with this but I only have a short time before tech and I am really nervous. Can I get any comforting thoughts or reassuring words from those who have done dance before? Advice would be great too!

KimiKay

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #1 on: Mar 04, 2010, 03:20 am »
Congrats on stepping over into the world of dance. I just recently stage managed my first dance show and fell in love with it. I was making this transition without any guidance so I just tried to do what worked best with me, so while this might not be the best way it worked for me on my first time.

 I made simple notes to myself on my cue sheet that said things like "1st soloist begins to roll offstage" or "lip ring girl finishes arm struggle thing" (I didn't know their names during tech) Most of my LD's cues were based on movement not music, but the few that were based on music i just noted that.

Good luck and if I can offer any more assistance I would be happy to.

Kimberly

Celeste_SM

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #2 on: Mar 06, 2010, 11:55 am »
I like stage managing dance, but for me those shows usually have the least rehearsal time (for me).  If I'm lucky, I get one rehearsal and one day of tech. I find it helpful to make notes about patterns of dancers to help me recognize when a cue is coming up, if I don't know the piece well enough or have music. As a last resort, I have also used a stopwatch to help call cues in pieces that look (to my unrehearsed eye) "all the same" through the whole number.  Then I note stuff like "at 34 sec, middle girl sits up, SL guy points toe Q with beat after toe point."  Again, it's just a way of dealing with a show where you have no music and not enough rehearsal time to actually learn the choreography well.

Calling dance shows is fun though, I think. I enjoy the fast pace.

geoffsm

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #3 on: Mar 12, 2010, 10:51 pm »
I've only done one dance show, but I can offer some insight.  I was lucky enough to have a few weeks of rehearsal in which to learn the dancers and the movement.  I called from a score, but noted the movement in the music and used notes for cue placement.  I also had a sketchbook with me at rehearsal which I used to sketch out movement patterns, etc. (similar to how a lighting designer would notate actor/dancer placement for cue building.

hbelden

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #4 on: Mar 13, 2010, 01:57 pm »
Many dance companies video their pieces or rehearsals; or they recreate dances from previous performances that were captured on video.  When I did dance, it was a huge help for me to go over the video again and again to learn the dance quickly.
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BayAreaSM

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #5 on: Apr 04, 2010, 10:53 pm »
When I started out working for the ballet, I was scared as well. But as I went through the archives, I found that almost all of the stage managers before me wrote down the choreography as best they could, and called the show that way. There were extremely few shows that had a score in the files, so it became all about the choreography. Since the notes  that had been written in the past were only for that particular SM, I had to study old videos and observe in rehearsals to find out what they meant by "kicky foot" and "drag and drop" among other strange phrases. My updates of these cue sheets, as well as writing my own new ones, has developed over time as I learn and understand more ballet terms.

Know that writing your own cue sheets for ballet is just that - writing for You. Use phrases that you understand, don't worry about writing "pas de chat" or "pique turns" just because the choreographer tells you what's going on. If you don't know exactly what it means, it won't help you later when you're alone calling the show. There really is no right or wrong way to do it.

I've noticed that it is easiest for those of us used to calling plays that we concentrate on the staging, as it is easier to follow along with visual cues, instead of trying to memorize the music on the spot. I suppose I have the advantage, since calling ballet is my full time job, but trust me, it does get easier over time. The best thing you can do is write down as much as you can, so that you basically can follow the entire ballet by reading along. When you're first starting out, you may end up with a script for a ballet that may be 20 pages long, just because you've written down every little thing so that you won't get lost.

When in tech, learn what each cue does/what it's for, instead of just taking down the cue number, even if it is just a color change on the cyc. With that knowledge, you should be able to cut down your cue sheet a bit, to the important parts. Bits of choreography that jump out at you, whether it's an angel lift, or dancers dropping to the floor to roll, then get back up, can be your main points for following along long stretches without any cues, then write down your lead in choreography to your cue "as green girl UR starts to run to DL" so that you'll be prepared to call the cue when "girl is lifted onto man's shoulder DL."

If you excel at memorizing music, you can write down those notes as well. I tend to do a combination of both choreography and music. I've only received a score for 1 ballet in all of my years of calling, so when I do have a cue that is strictly based on music (either because no one is onstage, or the dancers tend to be too fast/too slow according to the designer/choreographer for a particular moment) I write music notes in my script - and once again, it's YOUR script. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else right now. Granted, if we were in a perfect world, we'd all understand each others notes, as we should always write our cues in such a way that we are prepared for the "runaway bus" moment. But, that's what videos of ballets are for.

I see that I'm writing my comments practically a month after your original post, but I hope I helped shine a little light on your situation. Feel free to PM me with any other questions.

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ScooterSM

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #6 on: Apr 04, 2010, 11:13 pm »
I would absolutely second everything BayAreaSM said!  The couple of small things I would add would be:

1) Don't be afraid to draw your self pictures (stick figures are your friends!) and use abbreviations (man/woman symbols, etc).

2) Your stopwatch is your friend, especially when you don't have a long time to learn the piece.  You can't ever call only from time (even with recorded music, it is never exactly the same twice), but it will give you guideposts of where approximately something starts happening.  It will make a big difference if you know you have 10 seconds before your next cue or 10 mins.  That way you know approximately when to start looking for a particular movement or listening for a music change.  It will really help with the anxiety of when the next cue will come.  When I don't have a lot of time to learn a piece, the first time I see a complete run through, I take copious notes marking the time of any major movement (man enters UL, big music tempo change, all jete' together, etc), so when we tech I have an idea where something comes or what it is before or after.  The notes don't necessarily mean anything to anyone else but they are a huge help for me.

3) Trust yourself.  Don't be afraid to take more notes than you need, and don't think that someone will say the way you are writing you cues is wrong.  You will make mistakes, but that is ok.

4) Breath!!!!!!
I've never been paid a lot, but the theatre has kept me, and for that I shall be eternally grateful. Tony Church

BayAreaSM

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #7 on: Apr 05, 2010, 08:22 pm »
And Scooter is definitely right. I completely spaced time stamping. Though, when you're in tech, your time stamps will  be way off due to starting and stopping all the time. When you have a CD, your times will be more consistent, though keep in mind you may be delaying your next track to hold for applause, etc, so times will change. I tend to time stamp as much as possible, to let me know appropriate warnings for upcoming shifts, or how long I have until my next light cue, etc. Also, I find people will ask me how long until their next cue, in case they have to run to the bathroom or rush to fix a problem.

Also, to mirror his first comment, many of the older cue sheets I've come across, circa 1981-1985, have been drawings. Just like geoffsm commented - 6 copies of the floor on one sheet, and the use of X's and O's to represent men and women in formation on the stage. Just like how you notate your blocking and cues in your script for a musical or a play, everyone has their own style. Just find what is most comfortable and easy for you. There is no right or wrong about it - as long as you can call the show properly from your script!

Jason2025

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2010, 02:37 pm »
I jumped into stage managing ballet about two years ago after many years of working with stage and musical theatre and it was certainly a challenge compounded by the fact that I usually see one, maybe two rehearsals before we hit the theatre. As you may have gathered from here, there really isn't any one way to prepare your calling sheets, just do whatever you need in order to call the show correctly.

Our company performs to track and sometimes to live music, both of which requires a different technique. With tracks, what I do is load all the cues into my Macbook running Q-Lab, and I actually trigger the cues myself from backstage. I can use the time on the track along with the waveform display to call certain cues, and use visuals for other cues, it all depends. It is very important that you have your sound guy running a parallel CD just in case, but Q-Lab has never failed me. I built myself an illuminated GO button that makes it super easy :)

With live music, just like musical theatre, the conductor is your friend, and many cues can be taken from them. I will write down the times from run throughs for each cue, but with live music of course they will never be accurate so I use those times as a guide, letting me know how long I have approximately until the next cue

Though at first it was stressful, I've always had an ear for music and really like dance, so I've found my calling it seems, no pun intended :)

J\



gelo141

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2010, 09:30 am »
I am placing some forms in the uploaded forms section  (follow the link http://smnetwork.org/forum/index.php/topic,5411.0.html)
that I think might be useful.  They are a variation on blocking sheets that my director refuses too use  (long story, we won't go there).  It allows you to draw in the dancers as xs, os, triangels, squares, etc. and still maintain relative stage position.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2010, 02:12 pm by gelo »
There is really nothing you must be. & there is nothing you must do. There is really nothing you must have. & there is nothing you must know. There is really nothing you must become. However it helps to understand that fire burns, & when it rains . . .

Angela Frost

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #10 on: Jun 19, 2010, 08:36 am »
I am about to SM an indigenous dance production for the first time in Darwin, Australia and this had all been extremely helpful!!

Thank you!

SM_JenD

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #11 on: Jul 17, 2013, 12:22 pm »
We'll be producing Stockholm by Bryony Lavery as our last show of the season, and this is my first time working on a dance piece. The choreographer is very open to teaching me her notations that she has ready for the show, so i'm thankful for her, and all of your wonderful tips have aided me as well.
Here we go!

ambrosialx

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #12 on: Sep 26, 2014, 12:37 pm »
 I am spoiled to have an amazing choreographer/artistic director who gets that "brisse DSL" is less helpful than sometimes making up a name for something, that brisse for instance we now call Clappy Feet. It's also kind of fun and to me more memorable if you have a bit of fun with the script! For instance in the show I am currently rehearsing I have: "tinkley music", "weaving arms", "trophy lift", "the thing that is pretty", "evil music", "airplane turn", "turning hug",  "tumbling harpsichord", "clappy feet", "starfish", "figure skater spin", "fish lift (this one my artisitc director named but I LOVE)". Obviously these are not helpful if anyone else was running the show but they are not ques just a way to follow the action and are accompanied with times the actual cues are more straight forward but its memorable!
"I will prepare and someday my chance will come"

Tempest

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #13 on: Sep 27, 2014, 01:01 pm »
<snip>  Obviously these are not helpful if anyone else was running the show but they are not ques just a way to follow the action and are accompanied with times the actual cues are more straight forward but its memorable!

I disagree about it not being helpful if someone else had to run the show. If it were a "anyone else" who has little-to-no dance experience, I imagine they could hazard a good guess about "evil music," and "weaving arms," especially if there are approximate timings included!
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"

ambrosialx

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Re: How To call a Dance Show when your Unsure
« Reply #14 on: Sep 30, 2014, 03:24 pm »
Also unrelatedly I really need to post more I'm still "new to town" despite being here for years!
"I will prepare and someday my chance will come"

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