Author Topic: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance  (Read 7060 times)

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Katydydd

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Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« on: Oct 29, 2006, 10:43 pm »
I am an undergraduate stage manager and will be stage managing my first dance show in January. I was an ASM on the dance concert last year and the experience was a nightmare. Since our stage managers are trained in stage management of plays and musicals, we have tried to approach dance in the same way. Unfortunately this model doesn't work. I have an extensive background in dance, so am familiar with the dance terminology but I never interacted closely with stage management when I was a dancer and therefore do not know how the stage managers approached their jobs. I would like to know if anyone has any suggestions about how to approach stage management of dance from rehearsals through performances.

centaura

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #1 on: Oct 31, 2006, 12:24 pm »
There have been some great discussions of the differences between dance and theatre stage management in this forum, scroll down a few posts and there's a lot of information.  The other thing that you can do is sit down in a brainstorming session with the stage manager you worked with as ASM and try to pinpoint the things you were doing that didn't work.  Sometimes just looking at something, and then asking the question 'Why didn't it ______ work?' can lead you to interesting information.  Make a list and try to ask folks within that area the 'why' question.  Even asking yourself as a dancer. 

I've only SMed one dance production, years ago, so my recollections on specifics probably wouldn't be too helpful, but hopefully some of our dance SMs will pop in here with some helpful tips.

-Centaura

GregD

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #2 on: Oct 31, 2006, 06:54 pm »
Why was your experience in ASMing a dance concert a nightmare? What specifically went wrong? There are differences between SMing dance opposed to SMing a standard drama production, but the theory behind them is the same. I have just finished SMing a dance-type show, where a lot of the calls were made by timing the music, this is probably the most common. Ie at 1min in the lights may change state, at 1 min 30 sec the next cue... etc. You just simply record the times that cues occur at and set yourself up with a trusty stop watch. If the dance piece is done to a cd backing track, you can often use the cd counter as a guide to making your calls.

Look forward to hearing from you

Katydydd

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #3 on: Oct 31, 2006, 11:53 pm »
The problem is not with calling the show. I have complete confidence that I can call the show. The problem seems to be that applying a drama model of stage management to our dance concert causes too much interaction between stage management and the dancers. The dancers, being unfamiliar with stage management, get irritated with stage management's expectations that they come to rehearsals and performances on time, that they sign in for performances so that we know that they there, that we expect them to call us when they're not going to be at rehearsal instead of just telling their choreographer or a fellow dancer, etc. They tend to end up thinking that stage managers are just on a power trip and a lot of friction is created between the dancers and stage management. The choreographers don't back up stage managements expectations so it becomes difficult to enforce these things. I don't remember ever seeing stage managers when I was a dancer so I don't know if less interaction is better and our problem is that we were just trying to be too involved. If anyone has any suggestions about how I should approach the rehearsal process and interaction with the dancers, I would really appreciate it.

Balletdork

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #4 on: Nov 01, 2006, 12:06 pm »
As far as interaction with dancers- If you've been a dancer you know how independant dancers are. Dancers are far far far more able to take care of themselves than actors. I suggest speaking with the choreographers and asking them exactly how much monitoring they'd like you to do. Once you're into tech rehearsals the dancers do need to sign-in, call in etc... but previous to that the choreographer will let you know how much they want to see you in the studio. MERDE!

centaura

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #5 on: Nov 01, 2006, 12:32 pm »
I think your issues are in applying firm expectations on a casual environment.  If it was a job, and the company's policy was that they must check in, call, etc., then its the dancers who would be deliquent in following company policy.  I agree with the person who said ask the choreographers what their traditional attendance policy has been.

In some universities they have departmental policies that they expect to be inforced, which is another route that I would reccommend you go through.  Find the Head of the Dance deparment as ask them what their expectations for their students are.  Say what you have been trying to do with attendance, citing that its standard policy in the theatre department, and you were curious what their standards were for their dance students.  They might be interested in creating department policies, or they might say not to worry about it.

And don't let the 'you're on a power trip' get to you.  You are just trying to do the best job that you can.  I had an actor once scream at me because I had asked another actor to understudy her lines on a tour when she got really sick.  She was accusing me of power tripping, and saying that I had no right to make any decisions regarding her character.  It was my job to keep the tour going, and if that meant changing actor rolls around when the lead couldn't sing, not only was it my right, it was my responsibility.

-Centaura

BalletPSM

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #6 on: Nov 07, 2006, 10:24 pm »
With dancers and choreographers, you have to play everything by ear a little bit more than you do in straight theatre.  I typically attend every rehearsal when our choreographer is working on a new ballet -- it is helpful to have me there to stop/start the music, keep track of significant points so it is easier for him to pick something up in the middle of the piece (rather than him having to search for it, end up starting at the wrong place, getting all messed up, etc.)  I also have the score in front of me in the rare case he has a question about how something is counted, and then I am there to field general questions he has as he is working, such as "how big is this platform exactly?" or "can I do this with that prop?" 

If they are setting a piece already in the company's repetoir, I don't need to be at their rehearsals (case in point:  NUTCRACKER.  I know it well enough that I could probably dance it if I had to). 

When it comes to tech rehearsals and performances at the theatre, dancers absolutely must sign in.  If they don't, I don't run all over the theatre searching for them -- I announce their names over the page mic when I call half hour and make them come to me backstage right. (except with the principals...with them things are always a little bit different...) 



Stage managing is getting to do everything your mom told you not to do - read in the dark, sit too close to the TV, and play with the light switches!

OperaLover

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #7 on: Nov 08, 2006, 01:01 am »
I haven't had years of SM experience with dance, but the few times I have, I've learned a lot!

The choreographer can be your biggest help (and your worst nightmare)...get to know him/her and how he/she plans to work.  Get this person's trust and support right off the bat.

Rehearsals are your chance to "figure out" the situation...general attitudes, who and what you'll need to pay attention to, who you'll need to keep an ASM on, etc...! 

ADAPT to the situation...not compromise your integrity as an SM...do your job, but be flexible.  I was never a dancer, but I know that opera singers work differently than actors than ballet dancers than whoever else.  No one wants to be treated like a statistic, especially artists.  Treat them as professionals in THEIR field, and be sensitive to their worlds. 

I always set my expectations ASAP, depending on what part of the process I'm in.  Stay ahead of the game if you can.  For example, don't wait until they've had an onstage rehearsal to tell them they can't leave their legwarmers all over the place.  Before their first onstage rehearsal, I always tell the choreographer that I will want time with them before he/she starts.  I make a point to gather them in one place as they arrive, and go over the details...I always start by saying that I am most concerned about their safety.  If they see/feel things like slippery places, tell stage management as soon as possible.  Then I tell them how they can help make the production go smoothly...this is where I tell them not to leave their stuff onstage.  I try my best to let them know that they're safe with me around, but that they have to do their part and help...that has usually worked for me in terms of getting them to trust me and the work I do, and not antagonize them.  I don't usually have to talk to principals...as someone else here said, sometimes, they're a little different.  Depends on your situation.

I once called a Phillip Glass piece...basically, I had to throw out most of how I knew to call a show out the window.  It was nerve-wracking at first. I thought I was going to vomit the first day.  In retrospect, it was REALLY FUN to LET GO.  Be flexible!

I also like to call artists by name, even if there are 150 of them.  That is the fastest way to get artists to break down their wall.  It's a lot of effort, but it works for me. 

My advice: use what works best for this specific production.  Have your "tools" ready, but only use the ones you need for this project.   

Good Luck!

Scott

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #8 on: Nov 08, 2006, 09:58 pm »

It might help to learn how to count 8's if you don't know already.

Balletdork

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Re: Looking for Suggestions on Stage Managing Dance
« Reply #9 on: Nov 10, 2006, 01:03 pm »
You heard it here first! In dance flexibility is the number one asset a stage manager can have! This is something I constantly work on and something my Artistic Director makes me say to all of my master classes- - -  Be Flexible! ;)

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