Author Topic: Stage Managing Dance?  (Read 25205 times)

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SMJorge

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Stage Managing Dance?
« on: Apr 15, 2006, 01:44 pm »
Has anyone ever stage managed dance shows? I have done a few, but I am curious to see how other people call their cues, how do you write them, and things like that.

Thanks

BalletPSM

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Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #1 on: Apr 15, 2006, 04:28 pm »
What kind of dance are you stage managing?  Like a dance concert, modern piece, ballet?  

For ballet, I always call from a score, and put color-coded post its in the score for the various cues.  It's just like following along in a script, but you do have to know how to read music.   If there is not one available for the piece, I type up a time sheet to call the show from.  It will typically have four columns:  the first has the time of the warning, standby, or cue.  The second is what the cue is (I color code) the third gives me either a musical reference or a choreographic reference for what's going on, and the fourth is blank for notes I write during rehearsals/performances.  you call the show exactly the same way -- just that there are often many more cues and many more types of cues in dance than in straight theatre or even musicals -- you've got deck, rail, FX, deck lx, lx.  I call it just like I would call any show -- except I often don't give verbal standbys or GOs to the deck or rail if there are cue lights available.  There is so much other stuff going on and I am doing so much talking anyway that they're better off just watching the light rather than trying to listen for their cue in a long sequence.  

If calling from a score I make sure to write down timings throughout - whether its every thirty seconds or at significant points in the music.  This makes rehearsals SO much easier for everybody, rather than letting the director sit there with a remote trying to find the right spot where they left off, you can skip to it quickly.  I often find myself counting off the "5, 6, 7, 8" for my dancers because i know exactly when in the music it will happen (since im either reading the score or keeping track of the times as we do it.

When stage managing dance I think it is absolutely essential to have a basic knowledge of dance terminology - so when the director or choreographer says "let's pick it up from the girls jete battu" you know what he's referring to and can easily find the part in the music where this happens.  

what else are you looking to find out?

[/quote]
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!

SMJorge

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Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #2 on: Apr 15, 2006, 05:37 pm »
I've done modern dance. I have been working at the American Dance Festival for a couple of years and it seems like every person has a different way of writing their cues. I've seen people do it to the time, sometimes to the music. I'm just trying to see how other people do it and see what works best for me.

Thanks

MatthewShiner

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My experience in Dance
« Reply #3 on: Apr 15, 2006, 06:45 pm »
I did a wide vareity of dance while I was in grad school.  There is no real standard way to call dance shows.

If you are calling with a live orchestra, you pretty much should plan on calling from a score.

But, it really depends on how the designer designs the show - if he is giving you visuals to call the cues off, then you may need to do little diagrams or descriptions of the moment.  If he is designing off the music, then you may have to call off a score or timings (if indeed it is recorded music).  But like any show, you have to call it the way it needs to be called - which may be different from show to show.
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jensparkingonly

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Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #4 on: Apr 15, 2006, 09:13 pm »
If the concert is done to canned music, I do time codes on my stopwatch, since the times never change on recorded music. 0:00 is when I call "go" for sound and the rest is based on where/when the designer or choreographer wants a cue. I usually do the cue sheets in excell and call from the laptop (with a paper back up, of course). This way I can arrow key down and highlight each cue so I know where to look on the screen.

If the music is live I use the score and stopwatch, marking the score much I like I would for opera, every :15 seconds, so I can find my spot easliy if I get lost or look up for a visual cue. I write standby's & cues in the score the standard way (L15, L20, etc...).
Jen Matthews
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"In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten: we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we  move, unfettered, among the stars." -ML

Jessie_K

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« Reply #5 on: Jun 12, 2006, 10:08 pm »
I have used a number of ways all depend on the situation.

If you have a short amount of time to learn the show.  I recommend a page with 6 or 8 mini stage diagrams.  Each should have a place to write the time and the cue or stand-by.

You can draw or write whatever you need in each box.  It's quick and dirty, but it gives you the freedom use images or words or timing to describe the moment.  This can work with live or pre-recorded music.

A standard that I have seen in modern concert dance is the four column method explained above by BalletPSM.  I found that for me personally, I put my columns in a different order though.

First column- Time from start of music (or start of piece if music is not used at top)
Second column- The action (I will included descritions of action even if cues are not called of them.  This makes it easier for me to follow (and my successors to learn the piece from) and if the cue needs to be called a little earlier or later, you have a slot to move it to.  It's my version of blocking.)
Third column- Stand-by's
Fourth Column- GO's (this column and corresponding action are bold)
Fifth Column- the fade time of light or sound cue, speed of rail
Sixth Column- Notes

I would be willing to send a sample cue sheet.  It is unlike most others I have seen and works really great for me.[/i]

ESM_John

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #6 on: Jun 18, 2006, 01:47 pm »
My high school theatre was just rented by the Hamptons PErforming Arts Center for a Dance Recital thats going to last about a week. Becuase of how we work, whenever there is a show we always do the same jobs. So i was told to get ready to run the show. Its a little scary becuase of the number of screaming kids, etc. but i dont think it will too hard.

We theatre people tend to impress those who dont really know how anything works, so it should be nice and simple.

centaura

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #7 on: Jun 18, 2006, 07:52 pm »
I've done the stop watch routine.  The show was done to canned music, so there was no score to work from or take notes in.  I also didn't get to go to many rehearsals, only near the end.  When I did go, I sat with a stop watch and the lighting designer and we worked out by the second when and where cues were going to happen.  I typed up a page with pretty much what I was calling in what order, with the stop watch times.  It was a 'quick and dirty' method, one that I would refine if I did more dance, but it was a list that I pretty much sat and read down through.

-Centaura

Mac Calder

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #8 on: Jun 18, 2006, 10:12 pm »
Not so much stage managing, however the last dance show I worked on (about 3 months ago) was un oped. I just wondered if anyone else had done an un oped show and what their role was.

Basically, I was "Technical Manager/Director/Lighting and Sound Guy" - and I was basically told "You will have no operators". So I made the whole thing using SMPTE Time Code... It meant all the SM had to do was start each piece and hold a dead mans handle during scene changes.

It sort of left me wondering, what on earth does the SM do during all that free time where there are no lighting and sound cues (this was a 4 hour show with 12 dance pieces, automated flys and no other set)

BalletPSM

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #9 on: Jun 18, 2006, 11:04 pm »
Quote
It sort of left me wondering, what on earth does the SM do during all that free time where there are no lighting and sound cues (this was a 4 hour show with 12 dance pieces, automated flys and no other set)


Sit on cans and chit chat. =)

At least that's what I do when we have long stretches of nothing.  Of course, that's pretty rare. 

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!

centaura

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #10 on: Jun 19, 2006, 07:08 am »
I worked on a small scale tour where it was just me and a sound board op (I ran lights), and we both ran our own show independent of each other.  That was because we were sometimes in venues without headset systems, so it was just easier for us to do our own shows instead of panicing when there were no 'cans'.  I would do paperwork somestimes during the slow scenes without anything happening in them.

Then again, if it was just you and no other ops, you could have had sparkling conversations with yourself on headset.  You'd always laugh at your own jokes, right?   ;)

-Centaura

MonkeyGirl

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Dance stage management: stopwatches shiver me timbers!
« Reply #11 on: Jul 11, 2006, 08:30 pm »
I've been quiet on this network for a while, but had to leap out of hiding for this subject.  I have been working exclusively (with two quick summer theatre exceptions about 8 years ago) as a SM and lighting designer for dance professionally for the last 15 years.  I agree that there are as many ways to SM dance as there are SM's but I have to admit that hearing people claim to call a modern dance show from a stopwatch chills my heart when I first hear it...then makes me smile because it is that sort of dance stage manager that ensures that I will always be able to find work. 

I work for a rather large, well known modern dance company that tours domestically and internationally and can say from experience the last SM that "called from a stopwatch" with this company did not last long. 

Now, please don't take offense at my personal distaste for the stopwatch calling.  It is just that I happen to feel in my heart that stage managing (and certainly GOOD stage managing) is an art.  Part of what makes us artists is our ability to flow with the production and serve it in a way that makes sense to the moment...to the energy of that particular performance.  And stage managers that call a cue :20 into track 2 regardless of what is happening on stage are doing the flow of the performance a disservice.  In my opinion, anyways... 

With that said, my call sheets tend to be laid out in 4 columns: 
1: Cue Number
2: time (count of the cue)
3: action (a physical description of what I am looking for to place the cue or description of the sound...because let's face it, in dance AND in theatre, sometimes the cue is visual, sometimes its from a line, sometimes its in a certain point in the music)
4: notes.  I find that I end up using this column to describe what is happening in the light cue so I understand what is happening to help place where it starts to happen or it could also be a little sketch of a stage picture to help clarify things.  Especially since usually I am usually not incredibly familiar with the piece before it starts to tech.  And tech tme is so short.

I used to do pages with stage diagrams, but found them annoying to work with and often confusing...the above method just works better for me and how my mind processes. 

For the actual calling, I do a warning (or standby if you prefer to call it) and then the GO.  The warning generally happens 20 seconds before the cue. 

Whew!  Now that I've said my piece, I will return to stalking in the shadows.  Good luck Jorge, with finding what works for you! 

brew

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #12 on: Jul 19, 2006, 02:05 am »
to Jessie_K...

can you email me a copy of your sample cue sheet? thanks!

stagemanager4dance@yahoo.com

BalletPSM

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #13 on: Jul 30, 2006, 02:00 pm »
Quote
Now, please don't take offense at my personal distaste for the stopwatch calling.  It is just that I happen to feel in my heart that stage managing (and certainly GOOD stage managing) is an art.  Part of what makes us artists is our ability to flow with the production and serve it in a way that makes sense to the moment...to the energy of that particular performance.  And stage managers that call a cue :20 into track 2 regardless of what is happening on stage are doing the flow of the performance a disservice.

I agree with you -- but at the same time, with dance more so than with theatre, the choreography and the music will always be the same.  This is one beautiful thing I learned on my first big ballet.  You don't have to worry about an actor dropping a line or a paragraph or a whole scene or taking a "cheeseburger pause" (what I call pauses long enough for me to run  down the street, grab a cheeseburger, eat it, and then come back to the performance).  If the dance is to a track, the numbers are always going to be the same in the music.  If you have live music, it may be slower or faster but the music itself won't change (unless there's improv involved...which could be another topic entirely).  When I know I do not have scored music for a piece and will have to be calling it from time/watching, I go to every rehearsal -- I learn the ballet as well as I possibly can because I know I won't have a conductor/score to rely on when I'm calling.

I use the stopwatch as more of a guideline than an exact telling of where to call, primarily because it won't be exactly the same as the CD player reading (unless I'm sitting by the CD player - and then I can just go off that).  It's a combination of the time in the music and what the dancer is doing on stage.  But again, unless you're doing an improvisational piece, the dancer is generally going to be consistent.  They have to be, because most of the time other dancers or their partners are relying on them, and they can't make changes on the spot (not to mention what the choreographer does when a dancer decides to do that!  I've seen it happen...not pretty).

I don't think its necessarily fair to say that SMs are doing a disservice when they call from a stopwatch - sometimes there is no other way.  Not every stage manager is able to know the choreography exactly -- especially if the company only hires them in a couple of weeks before tech.  It is important to have that backup in case something happens where you have to deal with another problem and can't focus completely on the stage.  When you come back to make a call you need to have a general idea of where you are in the piece, and can't always do this based on the choreography.

Yes, stage management is an art and it is very important to stay connected to the piece and to the dancers.  It is equally as important to have a system for calling the show according to the choregoraphers and designers decisions and needs.  If the choreography is very complicated or tricky or you're not well versed in the terminology the choreographer uses (some make up their own!) then there is no other way than a stopwatch, short of finding/hiring someone to transcribe the music (not an easy task).

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!

MatthewShiner

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Re: Stage Managing Dance?
« Reply #14 on: Jul 30, 2006, 06:04 pm »
Calling off a stopwatch can also hasten the tech process.  If I know a cue has to happen 36 seconds into the sound cue, then I can note that and move on - I don't need to spend time trying to "find" the cue.  Often I tech to the stop watch, but during the run write in a better description. 


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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.