3. Presentation

3.1 Options
Once you decide to create a dance piece for public viewing, you need to determine how and where to show your work. There are several options available to emerging artists in Montréal, falling into three general categories: presenting, co-presenting, or self-presenting.

A presenter selects the artists and/or work he or she wishes to program and pays a fixed fee. The presenter is responsible for costs related to presenting (such as promotion, venue rental and technical support) and assumes the financial risk of low attendance. A presenter is not to be confused with a producer, who finances creation costs.

Co-presentation entails that presentation costs, risks and revenues are shared between the artist and the co-presenting venue according to a contract negotiated between both parties. Many local theatres co-present work, including Théâtre La Chapelle, MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) and Infinitheatre. Most co-presentations have a selection or ‘curatorial’ process. The Montréal Fringe Festival and Journées de la culture can also be considered co-presenters as they offer an organized framework for showing work with minimal support, but without the curatorial element.

Most artists self-present at some point in their careers, assuming the entire financial burden of creation and presentation, with no financial security and limited infrastructure. Most theatres in the city can be rented for this purpose. A financially viable option for first works without large budgets is to present informally at an alternative space. The following two sections describe different approaches for finding a presenter and self-presenting. Finding a co-presenter requires a combination of the two approaches.

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3.2 Presenters
The simplest and most secure way to get your work seen by the public is to have it presented by an established institution such as a festival or a presenter. Before approaching potential presenters, however, it is essential that you think about your ultimate goal as a choreographer and develop a critical path to help manage long-term conceptual planning. Your critical path helps you target appropriate presenters.

Different presenters offer varying levels of support, but in general, they take care of the venue, technical direction and a certain amount of the promotion, leaving you free to concentrate on the creation itself. With a presenter, you can also rely on the venue’s regular audience to help fill seats at your show and supplement box office sales. Depending on the venue, you may or may not get paid. Regardless, presentation fees never cover the full production costs of putting together a piece. A presenting fee is for the final product, not the work that went into creating it.

The Application Process
Getting a gig requires research, work and planning. Some festivals request an application form, a video or an audition, while others charge an application fee as well. Most presenters require that you demonstrate your choreographic experience and the quality of your work with a detailed proposal. They need to see your work. A video might trigger their interest, but generally they want to see the work live before programming it.

Keep all clippings, flyers, posters and programs relating to your past work and maintain an up-to-date CV. Keep your portfolio clear and concise, and never underestimate the value of good video documentation. Some artists over-use editing and effects in their videos; most presenters want to see a straight-up recording of a piece.

In order to write a successful proposal, develop a vocabulary with which to describe yourself, your artistic path, your choreographic aesthetic and the issues you like to address in your work. Though this can be painful at first, it becomes easier over time. Proofread all documents carefully before you send them out. Remember, presenters look over hundreds of proposals, so be concise and get straight to the point. Tailor each submission for the presenter at hand.

Your proposal should include:
• an artistic mandate or text describing your background and experience as a choreographer (1/2 page);
• a description of the piece you are proposing, including the number of performers and the length
of the piece (1/2 page);
• clear technical requirements of the piece;
• some selective support material such as photos of your work in progress, flyers and newspaper clippings
from past pieces;
• a clearly labeled video (DVD) or weblink, if not of the piece you are proposing, then a selection of your most recent work (include a self addressed and stamped envelope if you want it back);
• a dated cover letter with all of your contact information.

Although Tangente and Studio 303 present more artists per year than do the larger venues, they and the yearly festivals cannot alone support all the demands of our ever-growing emerging dance scene. Don’t be too discouraged by a negative response to your proposal, there will always be other opportunities if you persevere.

Negotiating Contracts
Once you have been invited to present work, you should expect to sign a contract which outlines both the presenter’s and the artist’s (your) responsibilities. A contract should include, among other things, how much and when you will be paid, a schedule of your time in the theatre as well as the presenter’s needs and deadlines in terms of promotional material and technical information. Develop a good rapport with your presenter, consider their representatives as collaborators and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

For resources for negotiating contract, consult the CanDance Network’s Artist Negotiation Tools.

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3.3 Self-Presenting
Many choreographers self-present. Though this is a big undertaking, it can be very rewarding. With self-presentation comes the freedom of showing your work in an unconventional venue and having complete control over all aspects of presenting, including marketing.

Theatre Venues
When self-presenting, start by choosing a venue. If you want to present in a real theatre, with professional lighting and sound equipment, theatre seats and a box office, be prepared for a high cost. If you decide to present in a less conventional space, be prepared for the extra work and manpower this entails.

Before contacting a theatre, determine your needs. Few theatres in Montréal were designed with dance in mind and typically have concrete floors. Others require that you hire their technical and box office staff. Use this downloadable venue worksheet to formulate the right questions when shopping for a venue. Ask the administrators to send you their ‘tech specs’, which includes a list all of the lighting, sound and other equipment, the seating capacity, a description the dressing rooms and a floor plan. Consult the directory of local organizations that includes of theatres available for independent dance productions.

Alternative Spaces
When thinking about non-traditional venues, consider how the setting will contextualize your event. For instance, your work will be seen from distinctly different perspectives if it is shown in a bar, an art gallery, a church or a storefront window. If you clearly intend to reach new audiences, you may be able to market an alternative, and use it as an effective audience development tool.

Open spaces such as rehearsal studios and galleries can be good for showing work that doesn’t require special lighting or presenting works-in-progress in order to get feedback from peers. In general, an informal atmosphere requires less preparation. Borrowing or renting chairs, risers, light and sound equipment in order to increase the production value of your show, however, entails more work. You can also create a loft-style performance series showing many pieces, not just your own. This is how Tangente was launched in its early days. One example is the Pixel Project series launched at Sala Rossa by dance artist Erin Flynn and some of her peers. This eclectic event was an opportunity for many emerging choreographers to present work.

Other disciplines commonly use bars as venues for dissemination and some dance artists choose them as well. Dance has been performed at the Sala Rossa, the Lion D’Or, and at the Cabaret, among others. If you do go the bar route, be prepared for a potentially inattentive audience, a rough stage surface, no lighting design or conversely, disco lighting. Be creative when brainstorming alternative spaces for independent productions. The RQD once presented a dance event in a furniture design store for the Journée international de la danse – it was a huge success. Consider schools, churches, community centres, the great outdoors… the possibilities are endless.

If you are considering an alternative space, you might also want to try scheduling your performance dates within the parameters of an event such as the Journées de la culture in September, or the Journée internationale de la danse on April 29, and take advantage of their promotional opportunities and hype. Many choreographers present pieces as ‘off-festival’ events, in studios and small theatres. You may also do the reverse: pick a time to self-present when there is not much cultural activity (ex. mid to late summer) in order to avoid competition.

Self-produced showcase events, where several choreographers show their work under one banner (thereby sharing promotional expenses and attracting more presenters) can be very effective.

Securing the Space
With a self-production, securing a performance space is the production manager’s first task. It involves the following:
• finding the space;
• negotiating dates and prices;
• reading and signing the contract (watch out for any special clauses);
• acquiring a floor plan and technical specifications and passing these on to the choreographer and appropriate designers;
• establishing and maintaining relations with the theatre staff, making sure lines of communication are open and friendly;
• organizing the move into the theatre (keys, etc.).

When you self-present, the production manager becomes essential. Do yourself a favour: find someone reliable to take this burden off your shoulders.

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3.4. Promotion
Don’t leave publicity to the last minute or solely to the publicist. An artistic vision includes thinking about how your piece should be represented. Dance journalists and Montréal dance lovers get bombarded with promotional images weekly, so you must find a way to distinguish yourself. Use a simple, professional approach.

The Raw Materials
Text and photographs are the raw materials with which you will develop a marketing image. This recurring theme, style or graphic representing the spirit of your work should entice the public to find out more about the piece and the choreographer.

Write a clear and enthusiastic text. Prepare a long version, a short version, and a French version. An English version is necessary when you present outside Québec. Your text is integral to creating the dossier, the press kit, the press release and the program, and should include:
• a biography of the choreographer(s);
• a presentation of the company (if applicable);
• a description of the piece(s);
• a presentation of the designers and dancers.

When scheduling a photo session, choose a moment in your choreographic development early enough to meet promotional deadlines, and late enough to reveal essential elements of the creation, such as costumes, atmosphere or movement vocabulary. Good photos capture movement, have strong contrast, tell a story, and present key elements of the work. Photographs are essential for journalists, who can include them with articles or listings, for presenters or theatres, for their season’s program, and for creating promotional material (poster, flyer and program).

Website and social media
A website or MySpace page is a potentially important reference tool for journalists, where they can view footage of your work and explore your history and aesthetics a bit more. You can easily publish your own website with WordPress or hire a professional to create one for you. Even without a personal website or page, post video excerpts online via Youtube or Viméo. It is, if possible, more profitable to present an advertisement of the show than an excerpt. An excerpt can give the impression of having seen the piece already and might work against you. Definitely become a Facebook member, where you can create an ‘event’ which will serve as a reminder to all your friends and fb contacts, as well as giving you an estimation of how many people may attend. Include a link to your website (or main web-based information centre) on all your communication tools (flyers, posters, press release, etc.) as well as links to all your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) and video footage. If you present your work in Montréal, you may want to offer reduced-priced tickets on www.atuvu.ca and Vitrine Culturelle. These sites give you good visibility and allow you to reach different audiences.

The Press Agent
The press agent or publicist’s primary job is to contact journalists and try to set up interviews with the choreographer to ensure media coverage. Following her list of media contacts, she sends out press kits and press releases and makes follow-up calls. Upon closure of the show, the press agent gives you a copy of or link to any articles and radio or TV interviews that occurred over the course of the run.

Professional press agents are expensive – if you are on a tight budget, hire a friend or do it yourself. Regardless, make sure that someone commits to this job several months before the presentation date. An up-to-date media list of arts editors and journalists can be obtained from the RQD (members are entitled to a free mini-list and can pay $50 for a more complete list on labels) or from the Québec Drama Federation (free for members).

Once you have a media list, send out a press release with all the essential information about your event: who, where, what and when. It should be dated and written in the third person, present tense on one letter-sized page, with minimal design. Including a -30- at the bottom of the page indicates that all information below that point is not for publishing. Write ‘For immediate release’ at the top of the page. Send out the press release three to four weeks before the show opens. Make sure it reaches journalists, websites and performance listings (Voir, Hour, Ici, 24 heures, La Presse, Le Devoir, The Gazette, Dfdanse, RQD, Vitrine Culturelle, destinationdancedanse, etc.).

A press kit is a package that gives journalists more detailed information about your production, with a biography of the choreographer, dancers and designers, a description of the piece, photos, and press clippings from previous works. Make sure all photos, digital or hard copies, are clearly identified with the names of the photographer, choreographer, piece and pictured dancer. If journalists ask for photos destined for print media, these must be high resolution images, at least 1MB (1000KB) and can be transferred via websites such as www.yousendit.com or www.sendspace.com, which provide a link for downloading large files.

Send the press kits to journalists a minimum of three weeks before your opening, so that you have time to make follow-up calls. Follow up calls are vital; press agents should be persistent when calling journalists without harassing them. Call them once to confirm that they received either the press release or press kit, and then again later to arrange for an interview or some sort of coverage. Print a few copies of the press kit to be offered at the door at the performance.

You may also ask your press agent to send out invitations and organize the distribution of complimentary tickets. It is customary to offer select journalists, investors and presenters one or two free tickets. However, creating promotional material and dealing with ad placement are usually not part of the job description.

Media Contacts
There are four kinds of media: radio, TV, the Internet and print. Each of these sectors is a possible target for public service announcements, previews and reviews. Target student and community radio stations or public radio (CBC and Radio-Canada), as commercial radio takes little interest in non-commercial art. For television coverage, approach local cable stations. In order for them to use your video images, your video must be broadcast quality (beta or digital). If you can capture their interest, it might be easier to invite them to film the dress rehearsal themselves.

Certain television shows don’t present emerging artists/art, but maintain websites that do. Do your research and offer video excerpts to the shows that are pertinent. If you secure an interview by radio or on TV, make sure that the interviewee can speak well in the language of the interview and is comfortable talking in public. If the choreographer is uncomfortable, it is better to send a press agent or dancer to speak about the show.

For print media, target the weekly papers, dailies, student papers and community papers, most of which require a press release at least three weeks prior to your opening. Magazines are a harder sell and require information two to five months prior to the event. Most weeklies (Mirror, Hour, Voir) will include your performance in their events listing at no charge, as long as you get the information to the right person on time.

Promotional Tools
Create an electronic mailing list of addresses including media, presenters, funding bodies, organizations and individuals whom you wish to inform about or invite to your show. Offer free tickets (comps) to the VIPs. Send them the press release and a flyer or two. Don’t forget to target studios, galleries and schools that could display your flyer on a bulletin board. Include all essential information on your poster and flyer, typically in the following order:

The information presented depends on the space available and your graphic designer, who inevitably will want to keep the design uncluttered. Despite possible crowding, crediting collaborators is a respectful way to promote their contribution and can draw people to the show interested by their work.

Don’t go overboard by printing huge quantities of posters and flyers; simply distribute the quantity you print in strategic places. Usually, 500 flyers and 50 posters do just fine. Expensive paper stock and multiple colours dramatically increase printing costs.

Distribute posters and flyers no more than two weeks before the event since they tend to get torn down if left up longer. Go to cafés, bookstores, and shops where you think your audience might hang out, and always ask the staff before posting anything. Beware of the Zoom media spots (postcard dispensers) – they own display cases and will discard your flyers in a flash. You can hire them to distribute posters and flyers for you, but the cost is exorbitant.

Advertising space in print media is generally not an option for emerging artists unless there is a substantial sponsorship involved. Consider buying ad space from smaller papers and in the programs of other community or arts events. Community radio stations often offer a 30 second ad played over a two week period in exchange for visibility – they ask a nominal fee of $30 to $100 as well as a script and concept. Do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, and don’t be afraid to promote yourself to your friends and peers – they are your most passionate and dependable audience. Keep a phone and/or email list of your audience members to contact for future shows. This personal touch is effective and well worth the effort.

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3.5 Opening Night
If you do self-present, there are a few details to take care of when the show run starts. Devise a system for selling tickets and getting the audience members safely to their seats. Create a program of the event to orient the spectator and credit all the people involved in the production.

Don’t skimp, make a program! A program is a souvenir, an educational and a promotional tool you can use as support material for future grant applications.

Mandatory content:
• title, date, location
• all credits (music, photos, collaborators, technicians, etc.)
• logos and names of sponsors and funding bodies

Optional content:
• thank-yous
• the creative intent of the piece
• biographies (choreographer, dancers, collaborators, etc.)
• a history of the company
• photos (action, headshots, etc.)

Front of House
‘Front of house’ (FOH in shorthand) is a term used to describe the activities of selling tickets, receiving and seating the audience. Many theatres insist that you hire their own front of house staff, but if you take on those responsibilities, keep them as simple as possible. For the most basic FOH model you need:
• a ticket seller – tickets can be numbered tickets, an ink stamp or the evening program itself;
• an usher who checks tickets/stamps at the door and wards off or ushers in latecomers;
• an adequate float of small change;
• a guest list (the VIPs who get in for free);
• some press kits for journalists and presenters.

It may not be worth the trouble to take reservations unless you worry about selling out quickly. Reservations require a phone number (with a suitable message) and/or email, as well as someone to respond to them. Be careful, some spaces ask that you have a contact number on your flyer, as they do not want to be disturbed with questions regarding your show. Conversely, some spaces may offer to take calls as part of the rental package.

Pre-selling tickets helps secure the budget, but requires more paperwork. If you have presales, you need to print tickets and keep track of their sale. Give them to the crew to sell to their friends. If you wish to have tickets available at local businesses, make sure your event is high profile enough to warrant it, and arrange it well enough in advance. Usually such an arrangement entails a commission or cut for the seller ($1 per ticket sold or so).

For the box office, make a float of small bills and coins in a cash box, and a float sheet, for tabulating the net income, and the number of people in attendance each night. These statistics are important to report to funding bodies and may be required by the venue. Schedule a trip to the bank teller – running out of change is a real drag and shop-owners are not always helpful. Make sure your float makes sense; imagine necessary change if 50% to 80% of your audience pays with a $20 bill.

Reserve a seat centre back for the videographer and a few near the door for latecomers. If seating is numbered and assigned according to the ticket, you may want to hold onto (not sell) a few of the best seats in the centre of the house for last minute VIP reservations.

Ushers must be prepared for an evacuation and know the location of all emergency exits. They must ensure no food or drinks are brought into the theatre and should help clean up after the audience at the end of the show. They also enforce your policy regarding latecomer, either bringing them in quietly or sending them away. Someone should remain stationed outside the entrance throughout the show to deal with latecomers.

When the theatre is set to accept the audience, the technical director or stage manager informs the front of house manager that she can allow people in to seat themselves. Ideally, open the house 10 minutes prior to show time. The front of house manager is also responsible for deciding when the doors to the theatre can close and whether it is necessary to turn people away. The stage manager or technical director should be notified when the theatre is back in their hands, so she can decide when to lower the house lights and begin the show.

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3.6 Closing Night
After the final night of your show, the work is not over. You owe it to yourself and your cast and crew to celebrate with a closing night party, of course. Before the celebrations begin, take care of the strike and properly clean out the theatre and dressing rooms. Store costumes and props, putting them away neatly and labelled to facilitate future use. Pay all outstanding accounts to ensure that you are in good standing with the theatre and your collaborators.

Hold a post-mortem meeting with your cast and crew before too much time has lapsed. This gives you a chance to highlight what worked and what did not, and allows everyone to voice their experiences of the process in hindsight. Take good notes and apply what you learn to future creative endeavours.

Once the show is over, chances are you will feel empty and perhaps slightly down. There is so much build-up, work and hype leading up to and during the performances, that once it is all over, you may wonder “what’s next?”. Remember that all your hard work led to a unique piece of choreography, a cultural creation that is now complete and may have another life in the future. There may be presenters who will be interested in it, or you may decide to apply to festivals or create other opportunities to show the work in the future… or you may simply start choreographing your next piece!

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3.7 Touring
Touring can be an exciting and fulfilling part of making dance works. Exposing your work to new audiences can help build your reputation and increase future funding possibilities. And it is always exciting to see new places, to explore and sometimes get the chance to see dance that might never tour to where you live. All of this enriches your own future dance making. On the other hand, touring is very expensive, and requires a serious costs versus benefits analysis early on in the planning stages.

There are two main ways to set up a touring possibility: direct contact with a presenter who sees your work and wants to buy it and bring it to their venue (this can happen at a contact event such as off-CINARS or if you invite presenters to a show); and by applying to a festival or event that accepts your application to attend. It is virtually impossible to tour without a presenter or festival invitation, except perhaps through the fringe festival circuit.

For a tour to work, one presenter, who hopefully encourages other presenters to get on board and coordinate dates, champions interest in your work. It is less expensive (and therefore more appealing to a presenter) to propose solo work or small group work with minimal sets and décor. As much as possible, try to travel from one locale to another in a linear fashion without any lag-time between gigs. Often, tours involve criss-crossing a map in no particular order with breaks between cities. If the breaks are short, you’ll have to compensate the artists for their time, and if the breaks are long you might have to re-rehearse to make sure the piece is fresh in the artists’ minds and bodies. For an emerging artist, a tour often consists of no more than one invitation in one city.

Touring within Québec can be supported by La danse sur les routes du Québec and their network of presenters, and is good visibility without the high costs associated with touring abroad or even across the continent. The CanDance Network of presenters has touring and commissioning programs that provide Canadian artists the opportunity to tour within Canada. The European market is definitely a hotbed of presenting opportunities, and something that many choreographers aspire to, but it is more complicated and costly than touring within Canada or Québec.

There are numerous grant options available to touring projects. Most travel or touring grants require an invitation from a producer, theatre or festival co-ordinator to establish the validity of the tour. Make a detailed budget including all impending costs of the tour, including petty cash for unforeseen problems, which always turn up.

Your budget may include all or some of the following:
• salaries;
• per diem (daily food money allocated to each person on tour);
• accommodations;
• travel (to the host city—plane, bus, etc.; and within the city—taxi, car, public transit, etc.);
• shipping or overweight baggage fees for sets or costumes;
• travel visa;
• travel insurance;
• petty cash.

Be very clear about the costs the presenter covers and those you cover. Some host presenters cover per diem and accommodations, for example, while others do not.

Touring without a grant is possible, though you will have to subsidize it. Often an emerging choreographer’s tour is a group effort, with everyone joining in to help the project along. There are lots of ways to cut costs when travelling. Sometimes presenters or festivals will set up billeting so you don’t have to pay for accommodations. You can negotiate salaries with your collaborators, and find alternative forms of travel, such as renting a car and driving instead of taking a bus or train or plane. Brainstorm with your group to make the trip possible.

Organization in any tour is paramount. Coordinating a group of people is hard enough, but on tour, in a strange place where you possibly don’t speak the language, this coordination can be much more complicated. In a smaller production where there is no tour director, the choreographer often ends up coordinating the group. Be responsible and alert and as communicative as possible with every person travelling with you. Have maps on hand, and give your group clear directions to the theatre. Have telephone numbers with you at all times of all members of the group, plus those of the presenter, the theatre and personnel. Keep the petty cash for emergencies in the currency of the country you are in.

Finally, no matter where you may be headed, touring is often exhausting and hard on the body, and therefore requires prudence. Things like jet lag, long drives, tight technical and performance schedules can all build up stress, fatigue and tension in the body, things which are not conducive to a good performance! If you are in charge of taking your dance work on tour, it is up to you to set the tone of the tour, to be excited but cautious, and to remind everyone else who is a part of the project the same thing.

Remember that ‘theatre craft’ involves universal practices and language: wherever you go, the act of putting live art on stage follows the same general rules. Learning these principles and developing your own work methods at an early stage in your creative process will provide long lasting results for your career. Merde!

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