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.

… next chapter: 3.4 Promoting

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