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!

For more information about presenting, download the transcript of the panel Touring & Presenting for Dance and Interdisciplinary Artists presented by ELAN & Studio 303 on May 8th 2010 or listen to the audio file.

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