Hosting your own National Choreography Month Show
I’ve created this ‘how-to-guide’ for hosting your own NACHMO performance from my experience producing a performance in Boston in 2013 and 2014. As National Production Coordinator, I can be a resource for hosting a performance in your city. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Where to start
In November 2012, I sent out an email to the Boston Dance community via the Dance Action Network, which is a Yahoo group that is used daily to send out announcements about performances, auditions, calls to artist, etc. I asked for an initial pool of interested performers for a performance which at that time was TBD.
The initial group of interested performers became my gauge for whether or not we could have a full show (approximately 1 hour run time+). Additionally, I posted all of the information to my personal and dance company’s facebook page, twitter, Google+ and website. If you don’t have a centralized way to communicate with your dance community, consider creating and putting up fliers, e-mailing your personal and professional contacts, and using social media.
I said ‘yes’ to anyone who was interested and available for the inaugural performance (for fear of not having a show at all), which was a total of about 12 choreographers/companies, which decreased to 9 when I was able to confirm the performance date.
In addition to seeking performers for the inaugural performance, I encouraged the Boston dance community to get involved with Nachmo whether or not they were available to perform. Many folks in the area created profiles on nachmo.org, and posted updates of their work on their page and the blog.
Call to Artists
In year 2, I am using Google Forms for a performer application. I used Google Forms in year one to gather performer information, although there was no application review process (I said yes to everyone). Using this tool, I can track time-stamped submissions, add columns and notes to these submissions, and embed the form on a webpage or share the link in an email very easily. Here is a link to the current application for Nachmo Boston 2014:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1VTnL9UOT29SyvLrtcslK7rU9Zm3_QWCbLAyZRoglYIc/viewform
Application / Performer Fee
Depending on your budget, I recommend asking applicants / performers to submit a nominal application and/or performance fee to participate. In the first year, since all ‘applicants’ were invited to participate in the performance, I asked for a $25 performance fee to help support the costs of the performance space.
In year one, I accepted payments to my PayPal account and asked applicants to send the $25 using my email address, or the shopping cart on my website (see the current option on the bottom of this page here: http://www.intimationsdance.com/nachmo-boston-2014.html). This shopping cart option is a free part of Weebly’s website hosting.
Impact Dance Company
For the first Nachmo Boston performance, I was approached by a local dance studio / performance venue who suggested they could host the performance after seeing the emails I sent out to the network. I still paid for the space, but their support was invaluable in answering questions about lighting designers/tech costs, space capacity, and fire marshal requirements.
For the first year, I decided to have one performance in an informal setting. I chose a date in February to allow performers to ‘finish’ their work during the month of January. The exact date was chosen because of the availability of the venue, and Saturday night seemed the best option to fill the seats.
For the second year, I am currently working with the same venue to determine how many performances to host, when, and whether or not to produce the show with lights (which means we need a technical director and lighting designer, which is a cost consideration).
The performance space, Green Street Studios in Cambridge, MA, offers an informal performance option at a low cost (approximately $300). The main studio space converts into a black box studio. We used a general stage wash and had no blackouts. This allowed us to host the performance without a significant financial investment or risk. For the second year, I am looking to produce the show with the help of a lighting designer and technical director, which brings the cost to approximately $500.
I surveyed the group of performers to get a sense of what price would be reasonable enough to support the costs of the event as well as bring people in the door. Since it was a new show, and in an informal setting which kept the performance costs down, we charged $5 per ticket, cash only at the door. We offered a select number of complimentary tickets for performers who needed the cost of bringing their family to the event to be low.
We had 75 people attend the first performance. In addition to performer fees, the income allowed us to pay for the performance space, pay the photographer, offer a small stipend to the stage manager, and save a portion of ‘seed money’ for the following year.
I created a Google Form for ticket reservations to get a sense of how many people would attend the show. We did not offer a way for people to purchase tickets before the show. At $5 a ticket, it didn’t make sense to charge anyone or pay for payment processing fees with a merchant like PayPal, EventBrite or Brown Paper Tickets (which are all great and easy sites to offer ticket purchasing options). The 2014 form is yet to be designed, but I will post the link when the reservation form is live.
We took ticket payments in cash only at the door in 2013. For the upcoming performance, I expect to raise the ticket price to $10 – $15, at which point it may make sense to offer an online pre-payment option.
Documenting the Performance
I asked the participating performers for leads on potential photographers and videographers to capture the performance. I was able to work out a discounted rate with a local photographer who focuses on dance and live performance, and a friend borrowed a nice camera and a tripod to film the show.
I maintain my dance company’s website, so created a page dedicated to Nachmo Boston here:http://www.intimationsdance.com/nachmo-boston.html. I used Weebly drag and drop web builder, which I find to be an easy and intuitive way to create and post content and update regularly. Weebly offers free sites with weebly.com at the end of the domain name, so you could create a site specific for your event. You could also create a facebook page if it makes sense to create a ‘site’ that is easier to manage.
I used my personal and my dance company’s social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Google+, to promote Nachmo throughout the process. I posted a variety of photos and videos from rehearsals, updates on the planning process for the show, shared others’ posts about Nachmo, and heavily promoted the performance.
Nachmo has created a shared community platform to create profiles, status updates and blog posts. I regularly posted blog updates to keep the larger Nachmo community informed about the Boston performance.
The press release should be sent out at least 4 – 6 weeks prior to the performance. If this is the first time such an event is happening in your area, I would recommend posting a press release to announce the event, and then a more detailed press release when the performers are confirmed. The Boston Dance Alliance maintains a press list that I used to send out the press releases via mail merge, pulling in each press contact’s name and organization. I sent more personalized emails to supportive dance contacts who were most likely to cover the event.
I created a promo video using footage from the inaugural performance to promote the 2014 performance to interested choreographers/companies and potential audiences. The video is simple and could be an option to market your performance.
In 2013, the performance was funded by $25 performance fees and ticket sales (75 tickets at $5 per ticket). I invested my own personal funds to pay for the performance space.
In 2014, I am working on alternative funding opportunities with the goal of having two performances that are fully produced, and paying choreographers/companies for their work. I am currently researching Kickstarter and other crowd-sourcing platforms, a possible fundraising event, and increasing ticket prices as options.
Since Nachmo 2013, my dance company has officially become a business and is fiscally sponsored by the Boston Dance Alliance. With the expectation of additional funds being collected (more than $600), this year’s income will pass through my dance company and the sponsorship structure. Depending on the amount of money your performance brings in, I suggest researching and possibly consulting a tax attorney to determine your tax liability for hosting the performance. Volunteer Lawyers Association for the Arts is a good resource for more detailed information.
In 2013, I worked with a local non-profit community dance company called OnStage on a works-in-progress informal showing as part of local Nachmo programming. OnStage is a part of my dance network so were sent all of my promotional emails encouraging the community to get involved with Nachmo, whether or not they participated in the public performance. The event was open to friends and family of performers and featured eight new works in progress created for Nachmo and a discussion about the choreographic process post-sharing. The space was rented as a workshop at a price higher than rehearsal but not nearly as much as for a performance. Some of the performers from this event also took the opportunity to perform in the inaugural Boston performance.
In 2014, I am planning a works-in-progress showing for the performance participants to offer more integrated programming and support for our dance community. I am also interested in planning an evening fundraiser at a local bar or restaurant that will also be focused on community building and creating connections.
I use spreadsheets and word documents Google Docs to manage and track my own to-do list. I also keep copies of all of the announcements, emails and blog posts so content can be recycled. I am happy to share my projects lists, budget, and calendar planning tools with anyone who is considering hosting their own Nachmo performance.
I use MailChimp to maintain a mailing list of anyone who has expressed interest in Nachmo to continue to communicate updates and events.