• Su Crossland

Feature Friday - Show Planning Part 2 (from 20/11/2020)

Welcome back to Feature Friday and a bit more on show planning – I’ll try and keep this one brief! Last time we looked at the basics of putting a show together: title, venue, cast and choreography, all of which are well underway. This time we’re moving on to the next stage of actually putting the show together.

🎭 One of the first things you will receive as parents and dancers is the Show Pack. This will include all the information about what will happen before, during and after the show. It is a lot of information so please read through it and keep it somewhere safe to refer back to. It will also include the consent form and costume deposit form for students, so please check the deadline for return of these!

🎭 Once I have the list of students taking part we get busy in the background sorting out the legal bit. There are quite strict regulations governing children in performance and the show has to be carefully planned and timed to make sure we adhere to the regulations, even down to the length of time children of different ages are allowed to be on stage, minimum gaps between appearances, breaks and so on. Under the 1968 Children in Performance Regulations, the producer in charge of the performance is also responsible for ensuring all children are properly licensed to perform. Any child who performs more than 4 days in 6 months requires a licence to perform and a licensed chaperone, all other children are recorded as performing but do not require a 1:1 chaperone. All this is completed through the local authority safeguarding services and we are incredibly lucky to have the assistance of Miss Cal to oversee this on our behalf. She is very experienced, having dealt with dance schools of over 300 students, and is able to keep up to date with any changes in policy and any differences between the local authorities we deal with. This is why we ask for information on which school your child attends (this will influence which LA we report to) and other performances outside of MESH Ballet and school they may have taken part in. We have to be prepared for the fact that LA inspectors may drop in during a performance to make sure that we are following the rules.

🎭 Rehearsals start quite early on without the students even realising sometimes, as I may start trying new steps in class to see how they manage. Once students have confirmed their involvement in the show I then begin to set out positions in each dance so students get used to where they will be in relation to each other on stage. This is why it is so important to confirm your involvement in time; it can be very off-putting for students if I suddenly have to change all their positions in the dance when someone changes their mind at a late date.

🎭 Most of our rehearsals are done during class time but as the show draws nearer we may need to combine groups for rehearsals, for instance; if 2 classes are doing the same dance they will need to practice together. Sometimes I also need to add extra rehearsal time to give the students extra practice, especially the soloists, but I try to negotiate a convenient time for everyone for these extra slots.

🎭 I also need to start planning our backstage procedures and sourcing our backstage crew – a hugely important group of people! Firstly, let’s talk about the backstage crew; these are the people who will chaperone the children, act as runners, manage the props and, most importantly, keep everything safe and running. Thankfully, we have our Welfare Officer, Miss Cal, and our Stage Manager, Mr Graham, for these last two tasks – and more!

🎭 Miss Cal, as well as overseeing all the legal aspects of licensing mentioned above, also oversees the actual welfare of students, young and old(er!), throughout the show. She also acts as runner, general stage hand and has been known to tap her way across the stage too!

🎭 Mr Graham has been stage managing dance shows for over 20 years, having SMd for schools of over 300 students in theatres such as the Palace Theatre, Redditch, Solihull Arts Centre and the Town Hall, Birmingham. He also makes set pieces and props, manages props, coordinates sound and lighting, ensures everything runs to time, and keeps me from panicking on the day! And some of you may have spotted the odd cameo appearance on stage!

🎭 Now let’s talk about the chaperones as this is where you wonderful people come in! We need people to chaperone the children throughout the day; ensuring they have the correct costume on at the right time, checking hair and makeup, making sure they are in the right place at the right time, escorting them throughout the venue (on and off stage, to and from the toilet, etc), and generally looking after them. We rely on volunteers for this job and are eternally grateful to have parents and others who are willing to do this. Chaperones are encouraged to watch rehearsals in the run up to the show (this will be Covid dependent this year!) to get an understanding of what is happening, and are required to attend the dress rehearsal and 1 performance on the day. We make sure that we are following the local authority guidance on ratios of chaperones to children and you will be allocated a number of children to be responsible for. You also get a sneak preview of the show, but I am assured it does not affect the magic of seeing it all come together when you watch a performance! You do not need to be a licensed chaperone for this as Miss Cal, Mr Graham, and I are all licensed, however, if you would like to become a licensed chaperone then we can support you through the application.

🎭 All that’s left to consider for our before-show process is marketing. Thankfully we have the very skilled Mr Matt who creates all our posters, photos and videos that are distributed. But we are always grateful to family and friends of the school who help distribute these around the area and encourage our public audience to attend. The more tickets we sell, the more money we have to donate to our chosen charity!

So, there you go, there’s an awful lot to do to prepare for each show, and I am so lucky to have a great team to support me through it so that we are, as ever, Achieving Our Best Together!

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