PROGRAMMING a SHOW
The document you are handed when you arrive at any show called, “The Program”, is a reflection of many hours of work, research and preparation to create the show you are about to see. Every show is defined by two things:
Is it professional or amateur?
Is it a variety show or a singular genre?
Professional shows charge money and cost an arm and a leg because they involve venues and artists that are professional. A professional venue includes technical things like light and sound equipment; dressing rooms and, overall - lots of real estate! Labor costs include staff to manage the front and back house; Ticket sales; Artists salaries; Marketing costs, to name a few items. Professional shows - like professional artists are performing to make money, like anyone in business.
AMATEUR SHOWS and SCHOOL RECITALS
Amateur shows are usually one form of school recital or another. Instructors create events at a low-cost venue for students or trained amateurs to perform in and for their family and friends to enjoy. There may be a fee which pays the producer/teacher for his/her work creating the event. There is usually not a lot of complex technical stuff like lights, dressing rooms, tickets sales, staff and marketing costs. The performers can be students only or, a mix of students, guest artists and professional artists. Guest artists are usually paid, but the students and regular amateur dancers are not. Performance dance for amateurs is a hobby.
If the show is professional and/or only one school or one group, the items will be singular and little to nothing will be repeated. For example, in a flamenco show with a single company of dancers or one school of dancers, you might see 1-2 Solea’s, 1 Bolerias and 1 Sevillana’s, plus a few musical numbers performed. If two schools of flamenco are reciting, then it is likely a school performance and each school will perform the same types of dances – much like a contest.
Professional shows show off the art and are intended to entertain the general public. School or amateur shows show off the students and are intended to allow them to show off what they have learned. They are performing to learn the art of performing as well as the art of dance. In a show that is for the GP repeated items are avoided as this is redundant, and the point is to please the audience, not show off the dancers/students. That said, redundancy is OK within a singular ensemble if there is enough variation in costuming and choreography.
Ideally, everything in a mixed program is different and therefore interesting and unexpected. So should the costumes be different. For example, four soloists wearing four green cabaret costumes is redundant. The caveat is that, if there are two professionals, there might be an overlap of similar costuming, but the differences in the dances and music makes up for the redundancy in colors or styles.
The MC is considered the most important person in a show. The MC invokes anticipation and excitement in the audience; draws them in and turns them on – hence he or she must be engaging, charming and able to entertain as well as to keep the ball rolling! A great example of an excellent MC is Joel Grey in the musical CABARET! He was just as entertaining as the other performers - because the MC IS a performer!
A show should be planned so that it ebbs and flows and keeps the audience engaged – especially if it is all one genre! The contrast of opposites needs to be at work: Fast versus slow, lyrical versus percussive, modern versus classical.
SAVE THE BEST FOR THE LAST
Whether it is a soloist or an entire show, it is wise to save the most exciting and awe inspiring movements, dances or dancers for the end! Additionally, It is traditional to reserve the final spot for the guest artist(s) or headliner, and to do anything else is bad form. Keeping “the best” for last keeps anticipation going and keeps the audience in their seats. Putting top names at the end is respectful.
LENGTH OF PROGRAM
The old saying “Leave them wanting more” is essential if you want repeat business! This can be challenging in a multi-group or multi-school recital or amateur show. Everyone wants to be in it as much as possible. It is the producer’s job to keep it to a limit. Best way to do that is to limit the number of dancers and schools, rather than invite everyone and their families to perform. This allows each dancer or group to get maximum time on stage, while keeping the program length within a reasonable time frame.
Bottom line – anticipation, variety are the spice of performing art, and leave ‘em wanting more! Producers work harder than anyone else – they deserve a hand for what they do. Next time you are in a show bring the producer flowers – not just the artists!